False MI Prep Zone: BASEBALL: Monarchs look for continued success
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BASEBALL: Monarchs look for continued success

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Success is something that has come to be expected from the Cabrini baseball team since Coach Doug Sombati grabbed the helm five years ago.

The Monarchs, who have won 99 games in Sonbatis first four years, expect nothing less that great success again this season.

“We’d like to make it back to Comerica Park, win back our district and then make a run at states,” said Sombati.

Cabrini has fairly young team with which to accomplish those goals, but there are plenty of talented veterans sprinkled among the newcomers.

The team’s seven returners in 2013 are senior pitcher Erik Hicks, senior catcher Devin MacGregor, senior infielder Brad Chavis, junior shortstop/pitcher David Szczesny, Junior pitcher Nick Shirey, junior outfielder Domenic Fusco and slugging sophomore first baseman Jared Hicks.

Erik Hicks is the key. Over the past two seasons, he has 11 pitching victories and has batted over .350 in each of those seasons.

He makes a formidable battery with MacGregor, who was all-league and all-district.

Szczensy hit. 340 last year and Fusco, who will move from right field to center, batted over .300 as a sophomore.

Joining Erik Hicks, Szczensy and Shirey on the mound for Sombati’s team will be Chavis, Jared Hicks and juniors Robbie DeBlander and Paul Guirard.

Rounding out the team are senior Mike Kuschel, junior Joe Quinley and sophomores Brandon Chidester and Kyle Hanley.

Cabrini won 21 games last year and finished second in the Catholic League C-D Division.

“We lost a lot of talented seniors from last year,” said Sombati. But we are at a point that we are able to reload.

“We may be a little bit younger, but we have the talent to compete with anyone.”

The Monarchs have a high hill to climb each year as Madison Heights Bishop Foley is in their Catholic League division.

Foley is the two-time defending Division 3 state champs. This season the Ventures swiped Gabriel Richard’s top pitcher – Chad Gravlin – to make them even stronger.

Joining Foley and Cabrini in their division are Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Lutheran North and Ann Arbor Richard.

Gabriel Richard dropped a level and is not in Cabrini’s league division this year.

The Monarchs were slated to play yesterday at non-league Flat Rock.

Gabriel Richard

A year ago Gabriel Richard played in a regional final game and finished the season with an 18-13 record.

Unfortunately for Richard Coach Al Fernandez, the 2013 version of his Pioneers bears little resemblance to that squad.

Eight seniors have since graduated, including five starters and 2012 pitching staff ace Chad Gravlin and standout centerfielder David Ritchie have not returned this year for their senior season.

“It’s like we’re starting from scratch,” said Fernandez, who is in his third year as coach of the Pioneers. “We’re starting with kind of a freshman-JV team mix to play a varsity schedule.”

This season eight players will consistently remain on varsity, Fernandez said. To fill in otherwise, he’ll pick from 11 players on the JV squad, a team that will only play a 10-game schedule.

One of the varsity mainstays will be senior catcher Kyle Best, who is the only major contributor from last year to return, Fernandez said.

Pitching for Richard will be juniors Pat McBride and Joe Lavine, who both got a chance to contribute at the end of last season and each claimed a victory in the playoffs. Also taking the mound will be senior Anthony Szpaichler and sophomore John Lemieux.

In the field, players will shuffle quite a bit between different positions, Fernandez said.

“Every game will probably be a different lineup because they’re all learning,” he said.

McBride and junior Jon Rhind are penciled in on the right side of the infield, with McBride playing first base and Rhind playing second. Szpaichler and Lavine are listed as infielders, as well.

In the outfield will be Lemieux, along with juniors Peter Jurasek and Zach Barr.

One thing that could be in Richard’s favor this season is that it has been moved down to the Catholic High School League C-D division, after playing in the AA division last year. However, the Pioneers will still have to face tough teams, such as Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes and Royal Oak Shrine.

Despite the competition, or experience level of his team, Fernandez believes this year’s Pioneers can be successful.

“This group of kids that we have, they are no pushovers, they’ll play,” Fernandez said. “It’s going to be a learning experience, but they’re working really hard, they’re pretty sound for their age. We expect good things from them.”

Richard is scheduled to open its season on April 6 with a doubleheader at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.

Frank Wladyslawski contributed to this report

Last Updated: 3/26/2013 12:12:46 PM EST