Sunday, April 27, 2008

Macomb Dakota CFP April 27

From Sunday Morning's Macomb Community Free Press insert:

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

I was running late last Saturday to Macomb Dakota’s doubleheader against L’Anse Creuse North – let’s just blame it on the car – but managed to arrive just in time to see Dakota’s at-bats in the third inning.

Trying to catch up on the action and hoping I didn’t miss too much, the Cougars rattled off ten runs on eight hits in the frame – much like another team in the area that sports the old English D – seemingly before I could find my bleacher seat behind home plate.

An inning and a mercy later, I caught up with Dakota coach Ken Thoel.

“So you have a pretty good team, huh?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he says, barely cracking a smile.

“We have 15 quality ballplayers that are dedicated not only now but during the winter and it shows,” he said.

It’s that confidence – combined with a blend of work and play – that has elevated the Cougars play this season.

Returning 11 players – including All-State shortstop Rodney Hush – the defending MAC Red champions boast both a powerful lineup and a deep rotation.

“We have a lot more confidence because we expect to win now,” Hush said.

Hush, a co-captain that’s hitting .538 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 13 games, probably embodies Dakota’s loose style of play more than anyone according to the coach.

“He plays very loose and nothing ever bothers him,” said Thoel.

Thoel estimates that 85% of the baseball squad played on the Cougars state championship football team in the fall, contributing to his team’s Joe Cool persona.

“Their attitude is, we can be down two or three runs, but they play loose and believe in themselves.”

Senior ace Brian Marlinga (3-0, 1.83 ERA) believes the confidence goes hand-in-hand with the fun and loose demeanor of the team.

“The seriousness of the team is different this year,” Marlinga – the self-proclaimed team clown – said.

“Last year it was all joking around. This year we joke and have fun, but at the same time we get serious.”

Both Hush and Marlinga attribute the team’s attitude to head coach Thoel and his assistant, Matt Carley.

“We have fun at practice. Coach does fun things that make us stay into it and not get bored,” Hush says about Thoel.

Hush adds, “And Coach Carley, he’s like the most fun guy to be around. Everybody loves him.”

Marlinga agrees, saying about Carley: “He’s the funniest guy you’ll ever meet.”

Last year, they were eliminated by Port Huron in the district finals – a team they beat 10-0 earlier in the season.

“We remember what happened last year,” Hush says, pausing.

“Now we’re going to take care of business like we should have last year.”

No comments: