ROSEVILLE — Roseville High baseball coach Keith Marzec has been with the program for 13 years.
As a 1995 graduate of Roseville High, Marzec has a great understanding of the program’s history and knows that the team has had some lean years. That makes clinching the program’s first outright division title that much sweeter.
The Panthers, 12-3, 11-3 Macomb Area Conference at press time, clinched the outright title after East Detroit fell to Sterling Heights High May 17. Roseville last won a division title in 2010 but shared that league championship with two other teams.
Last season, the Panthers fell one game short of winning a division title.
“Getting close last year and losing some tight games, that made the guys come back hungry and have a chance to win a (division title) this year,” Marzec said May 20.
“A couple of years ago, anybody who was a good ball player as a freshman or sophomore, we started bringing them (to varsity). We’ve had the opportunity to grow as a team. We’re a young team in terms of what grade the kids might be in, but this is a team with a lot of guys with a lot of experience.”
Marzec said pitching and defense has been the team’s calling cards. He cited the growth of sophomore hurler Evan Gates as one of the reasons for the team’s success. In three starts, Gates is 3-0 and has allowed just six hits in 22 innings. The sophomore has not allowed an earned run and will get the start in the Panthers’ Division 1 district semifinal against Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse, set for 1 p.m. May 30 at Roseville.
Marzec said his team has remained focused throughout the season. He said that sustained mindset gives him added confidence in his players. Solid leadership from senior center fielder Tyler Petrone, senior second baseman Billy Howe and junior third baseman Austin Morrow have been key, as well.
The focus has shifted to the postseason, where the Panthers will match up with L’Anse Creuse for the third straight year. The Lancers won the previous two matchups. Marzec said the teams are similar, in that pitching and defense are the strengths of both squads. He said he thinks the game will come down to which team’s offense steps up and which team executes the best.
“I know it’s going to be a tight game. We’ve got to play good defense,” Marzec said. “We can’t give them extra outs, and we’ve got to manufacture some runs.
Marzec said he’s implemented some new things that could help the team in the postseason.
Even though the playoffs are on everyone’s mind these days, Marzec is fully aware of how big an accomplishment winning a division title is.
“I’m very happy for our seniors. I’m happy for our school,” Marzec said. “This is awesome. We’ve had some struggles. I’m hoping this helps catapult our program somewhere special because winning breeds winning.”