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Madison Heights

April 23, 2012

Lamphere softball aims for first league title since joining the MAC

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Lamphere senior pitcher Chelsea Austin prepares to throw in a recent game. Austin is expected to take the mound for the majority of the Rams’ games this season.

Last season, softball’s Macomb Area Conference Gold Division belonged to Warren Woods Tower.

Prior to last year, Tower won the MAC Silver two consecutive seasons, and when they were moved to the Gold Division in 2011, the Titans proceeded to pick up where they left off, winning another league title.

One of the teams that will be vying to end Tower’s dynasty of league titles is Madison Heights Lamphere, which was 3-1 at press time.

Though the Titans may have had their way in recent years, Rams coach Don Mullen believes that his team will be in the thick of things in 2012’s race for a MAC Gold championship.

“It always seems to be a battle between Warren Woods Tower, Center Line and ourselves,” he said. “Whoever’s pitching holds out the longest should be able to take the division. In the last couple years, it’s been Warren Woods Tower. They have solid hitting and solid pitching; they seem like they’re always the team to beat in the beginning of the year. It’s going to be a battle for the championship.”

Mullen also has some players who appear to be buying into the belief that Lamphere can knock Tower out of the top spot. According to Mullen, the Rams have not won a league title since moving from the Oakland Activities Association to the MAC in 2004, and his group of seniors is leading the charge to help change that.

“Their goal all along is to win a league championship,” he said. “That’s what they’re setting the table for, hopefully to win that division this year. We’ve lost a couple real close district games the last two years in the championship game to Country Day, so they’re really vying to win not only a league championship, they’re hoping they win a district and get to the regionals this year. That’s kind of their goal.”

Mullen believes that the leadership skills of his seniors have helped pave the way for the Rams to have such lofty ambitions. Chelsea Austin, Michelle Paavo, Marianne Carney, Meghan Versele and Julie Swanson are the Rams’ senior representatives, and Mullen is pleased with what they have been able to bring to the table.

“My group of seniors are just tremendous leaders,” he said. “They’re really self-sufficient and take charge. They’re really helping with the younger girls. They seem to have a really good work ethic in practice, and game preparation also. They’re all doing a wonderful job.”

Austin is Lamphere’s primary pitcher, and because she is expected to be in the circle for approximately 80 percent of the Rams’ games, Mullen will be counting on her.

Mullen is hoping that some solid defense and strong hitting can go a long way toward helping his pitcher earn some victories. But there is one thing that isn’t going to show up on any stat sheet that Mullen is confident he can count on with his squad, and it may turn out to play a large role in how far the Rams go this season.

“This team has a tremendous attitude,” he said. “Sometimes, if you’re lacking experience or ability levels, you can make it up with wonderful attitudes. We graduated a lot of key players last year, but I think the attitude on this team is really going to help us. We’ve got to get some hitting from everybody. Everybody’s going to have to contribute. As long as we have good defensive sets, I think we’re going to be in good shape.”

The Rams are scheduled to be in action next at 4:30 p.m. April 25 against Sterling Heights at home

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.