MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb Dakota baseball coach Matt Carley is not shying away from expecting big things from his team this season.
Last year, the Cougars finished in second place in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division and didn’t make it past the district round of the Division 1 state playoffs.
Carley is aiming for bigger and better things this time around. Although it may be early, he is encouraged by some of what he sees from his team, which was 7-0 at press time.
For the second straight season, Dakota won the Macomb County Spring Break Baseball Tournament, which was played April 1-6 in St. Clair Shores. Carley hopes what he saw in that tournament, including the “fantastic” performances he got from pitchers Dan Carion and Pat Boza, is an indication of things to come.
“I told my kids, ‘Hey, it’s great we won the county tournament for the second year in a row, but if it’s the only thing we win this year, I will be thoroughly disappointed,’” he said. “I think the first thing you set your sights on is (putting) yourself in a position to win a league championship. Your team wants to win a district title (because), if you get into that two-game thing in the regional, anything can happen.”
Experience can go a long way toward trying to accomplish such lofty goals, and it just so happens that Dakota has nine seniors on its roster, five of whom are returning pitchers, including Alex Lewandowski, who has committed to play for Northwood University, and Travis Perkola, who signed with Lee University in Tennessee.
Carley thinks his seniors learned some lessons last year that could turn out to be beneficial for the Cougars.
“A lot of my senior returning players got into the weight room,” he said. “They did some things to get bigger and stronger. A lot of the returning players did some things just to make themselves better players.
“The great thing about it is, at times last year, they experienced some success, and at times last year, they experienced, ‘What just happened?’ I think they’re a little more tested, a little battle hardened more this year coming in as seniors.”
Carley also noticed something else about his team that could help make this season a fun one.
“This is their passion. It’s fun to practice with them,” he said. “They love to work on things; they like to get better. As of right now, I’m pretty pleased with the direction (and) with the attitude.”
Carley thinks playing in the MAC Red, which Dakota last won in 2010, is good preparation for his goals.
“Our league is so tough,” he said. “I think if you can win the MAC Red, which as far as I’m concerned is one of the tougher leagues in the state of Michigan, you’re putting yourself in a position to do really good things.”
Catch the Cougars in action April 20 at home. Dakota takes on St. Clair Shores Lakeview at 10 a.m., then Port Huron Northern at noon and finishes up with Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse at 2 at p.m.