By: Daniel Stickradt
BASEBALL: Behind fast start, rejuvenated Fowlerville hopes for better things to come
BY DAN STICKRADT
FOWLERVILLE — Matt Hunt saw plenty of raw talent when he took the Fowlerville baseball job last summer. Now his newly-groomed Gladiators are starting to showcase some meddle as a contender.
Fowlerville is off to a 22-2-2 record, believed to be the best start in program history, and have climbed to No. 9 in the Division 2 rankings as of May 21.
“There was some talent. We had to work on some fundamentals and fine-tune some things,” said first-year coach Matt Hunt, who spent the past two seasons at Cleary College. “With 11 seniors, there is some experience. I think these guys want to win and I think with a young coaching staff they have bought into our enthusiasm and way of doing things.”
The Gladiators, who finished second to Portland in the CAAC White Division last season, moved into pole position with a perfect 10-0 record this season. District champions a year ago, Fowlerville is hoping to match that accomplishment and make a deep run in the D-2 postseason this season.
The Gladiators have never reached the Final Four.
A spring break trip to Florida, where Fowlerville rented some practice fields for a week — the MHSAA does not allow for Michigan schools to play games that far away from home — allowed the Gladiators some serious practice time and a chance to come together as a unit. It has paid off.
“We worked on a lot the week and I think we really started to play better when we got back,” said Hunt. “We really drilled in some areas on our spring trip and fine-tuned some others.”
Fowlerville boats a deep and talented pitching staff, led by seniors Erik Fritz (0.66 ERA) and Nate Leonard (3B), the latter who has one no-hitter under his belt this season. Seniors Wyatt Thomas (CF) and Mitchell Hubert (RF) and sophomore JT Maybee have all posted perfect records from the bump.
With only three home runs as a team, Fowlerville has utilized some team speed and ability to string together singles and doubles to average around eight runs a game.
“We’ve been able to hit a lot of doubles and timely hits,” said Hunt. “We have a lot of guys who are contributing in a lot of ways. Everybody is doing their part and it has led to our (impressive record).
Sure-handed senior shortstop Josh Nabozny is hitting around .340 from the No. 2 spot in the order and is one of the leaders. Senior Michael LaPlante (LF) is hitting .420 with 30 stolen bases and junior Trevor Miller (3B-DH) is hitting around .395.
“We have some solid hitters, especially in the middle of our lineup,” said Hunt.
Beyond the 11 seniors, there are three juniors and three sophomores up on varsity, plus ample talent in the lower grades. Fowlerville’s junior varsity is 17-1, the freshman team is above five-hundred and the eighth grade crop is “very deep” according to Hunt. Fowlerville’s future looks bright.
“We hope to build something here,” said Hunt, an All-State shortstop himself at Howell in 2008. “Hopefully, the foundation has been laid and we can build on it in the future.”