Gielczyk: TC West Peaking as Postseason Nears

Putting their kids to the test early, the Traverse City West baseball coaches scoured around looking for any places they could find where the April weather was less of a factor and as a result the Titans have logged 31 games.

Although the Titans did a lot of traveling in April, it paid off.  They won their third straight Big North Conference title, and fifth in the last six years, when they split a doubleheader against Gaylord on Tuesday to earn a share of the championship with Petoskey. The Titans finished 7-3 in the league.

“Our kids have been getting tested in different ways throughout the course of the season,” Titans head coach Matt Bocian said. “We have the potential to be a very good team.”

The Titans’ roster is split right down the middle between seniors and juniors, with a sophomore up from the junior varsity.

It’s a good mixture of experience and youth that has put together an impressive 24-7 record with four games remaining on the regular season schedule before the Titans open district tournament play Saturday, June 2.

Last year the Titans lost to Alpena in the district championship game. They’re looking to make amends for that this year with the returning veterans providing the leadership and motivation.

Bocian has the pitching to get the job done with a staff five or six deep.

Ryan Hayes is one of the leaders, and rung up 14 strike outs in the Titan’s 6-0 game one win over the Blue Devils on Tuesday.

The staff also includes Brendan Pierce, Chance Ellsworth and Mike Laracey. Bocian said all six pitchers can throw strikes and use the defense behind them.

“Having a deep staff has given us the flexibility to schedule games and play as many as we have this spring,” said Bocian. “We keep preaching that pitching and defense is going to win championships.

“We show signs of greatness, and then we also show some inexperience at times. We have to work through that adversity and come together as a unit. In baseball, some things are going to happen that you’re going to have to overcome.”

So far, the Titans have been able to do that.

They’ve come from behind to win after trailing early, and they’ve also recovered after giving up early leads in multiple different situations.

Facing and overcoming adversity as they have can only help the Titans when they get into the postseason.

As a team the Titans are hitting a robust .361 with a .425 on base percentage, which has helped them overcome some occasional miscues on defense.

“Our big emphasis is trying to work the counts and get quality at-bats,” Bocian said. “If we do get out, is it a productive out? If we get a guy on, how are we going to move him and get him in scoring position and keep our strike outs to a minimum?

“When we get an out, are we hitting it on the ground and making the defense do three things instead of just one?”

Mike Laracey, the team’s catcher, is the leading hitter with a .364 batting average going into the final week of the season. Just behind him is center fielder Sam DeKuiper at .361. The Titans have scored 140 runs to this point.

The Titans manufacture runs any way they can, depending on the game and situation. Bocian has called for suicide squeeze bunts, or a hit-and-run and is willing to use any and all means to score runs.

“We’re going to try to keep getting better every day,” says Bocian. “We’re not perfect, but everyone knows we have the capability of making a run. We just have to concentrate on the little things, every pitch and every play and see how they respond.”

Cross town rival Traverse City Central opens the district against Alpena, and then the Titans face Marquette with the two winners meeting for the championship.

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at ggielczyk@jackpine.net for story ideas. 

Categories: Baseball