After contending for a state title the last two seasons, South baseball set to return to action

By: Mark Vest | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 24, 2016

 Grosse Pointe South junior Logan Mico takes part in a recent team practice. South is scheduled to open its season at home April 1.

Grosse Pointe South junior Logan Mico takes part in a recent team practice. South is scheduled to open its season at home April 1.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Although Grosse Pointe South’s baseball team will enter the 2016 season minus six starters from last year’s squad, it is highly unlikely that head coach Dan Griesbaum will ever use the term “rebuilding” to describe a time of transition for his program.

Instead, Griesbaum’s motto is “Tradition never graduates.” His motto makes sense when South’s history is considered.

South has finished in the top four in the state seven times during the course of its history, which Griesbaum said is more than any other Division 1 public school program. Two of South’s top four finishes have come in the last two seasons, with the program advancing all the way to a Division 1 state title game in 2014, and the semifinals in 2015.

“Our kids know there’s no such thing as rebuilding or waiting until next year when we’ve got more seasoned players,” Griesbaum said. “Nothing less is expected of any team just because we don’t have many returning starters. The expectations this year are no different than what they were any other year. Our kids know that, and it’s ingrained. The thing I try to tell other coaches is, ‘How do you think your team feels when you tell the media, well, this is a rebuilding year. We don’t have many returning players. How do you think your players feel about that?’ They think, ‘Coach doesn’t think we’re very good.’ If you ingrain in them, hey, when we go on the field, we expect to win and we expect to be successful every single year, then that becomes a tradition. We expect the same every year from all of our teams.”

Griesbaum attributes a lot of South’s success to playing in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, which features programs such as Sterling Heights Stevenson and Macomb Dakota, as well as some challenging nonconference games, including rival Grosse Pointe North. From his perspective, the primary role of regular season play is to help prepare his team for the postseason.

“I appreciate the opportunity to play teams like Stevenson and Dakota, those other MAC Red teams, as well as the Catholic League teams we play,” Griesbaum said. “I appreciate that opportunity because they help prepare us for the postseason, and that’s what it’s all about. For instance, last year we played Cincinnati Moeller. They were ranked nationally and they won the Ohio state championship. They’re a perennial power in Ohio, and we happened to end up beating them our first game last year. So if sacrificing a MAC record, because we’re in the Red and with schools twice our size — that’s OK if it helps us to be successful in the postseason.”

In order to enjoy more postseason success, South may have to get major contributions from one or more of its pitchers, just as it did the past two seasons, when Jimmy Menchl and Andrew Fabry helped lead the program to some key victories in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Both players have since graduated.

While he is not sure which of his pitchers may be able to fill the role of postseason hero this year, what Griesbaum does know is that despite the loss of last season’s starters, he still has three starting returning position players in Logan Mico, Brad Thompson and Will Poplawski.

South will also have pitching depth, which Griesbaum cited as the biggest strength of the team. Douglas Graham is South’s most experienced returning pitcher, with three years of varsity experience.

As for Griesbaum, this season is his 33rd as South’s skipper. The start of a new baseball campaign is something he said never gets old.

“I’m as excited about doing this as I was 33 years ago,” Griesbaum said. “This part of the season is always the best part — you get to start baseball, but it’s always the toughest part because of the cuts. In 33 years, it hasn’t gotten any easier to cut. We got great kids and they’re good players, but unfortunately, you can’t keep everyone. It’s the worst part of the year as far as that goes. It’s all fun after that’s over with.”

After taking a spring training trip to Florida March 24-30, South is scheduled to open its season at noon April 1 against Warren De La Salle at home.

Advertisement