Fraser’s infield gathers at the mound during the game against Berkley on April 19 at Berkley High School.

Fraser’s infield gathers at the mound during the game against Berkley on April 19 at Berkley High School.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Fraser seniors lead search for another MAC-Blue softball title

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published April 24, 2023

 Fraser senior Skylar Claeys-Meeks pitches during the game against Berkley.

Fraser senior Skylar Claeys-Meeks pitches during the game against Berkley.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

FRASER — Coming off a dominant 20-6 season that saw Fraser softball capture the Macomb Area Conference-Blue division in 2022, coach Matt Fishburn and his squad knew they’d have to dig their heels in quickly, coming into the 2023 season.

Not only because Grosse Pointe South and Marine City continue to be a problem in the division, but they are also feeling the loss of a senior class that had been the catalysts of Fraser softball for the past few years.

“Those girls were huge,” Fishburn said. “They did their part, made our program better and left it in a better place, and these girls are trying to carry on to make it even better, trying to repeat as MAC-Blue champs and go onto districts from there.”

Now, it’s up to seniors Caroline Martin, Skylar Claeys-Meeks, Kaycee Stang and Angelina Viviano to continue the legacy of the senior group, and they’ve outshined expectations so far this season.

Averaging over 13 runs per game, Fraser’s offensive firepower has propelled the team to an 8-1 start to the year.

Led by Martin, sophomore Isabel Wilson and junior Kailey Viviano, Fraser has scored 12 or more runs in six of their eight games.

Junior Jordan Fabirkiewicz has continued to contribute from the leadoff spot while Stang, Claeys-Meeks and Wilson round out the heart of the order.

Once a freshman varsity starter at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, junior Raegan Hemelberg has been an asset for an already explosive offense after joining the team this season. Hemelberg had to sit out her sophomore year due to transfer ineligibility but has been a key piece to the everyday lineup.

But don’t look to just the top four or five to do the heavy lifting, because the whole roster can do some damage.

“We definitely can hit top to bottom in our lineup,” Fishburn said. “That’s always a good thing.”

While making a strong effort on offense, Claeys-Meeks has been the veteran of a youthful pitching staff.

Alongside Claeys-Meeks, sophomore Gabriella Gajewski and freshman Camilla Dawood have powered the rotation throughout the season, holding opponents to under three runs in five of eight contests.

Claeys-Meeks has been the veteran leader Fraser had hoped for on the mound, but the mentorship from the four seniors started long before Fraser took the field for their first game.

“I would also say our weightlifting in the morning at 6:20 also helped our strength,” Martin said. “For our younger players, they got to build up and see how the upperclassmen do things.”

Transitioning the younger players was an adjustment period, especially when the freshman and sophomores outnumber the senior class 5-to-4, but the dynamic between the classes has led to a new-look dugout for Fraser.

Considering Fraser graduated a healthy number of seniors in 2022, Martin said the team’s cohesiveness was bonded by one thing.

“Communication,” Martin said. “We’re very good at talking on the field and talking in the dugout, and cheering for our teammates.”

Fraser knows a thing or two about communication, and they definitely get plenty of practice outside the field.

When they’re not chasing down a MAC-Blue title and scoring runs at a rapid pace, they’re reading at Salk Elementary for National Reading Month, or coaching future Ramblers at their softball camp.

For most of the players who went to the camp as energetic children meeting the Fraser high school team, it’s a full-circle moment as they make an impact on the next generation of Fraser softball players.

“As a sophomore, it’s nice to know that, when I was younger and I went to the camps that that was what I looked up to and those are the people I would eventually be like,” Wilson said.

In just the opening leg of a lengthy schedule, there’s a lot to love about where Fraser softball is headed this season.

Aided by the drive to win another MAC-Blue title, Fraser is also hoping to reach districts once more and rewrite last season’s district finals loss to Warren Regina.

With a mixed bag of talent, leadership and youth, Fraser’s potential is exponential in the 2023 season.

“We came into this season kind of trying to achieve what we did last season: big wins, and hopefully win districts this year because that was something we missed out on last year,” Fabirkiewicz said.