By Joel Dotson

The Milan Big Reds varsity baseball team, per their standards and expectations, had a sub-par year in 2016.
Despite having another year over .500 with head coach Adam Gilles leading the way, the team had their worst-ever record under Gilles a season ago, finishing 20-15 and losing in the district semifinals.
The Big Reds head coach, heading into his 16th season, saw last year as an anomaly from most of his teams. “The biggest thing was that we lacked leadership and people buying into the way we’ve always done things,” he said.
Ten players have graduated from that squad – including key contributors Jordan Hendricks, Daniel Norzaimi, and Eric Price, among others.
The 2017 team – 16 players strong – return nine players from last year’s team. Among the returners are Justin Beck, Jared Grubke, brothers Chase and Jaden Riling, and Antonio Walker. Of the 16 players on the roster, 12 are listed as pitchers, while only three are limited to one spot on the field. There are four sophomores, eight juniors, and four seniors making up the club.
Depth-wise, the new ballclub has eight pitchers firmly in the fold, with 10 being a possibility. Gilles also sees catching and the middle infield being strong areas for the new roster, while the weakest area – as has been somewhat of a custom in recent years – is the outfield.
The state of Michigan has a new rule in high school baseball in effect this season – a pitch count capped at 105. While not directly related to pitch count issues, the Big Reds have suffered losses to their pitching depth in recent years, including Thomas Lindeman in 2015 and Jaden Riling last year.
The 2017 pitching core will be led by Jaden Riling and Walker, as well as newcomer Tyler Hall.
Chase Riling and JV callup Josiah Livingston will be the top two catchers, while the middle infield will be shored up by Riley Bergeron, Jaden Riling, and Walker. Bergeron will be the Big Reds’ starting second baseman; Grubke will maintain his starting spot at 3rd base and be the team’s third catcher, while Beck will be the team’s primary designated hitter.
The team also has several options at first base – Beck, Christian Diaz, Denver Jackson, and Cam Straub.
The Big Reds finished 8-6 in Huron League play in 2016. The record resulted in Milan being part of a tie for third place. Gilles figures the top competition this year to be Airport, Jefferson, and SMCC.
Overall, the head coach hopes to continue the string of success that Milan baseball has built in recent years. “A goal is to get to 20 wins,” he said. “Twenty-five sounds even better. We want to win as many as we can. But in the end, I don’t care if we win or lose; we just (need to) play solid baseball and hustle.”

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