ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak High softball coach Dave Falkenbury had hoped that some day he’d be leading the Ravens’ softball program.
Falkenbury was an assistant coach under Vicki Earnshaw for 10 years at Royal Oak Dondero. But when the school merged with Kimball to form Royal Oak High, he and Earnshaw were left without a program at the high school level.
This season marks their return.
“This is great. This is something that we kind of expected when they closed down Kimball and Dondero. It didn’t work out that way, but that’s why I stuck around,” Falkenbury said as practice got started March 28. “I wanted to watch the high school play and then maybe someday we’d get a shot. This is great. I’m impressed with the coaching staff and the girls work hard.”
Falkenbury has three assistants on the varsity level, including Earnshaw. They have a total of 16 years of experience coaching together, dating back to Bloomfield Hills Marian before Dondero.
The Ravens return six players, and although it’s Falkenbury’s first season with varsity, he’s plenty familiar with the team. He coached the current crop of seniors on the JV level two seasons ago.
“It’s a very good group to work with. They listen well, they hit well, and they play good defense,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting experience pitching. Overall, it’s a good, fun team.”
The Ravens’ returnees include seniors Faith Sulich (third base/catcher) Kendall Clary (shortstop/pitcher), Amelia Stecker (left field) and Angela Vettori (first base/third base), and juniors Heather Cook (first base/catcher) and Mo Ozdych (catcher).
Sulich has the most experience as a four-year varsity member.
“I’m feeling pretty confident. We’re playing well together,” she said. “Our infield is looking very strong.”
Falkenbury said the team is also strong at the plate.
“We have three or four of the best hitters I’ve ever coached,” he said.
Falkenbury hopes that the team’s power and stout defense carries it in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division until his new pitchers get comfortable in the circle.
“My goal would be to win the division championship. With teams like Seaholm and Berkley, it’s going to be hard, but I want to be one of the top teams,” he said. “Every team wants to win — winning is fun.”