FOWLERVILLE — The Fowlerville baseball program has had a half-dozen coaches in the last decade, but the Gladiators have kept rolling.
That’s especially true this season, when the Gladiators replaced Mike Hanna, who resigned after a second term as coach after last season, with Matt Hunt.
Hunt, a Howell grad, was an assistant at Cleary University in the program’s first two seasons after graduating from Saginaw Valley State in 2012 and spending a season with Trinidad (Colo.) of the independent Pecos League in 2013.
“He’s a little more loose than Coach Hanna,” co-captain Wyatt Thomas said. “But when we’re working, he wants us to work. He helped change our mentality from taking the first-pitch strike to being aggressive at the plate. Winning all those games, everyone was hitting the ball.”
The Gladiators got off to a white-hot start, going 24-1-2 before getting swept by Linden last week and going 1-1 at their tournament on Saturday.
Their hot start earned Fowlerville an invitation to the Capital Diamond Classic, open to the top teams in the Lansing Area. The Gladiators will play Lakewood in the second game of a doubleheader at Cooley Law School Stadium, the home of the Lansing Lugnuts, at or a little after 7 p.m. tonight.
“I think it would be a lot cooler if there were more people in the stands,” Thomas said, “But it’s definitely cool to look up at everything around you, and you’re in the middle of everything. Out here, it’s the pitcher being looked at. On that field, everything is lit up and you feel every eye is on you no matter where you are.”
Thomas, Eric Fritz and Nate Leonard are a potent front line of starters for a Gladiators squad that has solid defense and is averaging nearly six runs per game.
“I knew we had the good pitching, but I didn’t think we would have the offense that we’ve had,” Hunt said. “We’ve scored over 200 runs this season. We’ve overachieved in that area.”
The Linden sweep, Hunt hopes, provided lessons that will carry over tonight.
“We were too worried about what they would do,” he said. “We’re going to worry about ourselves, play our game and we’ll be fine.”
According to the best records available, Lakewood is 14-6-1 this season.
“They’re very similar to us,” Hunt said. “They have a lot of seniors as well and a good pitching staff. It should be a good matchup. We’re looking forward to it.”