TEMPERANCE -- With three players in their lineup who have already signed to play Division I college baseball, plus a standout sophomore who will almost certainly have his pick between big-time college baseball or basketball programs in two years, the Bedford Mules are clearly in the mix of Michigan's best high school teams.
With a 20-3 overall record, and a 7-1 mark in the Southeastern Conference's Red Division, Bedford is ranked No. 3 among Michigan's Division 1 teams in the state coaches poll, and has a chance to reach 100 wins in a three-season span.
"Depending on how things fall, this team has the potential to go a long way," said Bedford coach Craig Trychel, who has 316 career victories. "It's just a matter of not beating ourselves, and getting some breaks. You've got to be a little bit lucky and have some things happen for you.
"But, as far as depth in pitching and depth in hitting, we're right there with anybody we're going to be facing in the tournament."
The Kicking Mules are led by three senior third-year starters who have already played key roles in Bedford's 38-3 state-semifinal 2009 season, and another sterling 33-5 mark last year.
Jared Kujawa, a catcher and leadoff hitter who has signed to play at Western Michigan, is batting .494 (39 for 79) with five home runs, 23 RBIs, and 32 runs scored.
"The most important thing I bring to the team is my experience," Kujawa said. "I know what it takes to win tough games, and win the games you're supposed to win.
"We are definitely a confident team, but we don't want to be a cocky team because we know that can come up and bite you sometimes. Our ultimate goal is to win the state championship, and we're going to work hard and try to get that done."
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Kujawa is an outstanding three-sport athlete. He was the quarterback for the Mules' 11-1 football team and was the top scorer on the hockey team.
"It just takes a lot of time management," Kujawa said. "It was a little more of a struggle from football to hockey. Hockey season started this year before football was over. Between hockey and baseball I get a couple weeks off.
"Baseball is my favorite sport, but I don't think I'll ever have a feeling like [football's] Friday night lights. It was a great time and definitely something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Trent Szkutnik, a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher and outfielder, has posted a 7-0 record with an 0.40 ERA, and 61 strikeouts in 35 innings.
Last Thursday, Szkutnik, who has signed to play at the University of Michigan, fired the fifth no-hitter of his career in a 5-0 win over Ann Arbor Huron, striking out nine batters.
Szkutnik had a six-inning perfect game in his three no-hitters in 2010. At the plate, he is hitting .471 (33 for 70) in the cleanup spot, with one homer, 19 RBIs, and 16 runs scored.
"It's been great and we have a great group of guys," Szkutnik said. "My sophomore year, when we went to the state semifinals, we had seniors that carried the team. They gave us good leadership.
"Last year, we weren't expecting a lot, and we just worked hard with a young team. We only had three seniors, and the younger kids stepped up. We surprised ourselves last year, and that gave us a mindset coming in for our senior year that we had high expectations. We want to bring a state championship home to Bedford."
Right-handed pitcher Dan Przeniczny, who also plays shortstop and outfield, has signed to play at Xavier University.
On Monday, Przeniczny had a rare setback on the mound when he served up a walk-off home run in a 2-1 SEC loss at Tecumseh. It was his first loss against 17 wins over two seasons, including an 11-0 mark in 2010.
"This year our pitching is probably the strongest it's been," Przeniczny said. "My sophomore year we had a lot of depth, but this year we have more dominant pitching. Offensively, our whole lineup can hit the ball.
"It's been a lot of fun. I remember going to the final four my sophomore year, and you always hope to go back. I think this year we should be able to do that."
This season, Przeniczny is 6-1 with an 0.82 ERA, and is hitting .366 (30 for 82) with four homers, 23 RBIs, and 25 runs.
"Those guys have brought a lot of positive impact as far as really being into the game," Trychel said of the senior leaders. "Baseball has been important to them and they've really worked at it. They've all shown improvement every year, and all three of them are impact players who make a big difference."
Jackson Lamb, a 6-6, 190-pound sophomore center fielder and pitcher, has been a standout in basketball and baseball.
On the court, Lamb averaged 24.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season.
"I'm prejudiced, but I think he's better in baseball," Trychel said. "He has a tremendous upside. His potential is limitless depending on what he wants to do.
"Offensively, he's probably got the best swing that I've ever seen since I've been coaching here, and he rates right up there with anybody in our league. He reminds me a lot of Dave Winfield -- real tall and lean, can run and throw, and can hit for power and hit for average."
Lamb, who bats in the No. 3 spot, leads Bedford with a .556 batting average (39 for 72). He has four home runs, 24 RBIs, and has scored 34 runs.
"I'm not sure yet," Lamb said about his baseball-basketball choice. "I'm still pretty young and I still have time to think about it."
But Lamb is certain about what makes this team click.
"I think we're successful because we all work together," he said. "We're good friends on and off the field. We have great chemistry.
"I think we're very capable of winning a state title, as long as we play our kind of baseball. I think we can win our league, and make a deep run in the state tournament."
Bedford has outscored opponents 172-37, an average of 9.1 to 1.9 runs per game.
Hitting fifth is senior shortstop-outfielder Aaron Mills (.406), while sophomore outfielder-first baseman Kyle Kuhr (.395) bats sixth.
Seniors Troy Przybylek (3B-C), Zach Mayo (2B), and Mike Blake (1B) round out the regular lineup. Completing the roster are three juniors -- Justin McPherson (P), Zach Mills (OF-P), and Joe Bemister (3B-C).
Bedford's biggest SEC tests await next Thursday, when the Mules play host to Red Division leader and defending D-1 state champion Ann Arbor Pioneer in a doubleheader that begins at 4 p.m.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.41.77877 -83.56882
23-0 Bedford baseball ranked No. 3 among Michigan's D-I teams.