North Farmington baseball team takes aim at another successful spring

By: Mike Moore | Farmington Press | Published April 7, 2015


FARMINGTON HILLS — The similarities are certainly there.

It was a team a year ago that brought back some serious talent but was void of some key returning power in the lineup and strength from the mound.

And then, the 2014 North Farmington baseball team went 25-8 and reached a district final before falling in extra innings to Novi High.

As he assessed his 2015 squad, coach Mike O’Connell talked about a lineup that graduated some power, a pitching staff with a new ace, and a season loaded with potential.

“We’re in real good shape,” O’Connell said simply. “I think last year we started the year in the same spot, having graduated some key players, and we had guys step up.”

That’s the plan again this spring.

While the Raiders lost their leadoff and cleanup hitters, others have come through in the season’s first three games.

While the ace of last year’s staff moved on, junior Alex Darden is a hard-throwing lefty who blossomed last year, and O’Connell said he will serve as the No. 1 arm all season.

“Pitching is our strength,” O’Connell said. “We’re going to need to throw strikes, but I think that’s where our team is best.”

The Raiders have five other left-handed hurlers, along with Darden.

“There’s something in the water in Farmington Hills,” O’Connell laughed. “Some teams don’t have any.”

As for the offense, which had to replace some key spots in the order, O’Connell said it’s a work in progress.

But the early returns have been positive.

North Farmington scored eight runs on six hits in a victory over Stevenson, then, in a rematch with Novi, watched as Darden struck out seven in a 7-4 victory, and then took advantage of eight St. Clair Shores Lake Shore errors to earn an 11-4 victory.

“We’ve had some timely hitting so far, which is good,” O’Connell said. “I still think we’ll win with pitching, and our defense looks good, but we’ve got some guys that can hit.”

Asked if this was a group capable of what last year’s team put together, or maybe even more, O’Connell didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I really like this group. It’s a good bunch of guys with a positive attitude. They’re working hard, and if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we’re going to have a very good year.”