GLADWIN – Spring sports came to an abrupt end on March 12, but not before Gladwin Softball Coach Carl Schuler got a chance to appraise his 2020 team. He had a big turnout for tryouts and was excited about the teams potential. “We had a big influx of freshmen which boosted our numbers,” said Schuler. “Those girls have a lot of experience playing travel ball.”
The Flying G’s were also going to say goodbye to five seniors this year which unfortunately is happening much sooner than originally expected. Veteran leaders Sydney Conley and Grace Beardsley were selected to be the captains before the season was cancelled. Beardsley was going to split her time between shortstop and pitching. She does not have a lot of experience on the mound, but had thrown a few innings last season and over the summer to prepare for this year. Schuler mentioned that, “she is a great athlete with a good arm and range, she is smart and loves the game.” Beardsley signed with Delta College to play softball last winter.
Conley is willing to play anywhere according to Schuler. “She has a lot of speed,” which makes her a natural for centerfield, but can also play the middle infield positions. She will probably play some shortstop when Beardsley is pitching. “She is just an all around good player and person,” said Schuler. Brooke McKeever and Summer Newman will play the “corner outfield” positions. McKeever has recovered from an injury and “really improved this year.” Schuler was excited to see what she could do this year.
Newman spent some time in the outfield last season and is a “good athlete,” added Schuler. Killeen Kladder is the fifth senior on the team. “She always works hard and gives 100 percent,” said Schuler. “She is the type of person that every team needs, she is always engaged and tries to help out any way she can.” She would also play somewhere in the outfield.
The junior class was going to be the largest for the G’s with eight girls playing this year. Chloe Kokotovich is the most experienced of the group. She was brought up to varsity as a sophomore last year and caught every game. She would continue to do a lot of catching this year, but was also likely to have gotten some time at first and third base. Kokotovich was expected to provide some power to the Gladwin lineup. She drove in a lot of runs and had multiple homeruns last season. “She has the type of attitude you can’t teach,” said Schuler. “She is going to get it done.”
Other juniors included; Emma Schwan who was called up for the tournament last season. She will play one of the corner infield positions depending upon the lineup configuration. Kaitlynn Conley will also play either first or third base. “She loves and knows the game,” according to Schuler. Kierra McGourty will play either second base or right field. Schuler mentioned that she “just needs more playing time to become more confident.”
Addy Norman is a “fireball” according to Schuler. She has a good strong arm and good glove. Another player with a strong arm is Shayna Evans. Alexis Bulloch and Lauren Shell will play wherever they are
needed. Both work hard and want to get better. With so little practice time before the cancellation it was hard for Schuler to get a feel the strengths and weaknesses of some of the girls making the varsity team for the first time.
Three freshmen were also ticketed to play with the varsity this season. Delaney Conley, Maelen Guzman and Maddie Cantrell were to make their varsity debuts. Even though she entered the season as a freshman Conley was probably the most experienced pitcher. She has pitched a lot in travel ball and works very hard at it. Cantrell has “great softball sense.” Schuler says she has a great mind for the game and can do everything at the plate. She bunts well and can be counted to move runners along by putting the ball in play. The addition of Guzman was good news for Kokotovich. She is a good catcher who will split time behind the plate and allow her to play elsewhere.
The addition of Pinconning and Shepherd is going to make the top end of the Jack Pine Conference more competitive; both programs are traditional powers in mid Michigan. Beaverton and Meridian should also be good this season making for an exciting conference race. Schuler mentioned that with the prevalence of summer leagues most of the teams are familiar with one another. The girls have played with or against players from most of the better teams.