Troy sophomore Gabe Geisner collects a hit during a matchup against Madison Heights Bishop Foley May 18 at Bishop Foley High School.

Troy sophomore Gabe Geisner collects a hit during a matchup against Madison Heights Bishop Foley May 18 at Bishop Foley High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Pitching core, long ball specialist find Colts ways to win

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Troy Times | Published May 22, 2024

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TROY — When you play in a district with the talent Troy baseball will inevitably have to face in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state tournament, your out-of-conference schedule becomes more of a test of strength and will.

There could be a case made for the Oakland Activities Association being the toughest conference in the state from a top-to-bottom standpoint, and Troy (25-6) has seen every bit of it this year.

The Colts fought through the OAA Blue to set themselves up for a potential league-winning season and faced non-league teams such as West Bloomfield (OAA-White/No. 7 D1), Clarkston (OAA-Red) and Rochester (OAA-Red) to see where they stack up. The Colts have also faced the likes of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, the consensus No. 1 ranked team in the state, and Detroit Catholic Central (No. 5 D1) to add to their resume. The Colts are currently in first in the OAA Blue.

Aside from embodying the mantra of “if you’re going to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Troy understands the challenges that lie ahead of them in districts, which Troy last won in 2019.

Top-ranked teams like Birmingham Groves (No. 8 D1) and Birmingham Seaholm (No. 6 D1) will stand in the way of the Colts alongside two league rivals in Royal Oak and Berkley.

Playing the toughest teams out there helped Troy learn something about themselves, and even in a 4-3 extra-inning win against hometown rival Troy Athens, Troy first-year head coach Joe D’Orazio said his guys continue to fight no matter the opponent or score.

“It’s something we pride ourselves on,” D’Orazio said. “As a first-year coach here at Troy, it’s what I wanted our MO to be, which was to find ways, be gritty and compete. We’ve been resilient. We haven’t shied away from playing the highest competition possible with our non-league (schedule).”

Troy would take two out of three against Athens, setting them up comfortably in a situation where Troy controlled its own destiny in the league.

The Colts can throw a pitching rotation out there as good as anyone in the OAA featuring an array of arms that would more than qualify to take the ball in a must-win game.

Senior Jon Whiteside, known for his work on the basketball court for the Colts, headlines the rotation as a Lansing Community College commit, featuring a fastball that sits around 89-90 mph.

“They’re (Lansing Community College) getting a really special kid,” D’Orazio said. “Just a phenomenal character and hard worker. He’s awesome. He’s got a great frame. I’m excited for him when he gets up to the next level.”

Alongside Whiteside, junior Trevor Marshall, sophomore Jack Sobotka, senior Josh Samuelson, senior Kyle Fetherolf, sophomore Cam Adams and junior Nick Aretha have been key contributors on the mound.

Sobotka has been nearly unhittable this year as a sophomore sensation, taking the ball against some of the Colts’ toughest competition this year.

Against Algonac, one of the top teams in Division 3, Sobotka went six innings while punching out 10 batters in a 12-0 win.

The best part for Sobotka is he gets to do it all with his close friend, sophomore catcher Gabe Geisner, each outing.

The duo both play for the South Oakland A’s travel baseball organization, and Geisner said they’re always in sync.

“Me and Jack (Sobotka) have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen in baseball,” Geisner said. “I don’t need to tell him what to do because he already knows what to do. If he misses a pitch, I don’t have to harp on him. If he knows a hitter that is weak on offspeed is up, he already knows what to throw.”

Aside from providing efficient play behind the plate, Geisner has anchored the heart of the Colts’ batting order with senior Clark Anderson (INF), who has 10 home runs on the season

Anderson has been an RBI machine for Troy and will also play for Lansing Community College next year.

“He’s got some of the most raw power I’ve ever seen as a coach,” D’Orazio said. “It’s fun to watch on a daily basis.”

Junior Carson Noon (INF), junior Miles Carter (OF), junior Davey Crockett (OF), and senior Zach Gillespie (C/INF) have also contributed to the offensive efforts.

Crockett, who hits leadoff for the Colts, does the bulk of his damage with his elite-level speed, dropping bunts as a left-handed hitter and swiping bags efficiently.

District play is set to begin May 28 as Troy will face Berkley at Birmingham Seaholm High School. Troy swept Berkley 3-0 this season.

The Colts have been battle tested all year, so preparation for district opponents won’t be an issue for D’Orazio and company.

Troy’s rotation has the ability to throw a different arm with full confidence throughout districts and has the hitting to blow games open early on.

D’Orazio said it will take everyone on the roster to make the team’s goal a reality.

“Even guys that aren’t asked to play every day, because we have a larger roster, are being great team players,” D’Orazio said. “You need that as a program and as a team that has success. That’s been a huge plus for us with the selflessness of some.”