Sterling Heights Stevenson softball coach Tony Misuraca said he and his players still have the memories of their last game of 2012 in the back of their minds.
The Titans, which went 26-10 and earned district and regional titles in 2012, had a lead on White Lake Lakeland going into the last half inning of their D-1 state quarterfinal before squandering that lead and seeing their season end in a one-run loss.
“We were a half inning away from going to Battle Creek,” Misuraca said. “We remember that feeling, and the team has been pushing themselves ever since that game.”
Misuraca said his players have set a goal of making that trip to Battle Creek this season.
“That loss is a big motivating factor for the girls,” he said.
The Stevenson coach believes his team has a good shot to see that goal come to fruition. Senior pitcher Alyssa Huntley, who earned first-team All-State honors, returns after going 23-6 with a .79 ERA and 241 strikeouts. Huntley, who has signed to play at Eastern Michigan University in 2014, also recorded 11 shutouts. The senior hurler hit .486 with five home runs and 50 RBI, as well.
The team is senior-heavy and features a number of players going into their fourth season with the varsity program. Senior third basemen Taylor Moceri (.372 BA, 33 RBI in 2012), who will play at Saginaw Valley State University next year, is a returning All-Conference selection. Stevenson senior shortstop Andrea Deneweth (.345 BA), who will play at Oakland Community College next year, returns after being an All-Conference selection. Titans senior utility player Nicole Vitale, who hit .343 in 2012, is also expected to be a solid contributor. She will play at Macomb Community College next season.
Also expected to contribute are junior second baseman Haley Knodell — All-Conference in 2012 — and sophomore catcher Kara Vitale, who hit .325 as a freshman.
“The best thing about this team is so many of the players are interchangeable,” said Misuraca, who led Stevenson to its second straight district title win in 2012. “We’ve got players primarily in the outfield who can play in the infield and vice versa, and this isn’t a team full of players who care about individual stats. They’re all about winning.”
Winning the MAC Red for a second consecutive year is a goal the team has set for itself, as well. The Titans went 10-2 in league play last season and shared the MAC Red title with Romeo.
“That’s a big goal of ours — winning the Red,” Misuraca said. “That’s not going be easy. There’s some stiff competition in our league. You don’t get any days off playing in the MAC Red.”
Misuraca said the experience his team has in playing in big games would be key this season. He added his hope is for Stevenson to improve on a daily basis and to peak, come playoff time.
“I just want us to get better and better as the season goes along, and we want to get to Battle Creek,” he said. “But we know a lot has to happen for that to come to pass. We need to stay healthy, and we have to catch some breaks.”
The Titans next hit the diamond for a matchup against Romeo, set for 6 p.m. April 17 at Stevenson.