By: Butch Harmon
Last year was a big one for area softball teams. A pair of area teams finished second in the state, as Bay City Western was runner-up in Division 1 and Swan Valley was runner-up in Division 2. This year, the area is again loaded with outstanding softball teams and players. Following is a look at the softball scene.
Top teams in the state: Mattawan, Romeo, Canton
Mattawan is the gold standard when it comes to Division 1 softball in the state and is the team to beat once again this year. It won the title in 2013 and 2011 and finished second in the state in 2012.
Top area teams: Bay City Western, Holt, St. Johns
Bay City Western reached the state title game last June and has plenty of talent returning from a team that went 37-3. Hannah Leppek is one of the premier pitchers in the state. She returns along with a number of other veterans, including all-state outfielder KayLynn Carpenter and all-state shortstop Meredith Rousse. Holt captured the CAAC Red last year and returns plenty of talent from that squad. Courtney Masseau is a returning all-state player for the Rams, while junior Lindsay Reed is a talented second baseman. St. Johns returns a talented core of players and is poised for a big season. Claire Whitford is a talented middle infielder, while junior Kayleigh Smith will be one of the leaders of the pitching staff and an outfielder.
Top area players: Lauren Bachert, Grand Ledge; Hannah Leppek, Bay City Western; Courtney Masseau, Holt; Meredith Rousse, Bay City Western; Kayleigh Smith, St. Johns; Claire Whitford, St. Johns; Lacy Tolfree, Heritage
Top teams in the state: Tecumseh, Wayland Union, Lakeshore
Tecumseh captured last year’s state title and has been one of the premier teams in the state for several years, having also won the title in 2007 and 2008.
Top area teams: Swan Valley, Bullock Creek, Portland, Garber, John Glenn, Mt. Pleasant, Eaton Rapids
Swan Valley has advanced to the Division 2 state title game the past two years. Enough talent returns for it to make another trip to the final. The Vikings have a dominating pitcher in senior Courtney Reinhold and a potent offense led by all-state second baseman Sarah Addy, who hit .500 last season. Rival Bullock Creek also returns a loaded roster, including an all-state pitcher of its own in April Mehl. All-state catcher Maison Kalina leads a potent offense that also includes Ellie Juengel and Shelby Bailey. Portland is primed for a big season after turning in a 27-4 mark last year. All-state pitcher Allie Grys, all-state second baseman Madison Adams, and all-state outfielder Mary Brooks return. Garber looks to continue its improvement this year. The Dukes return a number of key players, led by Paige Wolbert who hit .478 last year. John Glenn has one of the premier hitters in the state in Emily Reed, who hit 15 home runs last year along with 47 RBI and a .521 batting average. Mt. Pleasant returns a number of veterans, and if the pitching staff rounds into form, the Oilers can have a big season. Eaton Rapids turned in a 36-3 record last year and will again be a force. All-state first baseman Bailey Baker returns to lead the way for the Greyhounds.
Top area players: Madison Adams, Portland; Sarah Addy, Swan Valley; Allie Grys, Portland; Maison Kalina, Bullock Creek; April Mehl, Bullock Creek; Emily Reed, John Glenn; Courtney Reinhold, Swan Valley; Paige Wolbert, Garber
Top teams in the state: Unionville-Sebewaing, Bronson, Dundee
Unionville-Sebewaing fell in nine innings to Dundee in last year’s state title game. The Patriots are again one of the premier teams in the state, led by junior pitching ace Erica Treiber. Dundee also returns a number of solid players, while Bronson has a solid squad out of southwest Michigan.
Top area teams: Shepherd, Valley Lutheran, Reese, Farwell, Meridian, Hemlock
Shepherd has a well-balanced squad this year, with solid pitching from sophomore Hailey Buckley and junior Charlie Bryant. The offense is also dangerous, led by Maddie Moeggenborg and Bryant. Valley Lutheran is strong in the circle with pitcher Sydney Little, while Gabby Neuman leads a potent offense. Hemlock has a solid team with a number of veterans back. Eryn Lee gives the Huskies a strong pitcher, while Aubrey Alfano and Shelby Lisik lead the offense.
Top area players: Charlie Bryant, Shepherd; Eryn Lee, Hemlock; Maddie Moeggenborg, Shepherd; Sydney Little, Valley Lutheran; Kaylie Rhynard, Shepherd
Top teams in the state: Kalamazoo Christian, Ubly, Rogers City
Defending state champion Kalamazoo Christian is the team to beat again in Division 4. The Comets have a deep team with strong hitting and defense.
Top area teams: Sacred Heart Academy, Coleman, Fowler, Portland St. Patrick Catholic
Let by hit machine Sara Hansen, Sacred Heart can score runs in bunches. Lexie Methner and Lauren Sabuda are also strong with the bats, while Methner will also help lead the pitching staff. Coleman also has a strong hitting team this year. Carley Starnes leads the offense with help from players like Miranda Coty and Summer Liphard. Fowler returns a number of key players, as it looks to challenge in the CMAC. Kelsie Feldpausch returns to anchor the infield, while Kara Schafer is a standout catcher. Portland St. Patrick Catholic went 32-7 last year and has plenty of talent back from that squad. Junior Brittni Wilcox is a returning all-state pitcher, while Danielle Simon is a talented outfielder, and Riley Smith returns at catcher.
Top area players: Kelsie Feldpausch, Fowler; Sara Hansen, Sacred Heart Academy; Lexie Methner, Sacred Heart Academy; Carley Starnes, Coleman; Brittni Wilcox, Portland St. Patrick Catholic