Fitzgerald softball team hopes to build on historic 2012 campaign

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Warren Weekly | Published April 22, 2013

 The Warren Fitzgerald softball team tallied 43 runs in its first three games. Pictured is Spartans junior Lindsay Bullock, left, during an April 15 win against Southfield High.

The Warren Fitzgerald softball team tallied 43 runs in its first three games. Pictured is Spartans junior Lindsay Bullock, left, during an April 15 win against Southfield High.

Photo by Deb Jacques

WARREN — The 2012 Warren Fitzgerald softball team had arguably the most successful season in program history.

In winning the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division, the Spartans won their first league title since 1970. Fitzgerald’s 22 wins last season were the most in program history, according to coach Rich Smith.

Seniors Diana Shellnut and Beth Michalski, seasoned veterans who Smith called the leaders of the team, said last season’s success motivated them and other players to work harder for this season, with a goal of matching or besting the marks set last season.

“Last year gives us a lot to feed off of,” said Shellnut, who steps into the No. 1 spot in the Spartans pitching rotation after playing shortstop for most of last season. “We did really well last year, but we can do much better.”

“The seniors — we’re already leaving with a solid mark,” said Michalski, a left fielder. “So just adding to it and putting even more of a mark on the program would be great.”

Smith, in his fifth year as Fitzgerald softball coach, said the Spartans field a roster of 12 players, including eight seniors. Smith said he’s looking for leaders after Fitzgerald lost the two hurlers who ate up the most innings last year.

“We’ve got some girls who are kind of filling in. My No. 3 (pitcher), Shellnut, is moving up into the No. 1 slot,” said Smith, whose team moved into the MAC Gold this season. “My No. 2 and 3 will fill in those voids, as well. In this league, in softball especially, pitching is always key.”

At press time, Fitzgerald was 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the Gold.

“We lost some quality players to graduation,” said Smith. “My hope is that some of these girls can step into that role. While we have eight seniors, it’s tough to fill a void at certain key positions.

“But I’ve got some girls who know what they’re doing, so I think the jitters that may have been there last year will be gone because they’ve been there before.”

Smith said the team was anxious to get started, as inclement weather hasn’t allowed the Spartans much time on the field. When on the diamond, the Spartans won by mercy in each of their wins.

“We just want to be successful and continue the success we had last year,” Smith said.

Smith said the group’s willingness to work together, along with having positive attitudes and strong work ethics, will be the strength of the team. He said the girls have done a lot of little things to keep morale high during a stretch in which the weather didn’t allow them to practice outside of the gym.

“I feel like our team bonding is strong,” Shellnut said. “That’s a really big plus. That’ll help us at times when we’re struggling.”

The Spartans coach added that moving into the Gold is tough because of unfamiliarity.

“All the schools in the MAC Gold have good programs, but we’re playing teams we’ve beaten before,” Smith said. “That isn’t to take anything away from any of the coaches or teams in the MAC Gold. Our outlook on the season is positive, though.”

“What we did last year motivates us to work even harder,” Michalski said. “We’re all working our hardest to do better than we did last year or even better than we did in our last game.”

The Spartans next hit the diamond for a doubleheader against Algonac. Game times are slated for 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. April 25 at Algonac.