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Gielczyk: TC West Learning from 2017

Traverse City West’s baseball team won the Big North Conference title for the fourth time in the last five years this season, but fell a little bit short in the MHSAA Division 1 district tournament.

Failing to get out of the district a year after they advanced all the way to the state championship game was a bit of a comedown for the Titans, but should fill the returning players with a resolve to make amends.

But the road won’t be easy with five seniors graduating off the team. The Titans need to reload.

“You’re always looking at the younger classes, and seeing who can take whose spot in trying to build a program,” Bocian said.

Bocian will be looking to replace starting catcher Gavin Garmhausen, starting shortstop Carson Rosa, Dan Ayling, Tristan Reeves and Mitchell Laracey.

Each of them had a specific role on the team, and were major contributors in the Titan’s 26-12 season overall.

“They were consistent, and we knew what we were going to get out of them,” added Bocian.

Pitching would appear to be the team’s strength going into next season, with four of the top six hurlers coming back in Ryan Hayes, Mike Laracey, Brendan Pierce, Sam DeKuiper and Chance Ellsworth.

If they can pitch as they did this last season, the Titans should be competitive in every game they play, and give them time to improve in other areas.

Each of them had a little different style. One was a power pitcher who has a very solid fastball, another is a lefty with decent velocity, while another is more of a finesse pitcher and still another spots his pitches well.

Looking at the rest of the positions, the Titans should be pretty solid at the corners and behind the plate.

“We need to develop some middle infielders,” Bocian said.

Mike Laracey returns behind the plate as the Titans’ primary backstop, largely because of his big arm which is a major deterrent to teams trying to steal on him. Base runners can’t get a good jump.

DeKuiper should lead the outfielder group, with his athleticism and speed to go along with an above average arm. Around the infield the Titans are set at third base with Hayes while A.J. Ruskowski is a solid defensive first baseman.

The Titans have a deep talent pool in the younger ranks, making the future look bright.

“We had two JV teams this year,” said Bocian. “We had a very strong freshman class last year with a lot of baseball talent that I’m looking forward to working with in the future.”

Considering the success they’ve enjoyed in the Big North in recent years, the Titans go into next season with a bull’s eye on their back.

Each of the conference teams has a lot coming back next season, and the conference race is expected to be every bit as competitive as it was last year, if not more so.

Repeating their league championship is going to be a tall order for the Titans, and they are fully aware of it.

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News.