With 16 veterans returning, Eaglets take aim at another title

By: Mike Moore | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 24, 2016

 Senior Scott Grant rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the March 22 scrimmage. Grant is one of eight starters back in the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s lineup.

Senior Scott Grant rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the March 22 scrimmage. Grant is one of eight starters back in the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s lineup.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ORCHARD LAKE — Very similar, yet different. 

A new year and a new team, but the exact same mission.

When the 2015 spring season came to a close for the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s baseball squad, the celebration was on in East Lansing.

The 32nd win of the year came by a 4-1 count over Mount Pleasant High in the Division 2 championship game.

And since then, well, not a whole lot has changed, even as coach Matt Petry is trying to stress that it has.

“When you look at the talent we have and the number of guys we’ve returned, you should be a pretty good team,” Petry said. “At the same time, this is not last year’s team. This is a group that has to go out and pave their own way now.”

The Eaglets finished 2015 with a 32-13 record, taking what was a strong regular season and parlaying it into a dominant postseason run.

And from last year’s group of champs, 16 varsity veterans are back in the mix.  

The lineup returns eight starters, and most of the starting pitching staff will be back on the mound.

Most of it.

“Greg Loukinen isn’t going to be here, and that’s a huge loss,” Petry said of last year’s senior ace. Loukinen allowed just five hits and no earned runs while striking out seven in a complete-game effort in the final. “We’re going to need somebody to step up on the mound. If you’re going to make a run, you need three solid arms.”

“The first message at the first practice was a round of applause for last year. And then that was it,” Harrison Salter said shortly after a March 23 practice. “Now it’s about forgetting the past. We can have the same goals, but we can’t look back. We’re owed nothing because of last year.”

Salter, a senior catcher, has the best seat in the house as the Eaglets try to move forward without Loukinen.

“We’ve worked a lot in the offseason with some of the other guys we’re counting on,” he added. “Greg is a huge loss. He pitched so many innings for us. But other guys are ready to step up.”

Drake Titus and Scott Grant, who also saw considerable time on the mound last year, will serve as the team’s top arms.

And as far as the offense is concerned, Loukinen is the only starter from the lineup not back this spring.

“We expect to score runs,” Salter said with a laugh. “It was just a scrimmage, but we scored 18 runs against (White Lake) Lakeland. We have coaches who’ve been working so much with us. We’ve worked hard at this. Usually, it’s the pitching that starts the year hotter than the hitting, but I think our hitting is already on track.”

The key for the Eaglets right now, as Petry said, is getting back into the swing of the season and finding that groove that allowed them to go on the run they did.

Weather permitting, St. Mary’s was scheduled to begin game play March 26, after press time.

The team’s next scheduled game is at 4 p.m. March 31 at Rochester High.

“Generally, once you start league play, you get an idea of where you stand,” Petry said. Catholic League play begins April 13. “I don’t think there’s a number of wins or anything you need to see before then, but you want to see yourself starting to play the game the right way.”

And if they do, the tools are in place for another march toward East Lansing.

“I think everyone on this team believes we’re capable of that,” Salter said. “We’re a group that comes together and understands how to win. The talent is here, but we’re not taking any of it for granted.”

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