L’Anse Creuse softball out for deep postseason run

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published March 24, 2016

 The Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse softball team lost five players to graduation, but returns a number of key position players, including sophomore pitcher Sammi Mills, who led the team in batting with a .500 average last season. Mills is pictured during a March 22 practice.

The Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse softball team lost five players to graduation, but returns a number of key position players, including sophomore pitcher Sammi Mills, who led the team in batting with a .500 average last season. Mills is pictured during a March 22 practice.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — How last season ended is still fresh in the minds of many players on the Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse softball team.

The Lancers’ season ended in a 4-0 loss to eventual Division 1 state champion Warren Regina in a June 6 regional semifinal. The setback ended a season that saw L’Anse Creuse finish 26-11 and win a second district championship in three years.

“If we would have had just a few things go our way, that game is a lot different,” said Lancers senior co-captain and third baseman Rachel Peete.

“That’s not one of those things that when it was over we stopped thinking about it. We think about it all the time.”

Peete, her teammates and coach Lisa Downey are working feverishly to ensure this year’s team has a longer stay in the postseason.

L’Anse Creuse senior shortstop Francesca Ortisi, a four-year varsity player, said a deep postseason push would make her last year of prep softball special.

“It’d be amazing. I can’t even put into words how much that would mean, especially to myself and (Peete) because we’re the seniors,” said Ortisi, whose teams have averaged 25 wins per season over the last three years.

Downey, who is in her 18th year with the program, said defense will play the biggest factor in her team’s prospects. Players go through hot and cold streaks at the plate; pitchers don’t always hit their spots.

But good defense always travels, according to Downey.

“We lost a lot. We’re replacing some infielders, but we’ve got some solid players who are going to have to step into bigger roles and play well,” said Downey, who lost five players to graduation. That group won 98 games, two division titles and two district championships.

Downey said her team is set with Peete at third, Ortisi at shortstop and junior Lexi Goff in center field. Sophomore Sammi Mills, who signed with Central Michigan University, will be the team’s No. 1 pitcher after playing catcher last season. Downey said she may rotate players in other spots.

The longtime Lancers coach said her lineup will be much different than last season.

L’Anse Creuse last year had a number of players capable of hitting home runs. This year’s team will have to do a better job of manufacturing runs. Mills, who last year led the team in hitting and became the first Lancer to bat .500 for an entire season, will hit in the No. 3 or No. 4 hole.

“We’re hoping to make some noise this season,” Mills said. “We have a good team — a good group of girls who all want to win and who are willing to do what it takes to help the team win.”

Before the possibility of a long playoff run, the Lancers want to be a factor in the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division. L’Anse Creuse went 10-2 in the league last year, finishing second to Grosse Pointe South. The Lancers won division titles in 2013 and 2014.

“It’s so hard to judge which teams are going to be good,” Downey said, “but there are good coaches working with all the teams in our league — Grosse Pointe South, Fraser High, Marine City (High), (Warren) Cousino, Grosse Pointe North, Port Huron Northern.

“We know it’s going to be a battle. We definitely want to be in the race.”

As for the postseason, Ortisi has grand aspirations.

“Seeing Regina go all the way and win a state title, knowing we played them on their way to it, it made us believe we could get there too,” Ortisi said. “We’re going to do all we can to do that.”

L’Anse Creuse is slated to take the field for a matchup with Macomb L’Anse Creuse North at 4:30 p.m. March 30 at LCN.

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