By Ben Murphy
The Clare Lady Pioneers narrowly missed out on a Jack Pine Conference title last season, going 28-10 overall and 12-2 in the JPC, fi nishing second place to Merdian. Seven return from that squad, giving fifth year head coach Jeff Albert plenty of weapons to get over the top for the league title.
“It’s an all around great group of kids and athletes,” Albert said. “They’re excited to start playing. They definitely want to win the conference and do well in the post-season and they know what they have to do to obtain those goals. They’ve been working really hard in practice, it’s a self-motivated group for sure.”
Returning to the team are seniors Melissa Benchley (third base, all-state team), Courtney English (center field, all-regional), Ashley Petree (pitcher, infi eld, outfield), juniors Lindsay Winter (shortstop), Bailey Reger (catcher), Katya Halfman (pitcher) and sophomore Mckenzie Thayer (pitcher, utility).
“Our seniors, they’re true leaders, they’ve all played varsity since they were freshman or sophomores and they’ve been in all the situations,” Albert said. “They’re good about helping girls out. It goes all the way down, we have a good group of juniors that also have played a lot and they have passed their knowledge down and lead by example.”
New to the team are juniors Laura Walton (infield, outfi eld), Alex Stark (outfield), Becca Fisch (outfield, third base), Cassidy Campbell (utility) and Danielle Foley (utility).
The coach expects the competition in the JPC to be as fierce as ever.
“There’s no team that anybody can sleep on,” Albert said. “I think they’re a lot of tough teams. Beaverton and Meridian are always tough, Farwell is going to be tough too. There isn’t any game that we can’t go in 100 percent ready to play.
There’s a lot of good coaching and talented players that can make a difference in a softball game in the Jack Pine.”
Clare opens its season April 16, hosting Gaylord.