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Wins pilling up for Avondale baseball team, thanks in part to some home cooking

By: Mike Moore | Rochester Post | Published May 16, 2012

 Pitcher A.J. Susick delivers the ball during a recent game for Avondale. The Yellow Jackets, after enduring a lengthy streak of road games, close out the OAA schedule at home.

Pitcher A.J. Susick delivers the ball during a recent game for Avondale. The Yellow Jackets, after enduring a lengthy streak of road games, close out the OAA schedule at home.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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AUBURN HILLS — Playing a stretch of road games — long bus trips, unfamiliar dugouts and late nights — is one thing.

What the 2011 Auburn Hills Avondale baseball team went through, well, that’s in a league all its own.

The Yellow Jackets took to the diamond 27 times last year, and all 27 games were on the road while their outdoor athletic facility was reconstructed.

So when the 2012 season kicked off, it’s safe to say the guys were a anxious to experience some home cooking.

“But then it wasn’t ready,” coach Tom Kurczewski said with a laugh.

So Avondale loaded up the bus 12 times to start this season, taking their road streak to 39 consecutive games before finally attempting to defend their home turf.

“That was rough,” said senior catcher Mitch Robinson, whose Yellow Jackets were technically the home team in games played at Oakland University or Rochester College, or at times, were the home team at opposing team’s fields last year. “We felt like a lost dog without a home. … I think is affected our hitting more than anything. We weren’t getting consistent swings at practice, if we got to hit at all. We’d warm up at road games without batting practice. It makes such a difference when you get to hit live, compared to warming up with whiffle balls.”

Kurczewski admitted that road games or not, he expected 2011 to be a better season than it was. Avondale finished a respectable 16-11, but failed to live up to some of its preseason goals.

That certainly hasn’t been the case in 2012.

Following a win at home May 10 against Utica Ford II, Avondale was 18-5-1.

Though appreciative of the strong play so far, Kurczewski’s hardly surprised by it.

“Not really,” he said. “I mean, we have 11 seniors on this team, guys that have been around and understand the game.”

When asked if playing, more importantly practicing, on their home field has made a difference this spring, Kurczewski was quick to answer.

“It’s been huge,” he said. “Even though I don’t think we really have a home-field advantage yet, I mean, we’re still getting used to it, it’s nice to not have to drive somewhere to practice and have that home feeling during games.”

With a number of three-year starters leading the way, the team has settled into a steady diet wins thanks to an offense that’s putting up nearly eight runs per game.

Senior shortstop Matt Andrus, a four-year veteran, said there’s little coincidence that the offensive output has increased with the number of home games.

“When you’re on a more normal schedule and get to take swings at your place, it’s no surprise were hitting as well as we are,” Andrus explained.

Aside from a make-up game played May 15, Avondale was scheduled to play nine of its final 11 games at home, including six straight to close out play in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division, where the team was 8-2 and held a one-game lead on Bloomfield Hills Andover (7-3) at press time.

“When you start the year, the main thing you focus on is winning a league title,” Kurczewski explained. “Right now, we’re in good shape, as long as we take care of our own business. Then we’ll look to the district and try to focus on that.”

Robinson went a step further.

“This program has never won a regional game,” he said. “In my mind, this is a team that can make history.”

Avondale is in the Troy Athens district, which is set to begin May 29 — on the road.

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