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Center Line baseball team relishing hot start, looking to sustain success

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Warren Weekly | Published April 23, 2012

 Coach Rob Conti and the Center Line High baseball team are off to an 11-1 start. Conti said solid pitching and defense have been the biggest factors in the team’s fast start.

Coach Rob Conti and the Center Line High baseball team are off to an 11-1 start. Conti said solid pitching and defense have been the biggest factors in the team’s fast start.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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CENTER LINE — An 11-1 start has Center Line High baseball players aspiring to do big things the rest of the season.

“We host a district this year, so we definitely want to win that,” senior first baseman Nathan Mezek. “We want to show people that this is a baseball town.”

In the team’s hot start, the Panthers, 1-0 in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division at press time, have won in a variety of ways. Center Line had four wins by at least eight runs and was a perfect 5-0 in one-run games. They also have three shutout wins by a combined score of 30-0.

“I know it’s kind of cliché, but we have a lot of youth on this team. We only have four seniors this year, and last year we had nine,” Center Line coach Rob Conti said. “All of these guys are buying into what we’re teaching.

“It’s been a total team effort, too. There are not one or two guys we rely on. Every guy on this team is capitalizing when they have a chance to step up.”

Conti said a strong offseason program has played a huge role in the Panthers’ fast start. Starting last October, members of the team — in groups of four, as allowed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association — met each Tuesday and Thursday for conditioning. From 7-10 a.m. each Sunday, pitchers and catchers would convene for drills, the Center Line coach said.

Conti and his staff have employed that approach in the past, he said, but there was more participation this season because the majority of the players on the roster didn’t play fall sports.

“We put a huge emphasis on defense and fundamentals, and we’ve done a good job so far in not giving up the big inning,” Conti said. “I’m old school. I think defense and pitching is what wins games. We have guys who can hit, but we’re more about scooping up ground balls, hitting the cutoff pickoff man in time and just playing great defense.”

Panthers senior pitcher/center fielder Scott Bostic, a four-year varsity player, thinks the offseason workout program worked wonders, but admits he didn’t see the team’s hot start materializing.

“I was on the team as a sophomore when we won the (MAC Silver) and last year when we didn’t do as well as we would have liked,” Bostic said. “To have us playing like this is great.”

Making it to regionals is a goal Bostic believes the team can reach. Conti remains concerned about Center Line’s opposition in the MAC Silver.

He said St. Clair Shores Lakeview, the defending MAC Silver champion, will be a tough out this season. Conti also believes Sterling Heights High and Clawson High can challenge for the title.

“At the beginning of the season, no one would have thought we’d be in that group, but I think we have a shot,” Conti said. “Our goal is to win each week, and we’ve done that so far. We just have to keep doing things to get better every day.”

The Panthers next hit the diamond for a road tilt at Madison High, slated for 4:30 p.m. April 25.

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