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Rochester High baseball looks to defend division and regional titles

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published April 3, 2018

 Rochester High sophomore Noah Stout takes a swing during a practice March 22. In his second year on varsity, Stout is already committed to continue his baseball career at Clemson University.

Rochester High sophomore Noah Stout takes a swing during a practice March 22. In his second year on varsity, Stout is already committed to continue his baseball career at Clemson University.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Last year, the Rochester High baseball team won 17 of its last 22 games and reached the Division 1 state semifinals for a second straight season.

The Falcons have won at least 20 games on the diamond each of the past four campaigns, finishing 2017 at 30-12 overall. A total of 10 seniors graduated from that team, but coach Eric Magiera believes his group has the talent to maintain its successful pace.

“It will just be a question of whether or not we can put it together,” Magiera said after a March 22 practice. “I don’t think this will be one of those transitional years. We may go through some growing pains, but when we get into districts, there’s not a team we couldn’t beat. We already have great confidence.”

Eight return from last year’s roster, four of whom were starters. While two graduated from the rotation, Magiera believes the Falcons will once again have their greatest strength on the mound.

“Our pitching is the one area we really have some great depth,” Magiera said. “We lost two starters, but we return some very good arms. Pitching is always the key, and I think we should have good efforts each time out.”

The rotation will be led by senior Luke Kastran, who is now in his third year on varsity; junior Nick Stepke is also in his third season, taking the No. 2 spot; and junior Owen Malinowski is the No. 3 starter.

“(Kastran) knows what it takes and came through in some big moments for us last year,” Magiera said. “(Stepke) didn’t pitch for us much last year due to a hip injury. As a freshman, he had some big games, so we’re excited for him to come back. (Malinowski) has great stuff and may be one of the top emerging pitchers in all of Oakland County.”

At the plate, Magiera is confident the Falcons will be able to get around and score.

“With all the guys we graduated, teams may think we’ll struggle offensively,” Magiera said. “I really don’t think that will be the case. We have some guys that can really swing the bats. Our top three hitters are maybe the best top-of-the-order (hitters) we’ve ever had.”

Senior Drew Loftus will bat leadoff, followed by sophomore Noah Stout, who is a Clemson University verbal commit. Stepke will bat third.

“(Loftus) is an excellent leadoff hitter, and Stout is a very good player — one of the best hitters I’ve ever coached,” said Magiera, who is now in his ninth year at the helm of Rochester. “When he’s not pitching, Stepke will start at shortstop, and he swings a quick bat. With those three, I think we can start off fast. Behind those guys, we may not have a lot of experience, but these guys are solid.”

At press time, the Falcons had yet to play a game. Magiera said he has been encouraged by early workouts and hitting sessions.

“In these early practices, it doesn’t look like we’ve lost 10 guys,” Magiera said. “These younger guys are working real hard while they’re waiting to come up to varsity. It’s not like were replacing those we lost with guys who aren’t ready or talented.”

With that mindset, Magiera’s group is eyeing a third straight regional crown and a defense of its Oakland Activities Association Red Division title.

“Our goal is to make it as far as we did. It’s always the goal to make it that far,” Magiera said. “Pitching and defense should be our strengths. I know it’s a bit cliché, but that’s how you win. Our guys work extremely hard in the offseason, and we’re really happy with the progress we’re seeing.”

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