Stevenson baseball players eyeing state championship

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 20, 2015

 The Sterling Heights Stevenson baseball team opens the season with a matchup against Grosse Pointe University Liggett at 4:30 p.m. March 30 at Liggett. Pictured is Titans senior captain Brandon Williams during a March 16 practice.

The Sterling Heights Stevenson baseball team opens the season with a matchup against Grosse Pointe University Liggett at 4:30 p.m. March 30 at Liggett. Pictured is Titans senior captain Brandon Williams during a March 16 practice.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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STERLING HEIGHTS — The goals for the Sterling Heights Stevenson baseball team have remained the same during coach Joe Emanuele’s tenure: win game one, reach the 20-win plateau, and win division, district and regional championships.

Titans players have added another box to that list they hope to check off: win a state title. Stevenson’s lone championship came in 2005.

“We want the state title this year,” senior catcher Tristen Jorah said March 16. “That’s all it’s about. We want the ring. We’re not going to let anybody stop us from getting it.”

Stevenson has fallen two wins short of a state title each of the last two seasons, falling in the state quarterfinals in 2013 and 2014. Grosse Pointe South downed Stevenson 2-0 in the state quarters last spring.

That loss serves as motivation for Titans players.

“I don’t want to get that far and lose again,” senior shortstop/pitcher Riley McCauley said. “We all put in too much work for that to happen again.”

Stevenson went 37-3 last season, including a 15-0 mark in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. It also hit each goal that Emanuele annually sets.

The Titans beat Brother Rice 6-1 in the 2014 season opener. The team won a fifth straight division title, along with a fifth consecutive district championship and a third regional title in four years. The Titans reached the 20-win plateau for the 11th time in 12 years and totalled 30 wins for the fourth time since 2005. As a team last season, Stevenson had a batting average of .359 and an ERA of 1.65.

“Our goals never change. It’s a standard we’ve set,” said Emanuele, who is entering his 17th season with the Titans. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there. We’ve got some guys back, some younger guys coming up who’ve been waiting in the wings. They all just have to go out and do it.”

Stevenson gets things started with a tough stretch of games, opening the season against Grosse Pointe University Liggett (4:30 p.m. March 30 at Liggett) before facing Birmingham Brother Rice (4:30 p.m. March 31 at Rice) and Warren Cousino (4:30 p.m. April 1 at Cousino). Last season, Brother Rice and Cousino won 34 and 23 games, respectively, while Liggett won a second straight state title.

Emanuele said starting the season against tough competition is by design. Senior outfielder Greg McDade Jr. said playing a tough schedule preps the team for the postseason, as it will have seen a number of different styles by the time the playoffs start May 26.

“(The tough early schedule) is to gauge where we are and what we need to work on,” Emanuele said. “Hopefully, we come out of it OK. We’re going to throw a lot of (pitchers) and see what we’re made of.”

Pitching will again be a strength of the team, as it sports a deep staff, according to Emanuele. He said Stevenson is athletic and has solid team speed, as well.

Emanuele said he’s looking to senior first baseman/pitcher Brandon Williams, McDade Jr., McCauley and Jorah to lead the team. Those four all played big roles last season. He said having them back is a positive, especially since three (McDade Jr., Jorah and McCauley) play up the middle.

The Titans’ coach said there are some inexperienced players on the roster in terms of varsity reps. Those players are doing well in practice, but he’s waiting to see how they respond to live game action.

“We have a mix of experience and youth. It makes me have to work a little harder,” Emanuele said. “We were spoiled last year. We had a bunch of three-year starters a year ago, and that made practices easy, and they’d go by fast.

“This year, we’ve got to slow some things down and go through some things, but I think this is a team that picks things up well. They’re willing to learn and they work hard. If they continue to do those things, I think we’ll be all right.”

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