Stoney Creek softball ready to compete in OAA Red

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published April 18, 2017

 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek junior center fielder Sidney Rayba makes a throw April 11 against Utica Eisenhower. An Oakland University verbal commit, Rayba serves as one of two team captains for the Cougars.

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek junior center fielder Sidney Rayba makes a throw April 11 against Utica Eisenhower. An Oakland University verbal commit, Rayba serves as one of two team captains for the Cougars.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROCHESTER HILLS — Tom Hayman has a short commute to work.

The second-year coach of the Rochester Hills Stoney Creek softball team, Hayman exits the front door of the home he has owned for a decade and briskly walks for 45 seconds, arriving at the Cougars’ home dugout.

“I don’t know how many people can say they coach 120 feet away from home plate,” Hayman said laughingly after a recent practice. “Now I’ve found plenty of foul balls in my front and back yard, but it is pretty convenient. We store equipment and extra uniforms in my basement. If we ever need something, it never takes long to get it.”

Hayman’s house sits at the end of a cul-de-sac that borders the Stoney Creek campus. He joked that his other gig, teaching physics at Sterling Heights Stevenson, is significantly farther away. A former Warren De La Salle and Rochester College baseball standout, he is excited to coach nearly in his backyard, building on his successful inaugural year at the helm.

The Cougars finished 26-12 last season and won the Oakland Activities Association White Division. They followed that with the program’s first-ever playoff victory, a 5-4 Division 1 district opener win against Rochester High in 11 innings.

A subsequent two-run loss in the district final served as fuel in the offseason. The Cougars were also promoted into the OAA Red, which is the club’s first foray into the league’s top flight.

At press time, the Cougars were 1-2 overall.

“I also scheduled aggressively with our nonleague games,” Hayman said. “There are not too many games where we can go in and take it easy. Every one is a challenge, but that is a good thing. We set up the difficult schedule to set us up for the playoffs. Our goals are to win the Red and then do well in the playoffs.”

Nonconference games include battles with Utica Eisenhower, Macomb Dakota, Utica Ford II, Plymouth High, Richmond High and the team that knocked out the Cougars in that district final — Romeo High.

“I think we stack up well against everyone in our district,” Hayman said. “We will have played all of the teams from our district during the season, so we will be very comfortable headed into the playoffs. So, let’s go out there and show what we can do.”

Despite the accomplishments of last season, Hayman admitted that his team lacks experience. Only boasting two seniors, the Cougars employ underclassmen up and down the roster.

“Last year over 50 percent of our at-bats were by freshmen and sophomores, and this year will be somewhere in that neighborhood again,” Hayman said. “Anytime you have a young team, there is going to be some bumps and bruises. We may struggle a bit due to that inexperience, but we have great leadership.”

Hayman cited that leadership from his team captains, senior shortstop Morgan Porter and junior center fielder Sidney Rayba.

“It is nice to be a captain, because we’re really coming together as one team, so I’m glad I can be at the head of that to make sure everyone is working together,” Porter said. “It is nice to just encourage that growth and help in any way I can.”

Her coach praised that willingness to aid in whatever way possible.

“She has played every game at shortstop that I’ve coached here, and it is clear she is respected out there,” Hayman said. “She’s an amazing leader, extremely selfless, always trying to help. She rakes the field after practice and is here early to set up.”

A captain on the hoops team as well, Porter is looking forward to competing in the Red.

“We do have a tougher schedule now, but I think it will be fun, because it will push our skills,” Porter said. “Hopefully, it will make us ready for the end of the season and playoffs. I think we have a great chance, because we have some really strong hitters, a good infield and quick outfield. We all are willing to work together.”

Rayba patrols the outfield and has verbally committed to play at Oakland University. Leading the infield, senior first baseman Charli Carnill recently signed with Cornerstone University. Despite the two headed to the next level, Hayman believes his squad’s biggest strength has nothing to do with skill.

“Without question, our strength is our attitude,” Hayman said. “These girls are extremely positive, and they know that this is a challenging schedule. But they’ve accepted that challenge and are working hard to top last year.”

Up next, Stoney Creek takes on Oxford High at 5:30 p.m. April 20 on the road.