Grosse Pointe North junior Charlotte Julien attempts to slide into third base.

Grosse Pointe North junior Charlotte Julien attempts to slide into third base.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Fresh off regional title, North softball needs to ‘take a breather’ amid slow start

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 16, 2024

 The Grosse Pointe North infield gathers at the pitcher’s mound.

The Grosse Pointe North infield gathers at the pitcher’s mound.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — There were high expectations for Grosse Pointe North last year given how strong the leadership was with its six seniors, and they delivered down the state tournament stretch.

Bringing home the Norsemen’s first regional title since 1992, the standard was set and the confidence skyrocketed for this year’s squad with one goal in mind.

“They better be looking at it (regionals) as unfinished business, because that’s definitely how their coaches look at it,” North head coach Ron Smith said. “I think they believe they can take it further. We had a tough run. Our schedule in the (Macomb Area Conference) Red is already tough. Everybody knows that it’s one of the toughest leagues in the state, but our non-league games have been filled with several teams ranked in the top 10s in their respective areas.”

Before even getting into the heart of its MAC Red schedule, North has already been through the ringer with matchups against Lake Orion (D1 Honorable Mention), Walled Lake Northern (D1 No. 9), Warren Regina, and St. Clair.

Currently 1-7 on the year, there’s no need to hit the panic button on the season with a team of this caliber.

“I feel like sometimes we just get in our heads, and we just have to take a breather,” senior captain Addison Molitor said. “For me, I’m like, ‘This is just a game. It’s a sport. I need to stop being so hard on myself.’ I’m not saying we get in our heads too much, but there is a point of like, ‘OK, I need to do better.’ You know, get that motivation in your head. You can’t tell yourself you’re bad, and you can’t tell yourself you’re going to miss the next one, because it just carries along.”

Molitor is one of several Norsemen players who witnessed last season’s success and were under the mentorship of the 2023 senior class, and she said the team knows what it takes to get to where it needs to be.

As great of a player as one can be, there’s a mental warfare within the game. There’s a reason why hitless streaks exist and players battle a case of the “yips.”

North returns a slew of starting talent from last season’s team in Molitor, senior captain Natalie Babcock, junior captain Addie Wakefield, junior Charlotte Julien, and junior Isabella Boedeker.

Babcock anchors the North pitching rotation as a four-year varsity player and all-state honorable mention last season, but has some help in the staff after North graduated two aces in Sarah McCloskey and Kaitlyn Barr. Sophomore Katie Stemmler, who was on varsity as a freshman, will be Babcock’s co-pilot in the rotation with Wakefield, junior Cara Swiatkowski, and junior Elliot Jarvi all looking to contribute some innings.

After earning her varsity stripes behind the plate as a sophomore, Boedeker is looking to take a significant stride as a junior catcher.

With only 10 players on the roster, North is leaning on Boedeker to remain healthy and be a mainstay for the pitching staff, and Boedeker said she is up for the challenge.

“For catching, I knew I had to step up this year because I’m an upperclassman now,” Boedeker said. “I’ve learned from the mistakes I made last year. Over the winter, I trained with my travel coach. He knows a lot about catching, and we worked on my throw downs. I feel like this season already, even though we haven’t had a ton of games, my throws have gotten better and more quick.”

Hitting and defense on the other hand has been a work in progress for North, but the lineup has plenty of reasons to be optimistic with junior Cara Kaslatas and sophomore Eva Borowski expected to contribute alongside the Norsemen veterans.

North knows what it can bring to the field with both the glove and the bat, but Julien said it’s just about the team finding it within themselves.

“Really, it’s a big confidence thing for us,” Julien said. “We have a lot of great players on this team and we’re capable of a lot. We’re just not really believing in ourselves that we can do it yet. Once we get there, that will work itself out.”

The beauty of the struggle is that North still remains unbeaten in league play (1-0) as it works through the early season woes.

With the right pieces in place and a veteran group that’s been successful both in the regular season and the state tournament, the Norsemen veterans expect the team to bounce back as the season continues.

“We have to work hard to get there, but it’s just keeping a good mindset,” Babcock said. “We can beat anyone in any game, but it’s just working hard.”

“I want to bring the confidence,” Wakefield said. “Going into districts, we knew right away that we were going to win districts. We take it one step at a time, but the whole time we’re focusing on that end goal of winning a state championship.”