The Spring Lake softball team is hoping to capture another Lakes Eight title, after sharing the title with Grant last season.
The Lakers took a great stride toward that goal by sweeping the Tigers on Thursday, winning 10-8 on a walk-off home run by freshman Ann Marie Galloway; then pulling away for a 13-7 victory.
"We're very excited for a chance to contend for league and district titles," said coach Bill Core, who listed Grant and rival Fruitport as Spring Lake's biggest competition in the Lakes Eight.
The Lakers return five starters from last year's squad, including two performers who made second-team all-conference in the Lakes Eight.
Senior pitcher Ashley Keena will be a four-year starter for the Lakers, while hard-hitting first basemen Kelsee Zuidema returns after batting .406, with 27 RBI's and 26 runs scored last season.
Catcher Desi Sherwood was honorable mention all-conference last year, displaying what Core called "a very good arm."
Spring Lake also returns speedy outfielder Jamie Kossuth, and utility player Katie Mumby. Mumby batted .310 last season, and "can play anywhere" on the field.
Joining Keena in the pitcher's circle will be junior R.J. Morrow, a transfer from Grand Haven who was a two-year starter for the Buccaneers.
BUCS SEEK TO IMPROVE
With just two returning seniors, the Grand Haven softball team is a young one. But after a difficult 2013 campaign, the Buccaneers are hoping to take a step in the right direction.
"In order for us to surprise teams, we have to get better in all areas of the game," said first-year coach Paul Masko, adding that he think the O-K Red is one of the toughest softball conferences in the state. "We have to be better hitters, the fielding has to get better, and the pitching does too. From what I heard, there were extreme amounts of errors last year, and extreme amount of strikeouts, and the hitting was subpar. It was just one of those years last year."
Masko, who used to be the Fruitport baseball head man, is a Grand Haven native.
"Really it's just hard work and defense, those are the main things," Masko said. "I don't think any coach can predict the amount of wins they're going to have, (but) anyone can put a stamp saying, 'We're going to work hard, we're going to enjoy the game of softball, and we're going to try our best every time we step on the field.’”
Grand Haven will utilize two sophomores from the pitcher’s circle whose similarities end at their graduation year.
Kylie Masko, will get things started for the Buccaneers. Masko is an ambidextrous pitcher, meaning she can switch hands from batter to batter — even in-between pitches.
"It is unique and fun to watch," Masko said. "Her job is to just get her opponents to mishit the ball, simple as that."
Kaylee Hartwell will bring heat in relief, complimenting the skillet of Masko.
FRUITPORT HAS BATS, DEPTH
The Fruitport softball team has two luxuries any coach would love to have — bats and depth.
"Our hitting has been really good," said coach Bob Dorman. "I'm hoping to duplicate years past where we can hit one through nine. That shouldn't be a problem."
Fruitport is hoping the combination can help them climb the ladder in the Lakes Eight Conference, after finishing in the middle of the pack last season.
"The girls that are on the team know that we didn't do the things we needed," Dorman said. "They have the focus and the desire. They really want conference, but for me it's district time, that's when we want to be playing our best ball."
Junior Andrea Benson will return as the Trojans’ primary pitcher, with several other players rotating in.
The Trojans will look to senior leadership from Lindsey Helsen, Alexis Black and Allison Beckwith.
Black is a utility player for Fruitport, having played third base, second, left field, right and catcher.
WMC HOPES TO UP COMPETITIVENESS
The WMC softball team is hoping to bounce back after a winless 2013.
"Our goal is to be competitive," said coach Jeff Nestell. "Overall, everyone’s goal is to win games. I think we'll win some, but our goal is to just be competitive."
With only one junior and one sophomore, the Warriors are loaded with seniors and freshmen.
Experience and new blood will make up the top part of the WMC batting order, with two freshmen and two seniors occupying the top spots.