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2014 private school baseball preview PHOTOS

  • --Cabrini's Dominic Fusco is expected to be a driving force for the Monarchs this season. (News-Herald File Photo)
  • --This spring, senior Evan Kraatz will wrap up what has been a phenomenal high school athletic career with the Chargers. (News-Herald File Photo)
  • --Inter-City's Nathan Estell was a key member of last year's squad, which came close to knocking off powerhouse University Liggett in the regional final. (News-Herald File Photo)
Over the last 10 years, five teams from the Michigan Independent Red Division have made it to the state finals a total of seven times. Inter-City was one of those teams, so the Chargers know what it takes to thrive in such a hard-fought league, especially having made it to the regional championship game last year.

“We were probably in the middle of the pack, even with an above .500 record,” Coach Bob Radu said. “That’s how difficult the competition is where we play.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to work this season. We have some great athletes that are getting used to playing deep into the year. In a lot of different sports, too.”

Bob Radu will return for his ninth season as coach of Inter-City. Radu’s Chargers will be led by many of the athletes that navigated Inter-City’s basketball team through the regional tournament this year.

Junior Luke Barber and senior Evan Kraatz will be the top two pitchers for Inter-City, who went 14-9 last season. Nathan Estell will also be counted on to have a big year on the mound, setting up for a strong top of the rotation on paper for the Chargers.

Radu is bringing back seven players that started last year’s regional championship game against Liggett, so he expects his experienced squad to take another step forward despite a competitive division.

“We’re in the top division with the four best teams; Liggett, Franklin Road, Parkway Christian and Lutheran Northwest,” Radu said. “We’re in the toughest division you could be in but I wouldn’t have it any other way because I think the only way you’re going to be good is to play good (teams).”

Inter-City is scheduled to open its season on April 15 at Ann Arbor Greenhills.



Cabrini

Slowed by a lethargic effort in the batters’ boxes in 2013, manufacturing runs will be crucial for Allen Park Cabrini in supporting a solid pitching staff.

The Monarchs finished 10-17 last year but did salvage a disappointing season by taking home a district championship.

Coach Doug Sombati said his team has made it to regionals five out of the past six years. They won around 20 games per season for most of that run, but suffered from a low team batting average last season.

“We really just couldn’t hit,” Sombati said. “To last year’s team’s defense, we’re in really tough league and a lot of our non-league games got canceled last year because of the weather. We also had a younger team.”

All-League pitcher/shortstop David Szczensy and center fielder Dominic Fusco are two players that have been on the varsity team for three years and will be driving forces for Cabrini in 2014. Senior pitcher Nick Shirey returns and figures to be one of the Monarchs’ top pitchers.

Sombati thinks improved team speed will allow his team to manufacture more runs this season.

“We have four of five kids that can get down to first base in under four seconds,” Sombati said. “We should be able to generate some runs that way. And I do have a couple of big guys too that can hopefully drive them in. We have solid pitchers, we just have to find a way to put some runs on the board to support those guys.”



Gabriel Richard

In 2014 the Gabriel Richard Pioneers will turn to Trenton alum and first-year Coach Mike Magier in hopes of returning to the district finals.

Richard is coming off a year in which they finished 11-14 overall (8-12 in the CHSL Intersectional), and was ousted by Cabrini, 6-0, in the district championship game.

Pitcher/third baseman Anthony Szpaichler, as well as All News-Herald honoree Kyle Best, graduated last spring. Best, a three-year starter, finished with a .440 batting average in 2013 and earned team MVP honors.

Seniors Joe Lavine (third baseman/pitcher), John Rhind (catcher/outfielder) and All News-Herald Team honorable mention Pat McBride (pitcher/outfielder) will now anchor the Pirates’ ship.

According to Magier, Richard’s addition of a junior varsity team should help the varsity team exponentially down the road.

“In the past, we haven’t had a JV team so it is a good sign to see all the younger guys coming out,” Magier said. “Our players have shown a lot of promise in practice thus far and are working extremely hard.”

To improve on last year’s sub-.500 record, the Pioneers are focusing on the fundamentals this spring. Magier believes things will fall into place if they can just get that down.

“We are no different than most high school teams in that we have to clean up some stuff on the technical side of the game, like throwing, catching and hitting in order to be more consistent,” Magier said. “All in all, all of us at GR are looking forward to having a fun and competitive season.”

Richard is scheduled to open its season Tuesday at home against Jewish Academy at 4:30 p.m.

Last Updated: 3/27/2014 8:03:29 PM EST

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