Sterling Heights Stevenson junior Ryan Rumble pitches during a matchup against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North April 6 at Stevenson High School.

Sterling Heights Stevenson junior Ryan Rumble pitches during a matchup against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North April 6 at Stevenson High School.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Program culture has Stevenson baseball taking MAC Red head-on

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 19, 2024

 Sterling Heights Stevenson senior Ty Jenkins makes contact with the ball.

Sterling Heights Stevenson senior Ty Jenkins makes contact with the ball.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


STERLING HEIGHTS — No matter what sport or what team, a Macomb Area Conference Red game is going to be a dogfight.

A team could be winless in the league, but the opposing team will still treat them as if they’re one of the top programs in the state.

For Sterling Heights Stevenson baseball, winning a MAC Red title last year, going 13-1 in the league, for the first time since 2017 meant everything.

Only problem is when conference play is over, the state tournament is just another repeat of the Red division all over again.

Stevenson (8-3) cruised to a district championship before falling to league rival Macomb Dakota in the opening round of regionals, and before Dakota it was Utica Ford II playing the villain role the past three state tournaments in districts.

The only thing more difficult than winning the league is defending it, and with a 1-1 record already in the league courtesy of a series split with Dakota, Stevenson is hoping its array of talented arms in the rotation will lead the Titans back to a league title.

“I think the frontline pitchers in all the leagues are good on Tuesday,” said Stevenson head coach Joe Emanuele, entering his 27th year at the helm. “Maybe they’re solid on Wednesday, but the Thursday game is the difference. In our league, you still got a pretty darn good pitcher on that Thursday, so there’s really no breaks. It forces you to have to get ready to play every single day. It’s a mental thing, it’s a toughness thing, and it does get you prepared for, and we always talk about how you have to win two for a district, maybe three, but you have to win two for sure. Then you gotta win that third game to get to the regional. We expect every time we play those games that they’re going to be a one-run game, and we get used to it by playing in a tough league.”

The Titans’ rotation is led by senior Ty Jenkins, who threw a complete game against Dakota April 15, earning 10 strikeouts and leading his squad to a 3-1 win.

Jenkins, the ace last year for Emanuele with a 8-1 record and a 1.45 ERA, headlines a skillful Titans staff alongside senior Vance Labrake, senior Jacob Turner, junior Ryan Rumble, junior Scott Leonard, junior Brett Leonard, junior Jordan Miller and junior Alex Pierce.

Scott Leonard (2.30), Pierce (2.68) and Rumble (1.87) all carried a sub-three ERA for the Titans staff last year.

On the offensive side, senior Brock Savage is the veteran leader for a stout lineup consisting of Brett Leonard (P/INF), junior Jake Leonard (INF/OF), senior Cameron Simms (OF), junior Carson Sweet (C), Pierce, Scott Leonard (P/INF), Jenkins (P), Labrake (P/OF) and Turner (P/1B).

Emanuele said Jenkins and Savage are both guys who understand the expectation of the program and what it takes to win.

“Both (Savage and Jenkins) were contributors last year, and then they took a great leadership role,” Emanuele said. “They kind of run the team. I bounce a lot of stuff off those two, who are captains along with Jake Leonard. The two seniors have really taken it and ran with it. They ran our weight training. They were kind of the leadership of our weight training. The senior class has been excellent. We got a bunch of baseball-hungry guys.”

Sweet has excelled behind the plate, but was equally as dominant with the bat in 2023, hitting .358, while Savage (.319), Brett Leonard (.309), Jake Leonard (.324), Rumble (.337), Simms (.310) and Labrake (.636 in 15 plate appearances) all hit above .300 last year.

Given their ability to throw a plethora of guys on the mound at any time and their ability to hit from top to bottom, the Titans should be a threat to repeat in the league.

Stevenson has had plenty of success under Emanuele, winning a state title in 2005 and making the state semifinals in 2011 and 2013, and this year should be no different for Stevenson, given their roster.

At the end of the day, Emanuele said, it all boils down to the culture and standard the baseball program has in place.

“The calling card for our program is their work ethic,” Emanuele said. “It’s kind of been something that happens every year. A new group comes in and they follow the same idea of if you’re going to be in this program, you’re going to work hard and come to work every day. You’re going to grind. You’re going to get stronger in the eight room. You’re going to work on your baseball skills. This is a year-round program, and I think just that whole mentality has been developed and instilled for a long time. The good thing is that they embrace it. Each year you get a new group of leaders, and they just follow the guys before them.”