Morenci softball preview 4.9

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci softball coach Kay Johnson has a lot to like about this year’s squad.

There was no one lost to graduation. Her pitcher is back after missing last season with an injury. She gained an experienced player who moved back into the district. And she has the most talented freshman class that she’s seen in a long time.

Cause for celebration?

Maybe a muted one. There’s defending league champion Sand Creek that also has everyone back. There’s state semi-finalist Summerfield with plenty of girls returning. There’s Clinton, new to the league, with three state finals appearances in the last half dozen years. There’s always tough Whiteford.

“We should have one of the best small-school leagues around,” Johnson said.

She’s said that before in the past, but it seems to ring true more than ever this season.

At least she has a squad ready to enter the fray—with one important “if.” That’s Jade Pfund who missed last season on the mound. She underwent surgery in August and so far it appears that she’s ready to throw.

“If Jade can pitch and we can hit like we did last year, we should be in pretty good shape,” Johnson said.

She’s hoping to see her offense hold strong from last season, perhaps even improve.

“We scored a lot of runs last year because we had to,” she said.

The Bulldogs were giving up a lot of runs with inexperienced pitching and some rookie defensive players. With all of the defense played last season, she’s expecting improvements from a more experienced team.

Three seniors will return to their positions from last season—Rachel Rutkowski in the outfield, Salena Martinez behind the plate and Brooke Barrett at first.

Two juniors will also return to their old positions—Megan Cox in the outfield and Nicolette Swimmer at shortstop.

Sophomore Chanler McCaskey will take third base and Mariah Bovee, who was unexpectedly thrust onto the mound last year, will handle second. Denae Merillat will return to the outfield.

Pfund, a junior, completes the lineup after playing only six innings all season last year.

Junior Jackie Paris is back on the team and junior Dana Joughin is back after missing last season.

Sophomore Krystal Miles returns and Alexis Kramer is back in Morenci after starting last year for Madison.

Last season the Bulldogs worked with 12 players for most of the season. This year’s freshman class could almost field a team of its own with eight players out. There’s some good quality among the group, good enough to challenge some upper classmen for starting roles.

Freshmen are Tess Ramsey, Meghan Smith, Tia Tompkins, Chelsea Tompkins, Mercedez McCaskey, Barbara Hollstein, Elaina Pruzinksy and Ashley Smith.

“We may start off a little slow while I’m looking over the positions,” Johnson said. “We might give up some non-league games to give the younger kids some experience.”

After the first two outings were canceled due to snow, Morenci is waiting until Thursday to open at Erie Mason. The Bulldogs will compete Saturday at the Grass Lake Invitational and will follow that up with a double-header Monday at Addison.

The league season starts April 18 at Madison and the home opener isn’t until April 23.

Coach Johnson is convinced the Bulldogs will be better than last season and possibly the best in several years. But with the quality of play in this year’s Tri-County Conference, fans will just have to wait and see if the improved Bulldogs are able to produce the wins.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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