North claimed the school’s first regional title since 1992.

North claimed the school’s first regional title since 1992.

Photo provided by Ron Smith

North softball’s historic regional title builds confidence for 2024

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 27, 2023

 Grosse Pointe North softball celebrates its  9-1 regional title win over Livonia Churchill on  June 10 at Royal Oak High School with a selfie.

Grosse Pointe North softball celebrates its 9-1 regional title win over Livonia Churchill on June 10 at Royal Oak High School with a selfie.

Photo provided by Natalie Babcock

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — They’ve known each other for years, they’ve played in Grosse Pointe Little League for years, and now they’re setting the standard for Grosse Pointe North softball.

North went into the season with an expectation that the 2023 season could be something special, and the team’s chemistry was a vital piece of that confidence.

“We’ve all basically known each other since we were young, and I think that’s a good thing because it’s like a comfort level and we all know what we’re going to get out of each other,” junior shortstop Natalie Babcock said. “I think it’s good for us because we’re able to push each other in that sense and we’re able to rely on one another because we know what we’re capable of.”

Earning a 9-1 win over Livonia Churchill on June 10 at Royal Oak High School, North’s cohesiveness helped the team reach its full potential, earning the school’s first regional title since 1992.

North was eliminated in a 3-0 loss to Hartland in the quarterfinals on June 14 at Wayne State University, but the 2023 Norsmen put Division 1 on notice with their performance this season.

“It was awesome,” Babcock said. “Not many people thought we could’ve gotten that far, but I think we all knew once districts came and once we got into playoffs, we kind of all turned into a different mindset and a whole new energy just started to happen. We just kept building off of each game we had. I feel like we really started to play as a whole team, and the regionals win was just so amazing and so rewarding.”

A defensive juggernaut throughout the season, North’s defense was on full display throughout the state tournament alongside its impressive pitching core.

In five state tournament games, North allowed only six runs with back-to-back shutouts in districts.

Seniors Kaitlyn Barr and Sarah McCloskey led the North pitching staff while sophomore Elliott Jarvi and freshman Kate Stemmler contributed innings on the mound as well.

Babcock and sophomore second baseman Addison Wakefield formed a dynamic duo in the middle infield. Senior first baseman Sophia Borowski and senior third baseman Elizabeth Rheaume manned the hot corners, while seniors Katherine Listman and Leah Salisbury were the veteran presences in the outfield with sophomore Charlotte Julien locking down center field.

North’s seniors led by example with their defensive play, but Julien, Wakefield and sophomore catcher Isabella Boedeker, a first-year starter, made significant strides this season to elevate the North defense.

All nine positions worked as one, and the continuity and chemistry kept the North defense running like a well-oiled machine.

“We’ve played together forever, and I think this year it just clicked,” Wakefield said. “Being consistent, we had our infield five, and playing with them all season and getting to know them so well, we were just locked in.”

For North’s six seniors, it’s a perfect ending to their high school career, and it goes far beyond the softball diamond. As a class, the seniors carried a 4.1 GPA with Barr, Borowski, Listman, McCloskey and Rheaume all earning Division 1 academic all-state honors, according to the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association.

In both the classroom and on the field, the seniors left a foundation for the underclassmen to continue.

“They’re not only great players, but they’re great leaders,” North coach Ron Smith said. “They blend well with the underclassmen. It’s not this arrogance. It’s all for one, and they bring that to the field every day. The one thing we’ve been fortunate to have the last couple years, and these guys had it as they were coming up, are seniors and upperclassmen who have always welcomed the underclassmen and brought them in and showed them the ropes in a good way. The seniors have just molded into those same attitudes that they were welcomed in with three years ago when they were coming up.”

For North’s upcoming juniors and seniors, the primary focus will be getting the bats going in the later stages of the state tournament and keeping the intensity heading into next season.

Ending a 31-year regional title drought opens the door for sustained success for North’s softball program, but it’s up to Babcock, Wakefield and the rest of North’s young talent to take a step forward next season.

“I think we need to still have that eagerness and intensity, because knowing that we can get there, I think people could ease off the intensity,” Wakefield said. “I think we still need to push off hard from the beginning and know that the goal is still in sight of getting there again and going even farther, and still just wanting it so bad again.”