Warren Woods Tower junior captain Lily Thomspon throws a pitch during their May 17 matchup against New Haven.

Warren Woods Tower junior captain Lily Thomspon throws a pitch during their May 17 matchup against New Haven.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Warren Woods Tower softball’s storybook season led by team-first mentality

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Warren Weekly | Published May 19, 2023

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WARREN — An 8-21 season in 2022, no seniors coming into the season and starters with no experience on the varsity level? That sounds like a recipe for impending disaster for most teams.

What junior Warren Woods Tower captains Lily Thompson and Kylie Castle saw was a chance to establish not only a winning culture, but also to solidify a team chemistry that could withstand whatever adversity the team would have to face this season.

Castle said she and Thompson prided themselves on one thing as leaders of the squad.

“Family,” Castle said. “We’re a family. I see her (pointing to Thompson) as my sister just as I see every other girl as my sister on this team. I would do anything for my team.”

Fortunately, Warren Woods Tower’s 16-0 start to the year not only put the entire Macomb Area Conference on notice, but continued to strengthen the bond that Thompson and Castle set to establish.

While their off-the-field leadership has been arguably the junior duo’s biggest impact, Thompson and Castle have been dominant on both sides of the field.

Thompson’s contributions from the three hole in the lineup have been All-State worthy, with a .673 batting average and nine triples this season, but her ability to lead an impressive and youthful pitching staff, alongside sophomore Aislinn Lipar and freshman Atiana Guzman, has made Warren Woods Tower (17-2) a team that can beat opponents on either side of the coin. Thompson currently holds a 1.74 ERA this season.

Oh, and that lineup that’s been mashing all season at the plate, while featuring no seniors, consists of three sophomores and two freshmen on any given night.

More impressively, Warren Woods Tower’s top-four hitters include two freshmen and a sophomore, with Guzman and freshman Eisa Lautenbach batting first and second respectively, and sophomore catcher Jacqueline Asmar hitting cleanup behind Thompson.

Sophomores Iris Everett (3B) and Adrianna Strunk (2B) have been consistent contributors on both sides of the field.

Castle said the young core of underclassmen have asserted themselves right up there with the veterans this season.

“I’d say they’re up to speed with the rest of us,” Castle said. “They don’t feel like younger girls to us. They feel like everybody else because they just fit in with all of us. Underclassmen or older classmen, we’re a young team, so we just do it all together.”

Commanding the shortstop position as a freshman, Guzman has led the underclassmen group with her elite-level ability, at bat and with her glove, making her a player to watch for the next few years.

Hitting over .500 with an on-base percentage of over .600, Guzman’s 24 stolen bases this season have made her one of those most dominant leadoff hitters in the MAC.

Only in her freshman season, Warren Woods Tower coach Lance Sell said Guzman draws similarities to a former softball legend at the school.

“When I look at her, like even as a freshman, she has a lot of similarities to Shelby Weeks,” Sell said. “I didn’t think I’d ever coach another girl at the high school level that would remotely compare to Weeks, and this girl that I have now, she’s a close second right now as a freshman. She’s really that good.”

Weeks, a 2012 Warren Woods Tower graduate who played collegiately at Saginaw Valley State University, was named All-Conference, All-District, and League MVP during her time in high school.

The team’s explosive start to the year, to their credit, was a surprise to the entirety of the MAC Gold, but no surprise to anyone on the team.

There was confidence going into the season from the squad, but once they started beating familiar foes, Castle said that boosted the team’s confidence exponentially, especially winning the Bad Axe tournament for the first time in Sell’s tenure as head coach at Warren Woods Tower.

“Once we started playing those teams we lost to last year and came into close games with last year and we’re blowing them out every game, we were just kind of like, ‘Let’s keep it going,’” Castle said. “Revenge tour: It’s our revenge tour this year.”

Warren Woods Tower will open district play against the MAC Blue’s Warren Cousino on May 30 at 4:30 p.m. at Cousino High School, as their journey towards a district title begins.

Currently 17-2 on the season and second in the MAC Gold, in which they finished second to last last season, their success this year is what can be defined as program-altering, and a lot of credit is due to the junior class this season with Castle, Thompson, and juniors McKenzie Graybill, Abbigayle Mika and Paige Gieleghem.

For Thomspon and Castle, there’s one 2022 graduate they said they owe a lot to for making them the leaders they are today.

“Brionna Ware,” Thompson said. “She had a really big impact. She was a great leader overall.”

“She was a great captain,” Castle said.