BY DAN STICKRADT
TROY — It was only a half decade ago when Troy Bethany Christian turned the corner after a couple of lean seasons on the baseball season.
The Bruins have now reached the state semifinals each of the past five seasons of the Michigan Association of Christian Schools state tournament, including the 2011 MACS state title.
Troy Bethany hopes to enjoy another lengthy ride this week, when the MACS tourney continues. The Bruins will face Davison Faith Baptist in the state semifinals once again Wednesday in a rematch of the ’11 state title game. The contest will take place at 1:30 p.m. at Bethany.
The Bruins have six seniors on their 14-man roster and plenty of postseason experience. Their skipper also enjoyed success on the diamond in the past.
Evan Dawley, who took over the head coach position during the winter after returning from grad school at Purdue, was a starting freshman catcher on the 2000 Troy Bethany Christian squad that also won the MACS title.
Five of the current seniors are starters and four have been starters since their freshman season for the Bruins (19-5), who finished 6-4 in the Fundamental Baptist Athletic Conference and tied for the crown with Rochester Hills Christian. The current seniors have been part of four league championship teams in their careers.
“We have a strong senior class and a couple of freshmen that have really helped out,” said Dawley, who spent one season on the baseball roster at Oakland University as an undergrad student. “For a small school, we have some good pitching and several guys that can hit the ball … I like to think we have a chance in the state tournament.”
Senior ace Noah Francis has emerged as a force on the mound, firing two no-hitters while playing solid defense at either shortstop or third base. Senior infielder-pitcher Ryan Woodham, who leads the team in the RBI department, give the Bruins another lethal gun from the rubber.
Freshman catcher Jacob King, who doubles as a first baseman and No.3 starter, has been a pleasant surprise, while freshman catcher Matt Walraven plays well beyond his years behind the plate.
The Bruins have also been blessed with a sturdy outfield, anchored by four-year starter Bret Hayhurst in center field and classmate Isiah Drupinski in right field. Senior Landon Cathers has also been steady as a pitcher-outfielder in his fourth varsity campaign.
“One thing we have is a lot of speed on the base paths and in the field. We have a lot of speed in the outfield, guys that can cover a lot of ground,” said Dawley. “That was one of things I noticed (once we got outside).”
“I know we have been good the past few years,” he offered. “I know with this many seniors we would love to go out (and win another title). There are a lot of even teams this season. It should be interesting to see how it plays out. We have as good of a chance as anyone.”
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