SOUTHFIELD — Emerging from the spring break tournament held in Oakland County a year ago, Steve Sharp and the guys on his Southfield High baseball team were battered and bruised.
In terms of confidence, at least.
The season had hardly begun, and the Blue Jays were 0-6 and had more questions than answers.
“To go 0-6 and start the season that way was pretty rough,” senior first baseman Eric Singleton said. “To do what we did this year was key, though. It was a huge boost to the confidence of this team.”
Southfield took part in the tournament again this spring, played some quality games against quality teams and began the season with a 3-3 record.
They haven’t looked back since.
“We’re young, only starting three seniors, but we’re playing good baseball right now,” Sharp said at an April 22 practice at the school. “We do have 10 guys back from last year, and all of our core is back.”
Southfield was 5-3 at press time, including a 2-0 start to Oakland Activities Association Gold Division play.
“Starting the way we did at the tournament was pretty big for us,” four-year vet Brent Kline said. “It got us going right away, got us off on the right foot. … The experience we have here is key, too. Guys have been around for a few years now and know what to expect.”
The good start to 2013 can’t be solely credited to the spring break tournament, according to Sharp.
The long-time skipper said summer baseball is becoming more and more prevalent for guys in the Southfield program.
And the results speak for themselves.
“Four or five years ago, it started to pick up,” he explained. “Before that, we had guys come out for the team that hadn’t played before or not since the season before. Now, we have a majority of the team playing all summer, and it makes a huge difference.”
“You notice the difference right away,” said Mike Warner, another four-year varsity player. “You’ve seen just about everything when you play at that level. It’s a huge help.”
And the resurgence in the approach to the season has fueled some hopes for how it may play out.
After the winless start in 2012, the Blue Jays battled back to go 14-11 the rest of the season. They ended play 8-4 in the OAA Gold, tied with Lathrup for second place.
“It’s time for the next step, now,” Sharp said. “The main focus these guys have talked about is winning a league title. We feel like we can compete with anyone, so we should be in the mix.”
Southfield hasn’t won a division since 2006.
“This is the team we’ve been looking forward to — the year we felt it could all come together,” Kline said. “The way we look at it, it’s time now to put this program at that level. If we have that focus every time out and can maintain it all year, we feel we can do just about anything.”