Mercy softball confidence soars as playoff time draws ever-so close
The scheduled practice time had yet to expire, but the work done to this point was “pretty good,” as Farmington Hills Mercy softball coach Nancy Malinowski put it.
The reward was an early exit and a little more time for girls on the team to enjoy the rest of their afternoon.
“We got some good work in, so we like to let them go a little early,” Malinowski explained with a smile on a sunny May 13 afternoon at the school. “They were good today.”
Looking back at the empty practice field, Malinowski was then asked to look forward when asked just how good this squad could be.
With the state playoffs rapidly approaching, and a team that had just lost once all season at press time, is this a team able to take, and make, the most of a trip to Battle Creek?
“That’s tough to answer,” she quipped. “So many things can happen, come playoff time, from the weather to luck, to anything. So who knows? But are we a team that could make it? Yes. They’re good enough.”
Following a win in the Catholic League semifinals, Mercy was 24-1 this spring and set to play in the league championship after press time.
The record is as impressive.
The Marlins opened the year with 13 straight wins, only allowed nine runs in their first six games and didn’t suffer their first loss until a 3-1 setback to Livonia Ladywood on April 30.
And that game was held shortly after Mercy had played 12 games in a six-day span.
“Ladywood got us, but we were fatigued,” Malinowski said. “No doubt about it.”
“We’ve been killing the ball lately, and I think that has a lot to do with our success,” senior Meghan Tarrance said. “That, and solid pitching and good defense, (have) led to what we’ve been able to do so far.”
Malinowski and Tarrance were both quick to credit the overall chemistry of the team, as well.
Following last year’s 26-7 finish, and trip to the Division 1 regional final, Mercy returned nearly every starter.
Pitcher Kayce Nieto graduated, but with the offense pounding out double-digit runs more often than not, the team has more than survived with a younger staff shouldering the weight.
“I guess we were a little surprised to play as well as we did right off the bat,” Tarrance admitted. “We weren’t totally sure what to expect. But when we started hitting and saw how good we were playing, the confidence just soared.”
It hasn’t let up, which is only fueling talk about a possible trip to Battle Creek for the semifinals in D-1.
“There’s a lot to do before that, though,” Malinowski cautioned. “We’re going to be in for a battle in the district.”
Mercy opens the playoffs June 1 against either North Farmington or Farmington High in the semifinals.
Novi High and Harrison, a duo facing each other on the other half of the bracket, join the other three teams at the Farmington district.
“Let’s put it this way: When we are doing the things we can and playing the way we can, we’re a very tough team to beat,” Malinowski said. “I really like this group and the potential they have. Now it’s up to them to go out and accomplish what they feel like they can.”