Ravens baseball team soaring early with new coach and ‘clean slate’

By: Mike Moore | Royal Oak Review | Published April 30, 2013

 Greg Porter shakes hands with guys on the Lahser baseball team following a game April 26 at home. The first-year skipper has the Ravens 8-1.

Greg Porter shakes hands with guys on the Lahser baseball team following a game April 26 at home. The first-year skipper has the Ravens 8-1.

Photo by Brian Sevald

ROYAL OAK — Greg Porter calls it a small sample size, which it just may be.

But the record books call it a perfect start.

“So I guess you have to be happy about it,” the Royal Oak High baseball coach said last week after his squad beat Auburn Hills Avondale April 22, picking up its sixth win in six tries to start the year. “This is a competitive group of guys that were anxious to do some good things this year. They’ve worked hard, and, at least early on, the results have been there.”

It’s also a group of guys that had no idea what to expect when the season began, and based on first impressions of their new skipper, may have been a bit nervous.

“He came across as very strict,” senior pitcher Mike Stokes said with a laugh. “I think we were all a little unsure as to what we were getting into.”

Six games later, his players call Porter the main reason for the Ravens’ success.

“The way he runs practice, the fundamentals we work on, everything is so relevant to what we are trying to do,” senior Chad Skarjune said. “I think we all thought this team would be better, but not like this, and (Porter) is the reason for it.”

Porter is in his first year with the Ravens, but he is hardly a rookie in the dugout.

He served as the head coach twice at Birmingham Seaholm, from 1991-1994 and again from 2000-2004. He spent time as an assistant at Oakland University from 1995-1999; assisted at Beverly Hills Groves, Madison Heights Lamphere; and has coached summer baseball for years.

He spent each of the past two seasons as an assistant at Farmington High.

When he came to Royal Oak, he inherited a team that struggled a year ago, finishing below the .500 mark overall, and just 4-11 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.

Still, with eight guys back, Porter knew some sculpting could put this team in a spot to be better than it was.

At press time, the Ravens were 8-1 overall and 3-1 in the Blue.

So, why this much better and how so early?

“Those are good questions, and I’m not really sure on the answer,” Porter said with a laugh. “We’ve put up some pretty crooked offensive numbers, which is nice. On top of that, we’re getting pretty decent starting pitching, as well. I think all the work indoors has paid off for our guys.”

The Ravens scored 13 runs in the victory against Avondale, 12 against Bloomfield Hills Andover and 11 in a win against Berkley High.

“It’s like we’ve gotten better every time out,” Stokes said.

Still, the guys aren’t getting too far ahead of themselves.

Eight wins in nine tries is nice, but there is a lot of baseball left, and looking at division or district crowns, or anything like that, isn’t going to happen.

“Coming into the season, the focus was getting better and letting everything else take care of itself,” Porter said. “We weren’t focused on a certain record or a division title. This was about a clean slate and starting over. That’s all the guys are worried about. … We’re excited about the start, but the potential of this team is still being uncovered.”

“It’s cliché, but we’re taking things one day at a time,” Skarjune said. “There aren’t goals as much as there is the focus from one game to the next.”