Chippewa Valley baseball competes in loaded league

By: Brad D. Bates | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 16, 2011

 Clinton Township Chippewa Valley senior Scott Kunert pitches during the Big Reds’ game against Port Huron Northern April 21 at home.

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley senior Scott Kunert pitches during the Big Reds’ game against Port Huron Northern April 21 at home.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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The adage is that “numbers don’t lie,” but as Clinton Township Chippewa Valley baseball coach points out, numbers rarely tell the whole story.

With his team at 5-11 heading into the final weeks of the 2011 season, Murphy said that win total does little justice to his team’s effort and how much pride he has leading the Big Reds.

“We compete and play a lot of good teams,” Murphy said. “We don’t have the deepest pitching staff, but I love our effort. We play together as a team and don’t make a lot of errors.”

While they haven’t put together as many wins as they would like, the Big Reds have competed with their rivals in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division against such squads as Utica Stevenson, Grosse Pointe South and Utica Eisenhower, all of which have been ranked among the state’s top 10 Division 1 programs by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association.

“We play in one of the best leagues in the state,” Murphy said. “Look at Stevenson, South and (Macomb) Dakota, they are all deep in pitching. And if we’re going to do well, we have to play strong and not beat ourselves.”

Even that hasn’t been enough some games, as Murphy said his team has been in position to win before falling one or two plays short.

“They get a little frustrated when they’re right there but don’t get a key hit — like our 4-1 loss to Stevenson,” Murphy said of his players.

“We were up 1-0, and they hit a home run to take the lead. Then we had runners on and a guy hits the ball hard down the third baseline, and Stevenson’s guy makes a diving catch.

“We just can’t get a break,” Murphy added. “But they really have stayed positive, worked together and do everything you want a team to do.”

That “stick-to-itiveness” stems from Chippewa Valley’s seniors, including captains Tim Murphy and Scott Kunert, and right fielder Chad Rowles, who leads the team in home runs.

Part of the seniors’ job is to help talented underclassmen, such as juniors Mike Martin, Tyler Friese and Keith Olmack, through the season.

“Most of our team are juniors, so we’re still pretty young,” Murphy said. “We had a freshman pitching against (Madison Heights) Lamphere, and they’re very good, and we only lost 4-2.

“Then we played St. Clair (the state’s No. 1 D-2 squad) and lost 4-3 in eight innings. They know they’re just a little off, and they know they have to stick with it.”

To help their players find the little something extra, the Big Reds’ coaches are paying special attention to executing when pressure is on.

“We hit in practice with two strikes and men on base, and if we can do those things, we’ll start to see more wins,” Murphy said. “You see what your mistakes are, and then you work on it.”

The knowledge that his squad won’t stop working is why Murphy feels his team will be ready to face Stevenson when it opens the D-1 state playoffs in the first round at 4 p.m. May 31 at Stevenson.

“If you’re going to win our district, you have to beat Stevenson sooner or later, so we might as well get it over with and kill some of the suspense,” Murphy said.

But, win or lose, Murphy feels his team is a success in ways wins and stats can’t measure.

“We have 15 kids on the roster, and 12 of them take AP classes,” Murphy said. “People don’t always realize that school comes first, but we’ve had kids miss or come late because they were taking AP tests.

“They’re a good group to coach,” Murphy added. “They stay positive, compete and are ready to play. And it would be nice for them to win a few more times because they deserve it.”
 

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