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 Dakota catcher Layne Malczewski waits on a throw to home plate against Brother Rice. The runner was tagged out moments later.

Dakota catcher Layne Malczewski waits on a throw to home plate against Brother Rice. The runner was tagged out moments later.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Dakota baseball looks to use smarts and seniors

By: Timothy Pontzer | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 3, 2018

 Macomb Dakota’s Eero Perkola throws a pitch March 28 against Birmingham Brother Rice. The Cougars swept the Warriors to start the season 2-0.

Macomb Dakota’s Eero Perkola throws a pitch March 28 against Birmingham Brother Rice. The Cougars swept the Warriors to start the season 2-0.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Last season, Matt Carley’s roster was top-heavy with seniors.

Of 18 players, 14 were seniors. This year, the Macomb Dakota baseball coach admitted his group is more of a mix but still carrying an essential dose of experience.

“This year was have 10 seniors, seven juniors and an influx of sophomores that can come and help us out,” Carley said during a March 26 practice. “This is a really solid group. We definitely like what we’ve seen so far.”

Carley believes his group will be prepared mentally, proudly boasting how each member of his team has at least a 3.0 GPA.

“This is a smart group that knows what it takes,” Carley said. “They’re really sharp. We keep preaching to be competitive all the time, and we hope those things will translate into some extra wins.”

Last season, the Cougars finished 21-13 overall, posting a 9-5 mark in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. Carley said the team’s chief goals are to compete for a league crown (last done by the program in 2010) and a district title (2014).

Carley cited a trio of seniors as the team’s leadership trust. Eero Perkola will play the hot corner, entering his fourth year on varsity at third base; Brendan Miesch is in his second year and will line up at first base; and behind the plate, Layne Malczewski begins his third varsity season.

“Those three are the guys we’ll count on at the plate,” Carley explained. “You hope their experience can translate to a good senior year. They bring a lot of it. Miesch is an extremely hard worker. Perkola can always be counted on defensively and really came on for us last year. (Malczewski) has become a great catcher, someone who leads from that spot.”

Perkola said he relishes the role.

“I really like being asked to lead,” Perkola said. “I try to help control the field and be an example for the underclassmen.”

Miesch has experience in the spot, serving as a team captain on the Cougars football team.

“I like being a leader and helping the kids know what to expect,” Miesch said. “This is a good team, and I hope to help guide us along. We have a group that can win the league and make a run in the playoffs.”

Fresh off an individual state title in wrestling, Malczewski said he is thrilled to take his spot on the diamond. The catcher admitted it’s a quick turnaround, having completed his wrestling career (225-23 overall) with a title match March 3.

“It’s a little tough. There’s some wear and tear, but I got a whole week off,” Malczewski said with a laugh. “My wrestling background definitely helps with my balance and positioning. I’m excited to help lead and bring energy to the team.”

Behind the plate, Malczewski has seen what the Dakota arms offer. He believes it to be the club’s biggest weapon.

“I’ve been really impressed with what the guys are throwing in,” Malczewski said. “Our pitching seems to be our strength this year. We’re hitting our spots and having some great stuff. A lot of our kids worked hard in the summer on their off-speed and secondary pitches. If we want to win the league, we know it will come back to pitching.”

Carley pointed to senior Alec Ljuljdjurovic as the squad’s ace.

“(Ljuljdjurovic) is our top pitcher this year. We’re counting on him to do some really great things,” Carley said. “At the end of last year, he really came on and had some great success.”

At press time, the Cougars were 2-0 overall after sweeping Birmingham Brother Rice March 28.

Carley said the pitching has been electric.

“I think that’s natural for the start of the year, but we like what we’ve seen. Our bats are coming around. Last year, we didn’t swing the bats well, but I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “In high school baseball, you can always find a way to score a run or two. You have to have solid defense, and if we can do that, I think we’ll find ways to win games.”

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