Utica Ford II softball coach talks new season

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 9, 2018

 Utica Ford II senior Gabby Palazzolo takes a cut during a recent practice. The Falcons open the season against Sterling Heights Stevenson at 4 p.m. April 12 at home.

Utica Ford II senior Gabby Palazzolo takes a cut during a recent practice. The Falcons open the season against Sterling Heights Stevenson at 4 p.m. April 12 at home.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Utica Ford II softball coach Matt Joseph instructs his players at a recent practice. The Falcons have averaged nearly 27 wins in each of the last five seasons.

Utica Ford II softball coach Matt Joseph instructs his players at a recent practice. The Falcons have averaged nearly 27 wins in each of the last five seasons.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

STERLING HEIGHTS — The Utica Ford II softball team has averaged almost 27 wins a year for the past five seasons, and if that run of success is to continue, Falcons coach Matt Joseph knows what will be the main catalyst.

“I think we should be able to produce runs at a pretty good level,” said Joseph, whose team opens the season against Sterling Heights Stevenson at 4 p.m. April 12 at home. “This team has been working extremely hard so far in the preseason. There’s been a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”

While Joseph believes his team, which went 29-9 in 2017, will light up the scoreboard, there is an area of concern.

The coach said the team’s biggest question mark is on the mound. A sophomore and two freshmen are battling to serve as the team’s ace. 

Along with the bats, team chemistry and camaraderie could carry Ford, Joseph said.

“We’ve had some very good athletes, so obviously that helps, but I think learning to be competitive and believing in each other is what’s helped the program be successful,” Joseph said. “Our players put their own agendas aside for the betterment of the team.”

The Falcons lost a number of players to graduation from last year’s district finalist. Joseph tapped four-year varsity player Gabby Palazzolo as the team leader. Three-year varsity players Jackie Nicholson, Haley Tiseo and Laurin Prebelich will also be asked to make strong contributions.

Part of what makes Ford so tough is the competition it faces in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, which comprises Macomb Dakota, Utica Eisenhower, St. Clair High, New Baltimore Anchor Bay and Romeo High. Dakota won the Division 1 state title in 2017. 

To put the strength of the league in perspective, the Falcons advanced to the D-1 state semifinals in 2014 despite finishing fourth in the MAC Red.

“The league will be as tough as it has ever been,” said Joseph, who is looking for his first division championship since winning the MAC White in 2012. “I really believe it’s the toughest league in the state, and I don’t think this year will be any different.”

Joseph’s hope is that his team improves as the season goes along. He said he wants the squad to be playing at its peak come the state playoffs, with the idea of making a deep run.

“I think this year more than any we have a lot of question marks, but I like what I see so far,” Joseph said. “If our pitching comes around, I believe this team will improve every day and compete to make a run in the (playoffs).”