HARRISON TOWNSHIP — The Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse softball team returns 11 players from a team that won division and district titles in 2013.
Having that many players back who know the team’s system, and understand what coaches and teammates expect can do nothing but help the squad’s prospects this season, said Lancers coach Lisa Downey, who guided her team to a 29-9 mark last season.
“Like any team, you always try to do better than the previous season, especially when you return a lot of players,” said Downey, whose team went 10-2 to win its second Macomb Area Conference Blue Division title in four years. “They experienced playing in a (regional tournament). They know what it’s about.”
L’Anse Creuse senior catcher Megan Hicks, a four-year varsity player, said she’s looking forward to more success, including a second consecutive district title and an even deeper playoff run. Hicks, who received a scholarship to play at Grand Rapids-based Aquinas College, said continuity will be key for the team. She also said execution, hitting and focus are key to the squad’s fortunes.
Those things will have to come along gradually, according to Downey, because many players could be in different spots when the team is on defense. L’Anse Creuse lost its starting second base (Shannon Brown) and shortstop (Monica Hassig) to graduation. Downey said new players will fill those positions, along with third base. The team hasn’t been able to work outside due to inclement weather, which means it will take the players some time to become acclimated to their new assignments, which there will be competition for, Downey said.
“It makes it harder for us to see who’s going to play where. That’s a big thing we’re trying to piece together,” said Downey, who said working in a gym is OK for hitting, but not when it comes to working on fielding and pitching. “Every school is in the same boat. It’s not like other teams are practicing outside and we’re not.”
Downey said she likes the team’s depth and its nucleus, which features just three seniors. Aside from Hicks, the team captain, Downey said she expects junior pitcher Megan Fedolak — a three-year varsity player — to lead the team. Hicks and Fedolak form a strong battery, Downey said.
Junior Jordan Priebe could transition to shortstop after playing second last season. Sophomore Francesca Ortisi was a strong catalyst as an outfielder and provided the team with speed last season, Downey said, but could move to the infield. Junior Abby Rusek started at first base last season and could be the only infielder to play the same position as last season. Sophomore Rachel Peet, junior Emme Birchall and junior Ellen Hoffman will all contribute, as well, Downey said.
“We have some versatile kids,” the coach added. “We have to put the puzzle together and find out what makes the best fit and gives us our strongest lineup. To get in and win another division and district title, those things will be tough. We’re in a good division. Every pitch, you have to be ready to go. We’ll have to see how things develop and try to get better every day.”
Hicks said she thinks the return of so many players will make the transition process a bit easier once the team is able to get outside.
“We have so many players who know the types of things we like to do in the field. I think we’ll be good,” Hicks said. “I think making it to regionals helped us out so much. Even losing (2-0 to Warren Regina). It helped motivate us even more. It makes you really want to push through and win this year.”
The Lancers are slated to open the season with a doubleheader against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley. The first game is set for 4:30 p.m. April 2 at Chippewa Valley.