South Lake welcomes new baseball coach

By: Brad D. Bates | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 10, 2011

 
St. Clair Shores South Lake’s Justin Dandurand pitches during the Cavaliers’ 8-6 win against Clinton Township Clintondale May 4 at home.

St. Clair Shores South Lake’s Justin Dandurand pitches during the Cavaliers’ 8-6 win against Clinton Township Clintondale May 4 at home.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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If the players on the St. Clair Shores South Lake baseball team didn’t know who Jose Jimenez was before the start of the 2011 season, all they had to do is was look through the Catholic High School League record book.

As the head baseball coach at Center Line St. Clement, his squads won the 2004 Catholic League title, qualified for two Catholic League championship games, won five division championships, four Division 4 district crowns and one regional title.
And he was an assistant coach for the St. Clement squad that made it to the 1996 Class D state final.

“I stayed in high school baseball after St. Clement closed (in 2005),” Jimenez said. “I went to (Royal Oak) Shrine Catholic and helped out there and had a lot of fun. Then I saw the South Lake job open up and applied because I still like coaching, and it was a little closer to home.”

“It’s funny, because I wonder if (the players) wonder why this old guys is coaching,” added Jimenez, who coached teams to 20 or more wins for seven straight seasons at St. Clement.

“I’ve had some success, but I was lucky to have some talented kids that wanted to play and work hard. And that’s what every coach needs.”

While small in numbers, Jimenez has the benefit of a veteran team, with six seniors and a total of seven returning varsity players on his 12-man roster.

“We’ve got a nice mix of veterans and seniors, and we’re capable of challenging for the league this year,” Jimenez said of his team’s prospects in the Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division.

“It’s a learning process, though,” Jimenez said. “When you’re new, you have to adjust to the players and learn what they do well, and they have to adjust to you. But they’re doing things more my way every day, and we’re learning.”

The returning players Jimenez has back are seniors Ricky Mercer, captain Will LaMilza, Ryan Urso, Ryan Kenny, Richard Kelly and Stu-Arti Clark, and junior Colin Gornick. The veterans are a nice complement to the three freshmen, one sophomore and one junior, all of whom are in their first year on varsity.

“We only have (12) guys, so we have to move people around quite a bit,” Jimenez said. “You need to do that when you have a small team, because if someone’s arm get sore or someone gets injured, you need guys that play a bunch of positions.”

Jimenez’s mix of youth and experience has pulled together for a 3-5 record and a 2-1 start to the Bronze following an 8-6 win against Clinton Township Clintondale May 4 at home.

“They had four runs in the first, and then we chipped away and had a big inning in the fifth,” Jimenez said of his team’s come-from-behind win.

“In the beginning, we played a little sloppy, and that was my fault. But the kids came together and pulled it off.”

And performances like the ones he saw from a pair of freshmen pitchers in the win against Clintondale — left-handed starter Jared Dandurand threw the first four innings, and Tyler Baatz earned his first win pitching the final three innings, striking out four in his first appearance for the Cavs — have impressed Jimenez and are why he thinks South Lake is on the right course.

“It’s important that we keep doing what we’re doing with fundamentals,” Jimenez said. “You keep doing the fundamental stuff, and the extra stuff starts happening for you. But you have to work on the fundamentals.

“If they buy into that and stay on course, they’ll see for themselves before the end of the season.”
 

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