STERLING HEIGHTS — Players and coaches with the Sterling Heights Stevenson baseball team set a number of goals prior to the start of the season.
While they want to achieve all of those goals — win game one, win 20 games, win a divisional title, etc. — each member of the team knows they can’t accomplish all of those goals at the same time.
Titans coach Joe Emanuele, in his 16th year with the program, has put it on his team to focus on the task at hand. Though reaching the state finals is the ultimate goal, he doesn’t want any of his players looking too far ahead.
“We won our first game. We won 20 games. Our next goal is to win (the Macomb Area Conference Red Division title),” said Emanuele, who led Stevenson to a state championship in 2005. “We’re going to take it one step at a time. If you try to look beyond the here and now, you’re going to struggle, and we don’t want that.
“We may get beat anyway doing things how we’re doing them now, but we’re not going to allow our staff or our kids to think ahead. But, yes, we would like to get back to the state finals.”
Stevenson at press time sat at 21-1, 11-0 MAC Red, and had a three-game lead over second-place Macomb Dakota with three league games remaining. Stevenson is ranked No. 1 in Division 1 by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association. The team’s lone loss was a 2-1 loss to Warren Mott May 3.
The Titans, which advanced to the state quarterfinals last season where they fell 2-1 to eventual state champ Bay City Western, have recorded nine shutouts and allowed one run five times. Stevenson has won by more than three runs 13 times. The team has hit the 20-win plateau for the seventh straight year and the 11th time in 12 years.
“We’re finding ways to win,” Emanuele said. “It’s really nothing the coaches have done. What’s happened is this group has great leadership. They don’t like to lose, and they play hard every day. When you play that way, you’ll be in every game.”
Senior pitcher Joe Wolf is part of a veteran team that returns 15 players from last season. That group includes 11 seniors.
Wolf called this a crazy season. He said the team has worked very hard to see results.
“Not many teams have the experience we have. We just have to continue with what we’re doing,” Wolf said. “We don’t want to experience what happened last season. We don’t want our last game to be a loss.”
Emanuele called the team a daily work in progress. He said he would feel that way no matter what its record was. He is pushing his team to continue to practice hard every day with a goal of peaking, come playoff time. The state playoffs begin May 27.
“It would be great for us to get back to the state finals,” Wolf said. “That’d mean a whole lot to us. We’re going for it all.”
Stevenson’s next game is a MAC Red bout with Macomb Dakota, set for 4 p.m. May 14 at Stevenson.