L’Anse Creuse softball standout signs early with Central Michigan

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 28, 2016

 Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse sophomore Sammi Mills has signed to play with Central Michigan University. Mills will play catcher for the Chippewas.

Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse sophomore Sammi Mills has signed to play with Central Michigan University. Mills will play catcher for the Chippewas.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Downey


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse softball coach Lisa Downey has seen a lot in her 18 years leading the program.

She’s won league and postseason titles. She’s had players sign to play at the NCAA level in Division 2, Division 3 and the NAIA.

Downey, though, never had a player sign to play with a D-1 program right out of high school.

Until now.

L’Anse Creuse sophomore Sammi Mills has signed to play at Central Michigan University. Mills will play catcher when she joins the Chippewas program in 2018. Mills said she had offers from the University of Detroit Mercy, Philadelphia’s La Salle University, Ohio’s Kent State University and New York’s Canisius College.

“I had a lot of offers,” said Mills, who as a freshman became the first Lancers softball player to hit .500 for an entire season. “I knew other schools would have a lot of players committing early. I felt comfortable at (CMU), and I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”

Downey acknowledged that Mills’ signing is rewarding to the sophomore and her family. Downey said it’s rewarding for her as a coach too, and great for the Lancers program.

“(Mills) works so hard,” Downey said. “She really does it all on her own. She loves the game of softball and invests so much time into it.

“To see people you work with go after a goal and reach it is very rewarding as a coach. She’s definitely earned it. She’s a tremendous talent and a very smart kid. She’s the kind of kid any program would want.”

It seems early for Mills to make that commitment. The atmosphere of college sports has changed, though, according to Downey.

College programs, Downey said, now look to get recruiting classes set for years down the line. Players, to a degree, have to sign early to limit the possibility of another player taking their scholarship, Downey said.

“(Recruiting) is very competitive,” Downey said. “It’s nice to see (Mills) more relaxed now. She can just enjoy playing softball now.”

Mills said she discussed the decision extensively with Downey, who said she told the sophomore to list the pros and cons of each school.

“(Downey) was always there when I needed her,” said Mills, who said she plans to study physical therapy at the Mount Pleasant school.

Mills will play catcher in college and played catcher as a freshman at L’Anse Creuse. This spring, with the season opening March 23, Mills will be L’Anse Creuse’s No. 1 pitcher.

Downey called the position change a break for Mills.

“She trusts her pitches. She knows what works,” Downey said. “She just has a feel for the game. Being a catcher will help her have a chance to be a good pitcher.”

Mills said she won’t be fazed by any possible mistakes on the mound. She said she likes being in control of the game.

“It’s like being a coach on the field if you’re a pitcher or a catcher,” Mills said. “Any mistakes will be on me.”

Downey thinks Mills would play wherever she’s asked because of her love of the game.

“(Mills) was born to be a softball player,” Downey said. “If she could pick any place she could always be, it’d be a softball field.”

It may be a couple of years down the line, but Mills is prepared for the next chapter of her life.

“I’m really excited. It’ll be like a home away from home,” Mills said. “Just to be on a team where you’re with everybody pretty much 24/7 will be a great experience.”