TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central baseball coach Pat McDonald doesn’t sound like the coach of a team that has a record of 11-22 this season.
McDonald and his team are upbeat about their chances in today’s Division 1 regional at Saginaw Heritage, where they believe they can maintain the winning formula they discovered at last week’s district.
“Districts definitely lifted our spirits up and we’re feeling very confident this weekend,” said McDonald. “Before districts we had a couple days where we just kind of got together and had almost like a family meeting and really decided to have two of the best practices we’ve ever had the whole season. It just really came together as a team that whole week we had off. It’s just been the best practices.
The kids have gotten together for one focus and that’s to win the regionals, for sure.”
Central surprised Marquette and Alpena to win the district championship. Now Central gets Flushing (22-7), which on paper looks like the prohibitive favorite in the first of two semifinals — Bay City Western and Lapeer West meet in the other — but actually creates a good matchup for the Trojans.
“We talked to a couple of teams that we both have played and they said that we were pretty even with them,” said McDonald. “We’re pretty optimistic about playing Flushing. We’ve definitely gotten better since we played those teams.”
The difference between Central’s regular season and the tournament, McDonald says, comes down to leadership.
“The last two games we played in the regular season we were looking for a leader and definitely Ethan Campbell stepped up as being our guy — the glue that brought us all together,” he said. “That was the missing link.”
Campbell threw six shutout innings, allowing just two hits, in Central’s semifinal victory over Marquette. He also scored a run in the 3-1 championship game victory over Alpena.