Gielczyk: Future Bright for Gaylord Softball
Early spring is never kind to high school athletes in northern Michigan. Teams can’t practice outside and that’s especially difficult for baseball and softball squads. But this April was particularly horrendous as a record snowfall smothered the area and delayed the season even longer than usual.
Some teams were able to take off the moment they got outside on the diamond, track, golf links or tennis courts.
While it didn’t exactly set the world on fire by any means the Gaylord girls softball team produced some surprising results just the same in opening the season strong and currently stands 11-6 overall and 4-0 in the Big North Conference coming into the week.
It’s a small sample size. But there’s no doubting that the Blue Devils have sent an early message to the rest of the conference that they expect to stick around and aren’t about to go away.
Surprisingly coach Abe Cruz confides that he believes the reason behind Gaylord’s early success could be directly attributed to the bad weather that prevented the Blue Devils from getting out to practice on their field.
“Having to practice in the gym we’ve done a lot more hitting,” Cruz said. “It’s paying off. So I don’t mind practicing in the gym anymore.”
The Blue Devils are a young team with just three seniors and seven sophomores.
But the seniors have all exhibited excellent leadership qualities and are mentoring the younger players which has helped the Blue Devils come along much quicker than would ordinarily be expected.
Abby Beachnau and Ally Goff are both in their fourth year with the varsity while Emma Ealy has been on the varsity for two years. They’ve endured the lean years and are now reaping the rewards of their hard work and dedication.
Obviously there is still a lot of season left with the Blue Devils scheduled to play Alpena in a big BNC doubleheader next Tuesday and anything can happen in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re ready to give them a run for their money,” Cruz said. “We’re just going to play our type of ball. We’ve adopted a saying this year ‘We put the hammer down.’ It’s really happening.
“We’ve been able to mercy quite a few teams this year and once we get the bats going we don’t let up. The girls have bought into that program and it’s been working.”
Beachnau and Savanna Gapinski are both hitting around .500 for the season. Miranda Troy is also doing well with the bat as is Jaz Hagenbuch.
Everybody has been contributing both offensively and defensively, though, which is important with only 10 players on the varsity roster.
The defense was a little bit behind the offense at the beginning of the season because the Blue Devils hadn’t been outside and it’s impossible to work on fielding in the gym. It has tightened up recently with more time outside.
“We keep getting more comfortable in judging fly balls in a blue sky instead of under a roof,” Cruz said. “They know how to play the game. They know where to make the play and it’s starting to show.
“I keep telling the girls that we’re just going to keep building. Their confidence level is just continuing to girl as an individual, but better yet as a team. That’s what we’ve always tried to instill in our girls. You have to work as a team.”
Gaylord’s pitching has been stellar.
MacKenzie Wright, Hagenbuch and Troy started throwing in the winter and their commitment is reaping the Blue Devils major dividends now. They are all sophomores and will only get better.
All the ingredients are present for the Blue Devils to make a run at the conference title and in the post-season.
The future is even brighter.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.