Utica Ford II baseball coach reflects on team’s turnaround

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 30, 2014

STERLING HEIGHTS — The Utica Ford II baseball team experienced a bit of a renaissance this season.

The Falcons doubled their win total from last season and stayed in the race for the Macomb Area Conference White Division title until the last game of the season, finishing 9-6 in divisional play and losing out on a league title by one game to St. Clair High. In 2013, the Falcons only won one game in divisional play.

Ford II coach Derek Ganfield said pitching was the name of the game for his team this season.

“A lot of people say good pitching beats good hitting, and we were fortunate to have that be the case for us for much of the season,” Ganfield said. “We were winning a lot of close games up until the last couple weeks of the season, and that was mostly because of our pitching.”

Ganfield cited the performance of two senior hurlers, Jordan Luzod and Ja’Won Vaughn, and sophomore pitchers Kevin Large and Pierce Banks as a major reason for the team’s turnaround.

“They went out every game and did their job, and we were able to push some runs across the plate,” Ganfield said.

But the pitching staff didn’t get any help at all in the team’s  8-0 loss to Sterling Heights Stevenson in a Division 1 district quarterfinal May 29. Stevenson advanced to face Fraser High, and Sterling Heights High squared off against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley. Both games took place after press time.

Stevenson had a 2-0 lead going into the top of the sixth inning. The Titans, ranked No. 1 in the state by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association, were able to push six runs across the plate in that inning to seal the win.

“We were in a couple of spots that, had things gone differently, it could have been a different game, but we weren’t able to get much going offensively,” Ganfield said. “But I’m proud of the way the team fought and competed, and they did that all year.

“They bit, scratched and clawed to stay in games and take leads, and they did the same thing to keep those leads. That’s really all you can ask for as a coach is for your team to play hard, and they did that.”

Ganfield will lose Luzod, Vaughn and six other seniors to graduation. Eight other Ford II players will be eligible to return next season, including Banks and Large.

Ganfield said he’s looking forward to what next season will bring.

“Those guys are all going to compete,” Ganfield said. “I’ve seen them all grow into good baseball players, and I’m excited to see them continue to improve.”

The Sterling Heights Parkway Christian baseball and softball teams’ Division 4 playoff openers against Royal Oak Shrine took place after press time.

Stallions softball season ends
The Sterling Heights High softball team saw its season end in a 5-2 loss to Utica Ford II in a district quarterfinal. The Stallions end the season at 4-13. Ford’s and Stevenson’s softball teams advanced to take on Fraser High and Chippewa Valley in games that took place after press time.

For more information on the state baseball and softball playoffs, check www.candgnews.com and www.mhsaa.com.