Center Line baseball to lean on defense and pitching, manufacturing runs

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Warren Weekly | Published April 3, 2015

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CENTER LINE — The Center Line High baseball team doesn’t have a roster full of power hitters, so the team hopes its approach of manufacturing runs leads to it pulling out a lot of wins in 2015.

Panthers coach Rob Conti, in his fourth year, said he wants his players to be smart at the plate and move guys around the bases. The team bunted eight times in a season-opener doubleheader sweep of Marine City Cardinal Mooney.

“We don’t have any young men who are gonna knock the ball out of the ballpark,” Conti said. “We have a lot of young men who work hard, hustle, run well, bunt and run, and that’s the way we’re going to approach things — scrap for every run we can get.”

Conti said pitching and defense will be the team’s strength, and the hitting will come along as the weather improves. The Center Line coach said he sees pitching and defense as the foundation of a lot of good teams.

“And with us being so young, we have to lean on those things, especially early on,” Conti said.

The team, 4-0 at press time, has just three seniors on its roster in pitcher Jared Dina, right fielder Kyle Stanczyk and left fielder/catcher/third baseman Blake Thompson. Conti is looking to those three, along with juniors Zack Delise and Troy Jones, to lead the team.

All of those players were on the roster when Center Line made a run to the Division 2 state quarterfinals in 2013. They hope to advance that deep into the playoffs this season, too.

“That was so much fun being a part of that run as a freshman,” Jones said. “I think the sky is the limit for this team, too.”

“If we play defense, hustle and work hard, there’s no telling how far we can go,” Dina said.

Conti said his roster is full of players with strong baseball acumen. The majority of the players on the team have been varsity athletes since they were freshmen. That, Conti said, allowed them to learn by sitting and watching early on to prepare them for in-game situations.

“That bodes well for us in the long run,” Conti said.

Conti is hopeful that bodes well in divisional play. He said the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division will be tough. Center Line finished second to Roseville last season. The Panthers’ last league title came in 2010.

“If we all jell and play well and get better every day, it could be a really fun season,” Conti said.

Center Line next takes the field for a game against Hazel Park High, set for 4:30 p.m. April 10 at Hazel Park.

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