2018-04-05 / Sports

Eagles spring into ‘18 with hopes high

Bear Lake, Frankfort join district ranks

Lake Leelanau St. Mary’s path to a second straight district softball championship became a whole lot more difficult over the offseason.

Teresa Szur is well aware.

“Gone is Bellaire and back is Frankfort,” said Szur, the athletic director and softball coach at St. Mary. “We’re also welcoming Bear Lake into that mix — who has a number of players that are right where we are in the development of their program.

“Suttons Bay is going to be tougher this year, as they were really young, and their coaches did a great job with that crew in teaching them the game and fundamentals. Glen Lake is a perennial power, and you know Gary Galla will have them chomping at the bit to prove they are the team to beat. Add that to the success their basketball program just enjoyed, and you know their confidence is riding high going into the season. And then there is Frankfort, a team you have to beat as they will not beat themselves. It’s as tough a district as some of the Class A ones I’ve seen downstate.”

On the plus side, St. Mary gets to host the district — and Szur’s Eagles aren’t bad themselves.

St. Mary brings back nine players, including three all-county juniors, from a team that won the district and finished 23-10 a season ago. Those all-county juniors are catcher Alexandra Kirt, pitcher Shannon Popp and third baseman Jenna Sumner.

“I’m excited about our team and the possibilities,” Szur said. “We have several key players returning, and their attitude has been fantastic, led by our senior leadership from Lexi Schaub, Emily Rice-Burch and Christy Ball.”

Glen Lake, meanwhile, will lean on senior leaders Katie Scott, Chavela Norconk and Kaylee Butts after putting together a 20-18 season a year ago.

The team will also lean on junior pitcher Kaitlyn Schaub, who landed an all-state honorable mention last year.

“She’s got a big bat,” said Glen Lake’s hall-of-fame coach, Gary Galla.

Galla said 22 girls signed up to play this year, enough for a JV team.

Among them are three returning starters: MKenz; Bowens, Reagan Middleton and Morgan Zywicki.

“In the district, St. Mary will be good,” Galla said. “Suttons Bay will be much improved. Frankfort is back in our district this year. Bear Lake, too.”

Suttons Bay, meanwhile, has about 11 players at its disposal this spring after graduating nine seniors. Five are returning starters: pitcher Tori Smith, shortstop Laura Hursey, pitcher and outfielder Grace Periard, third baseman Natalie Ingwersen and catcher Morgan Kohler.

Co-coach Keven Cross said in a tough Northwest Conference, the expectation is to compete.

“Our phrase is ‘prepare, produce and persevere,’” Cross said. “We want to keep building on what we built last year in terms of committing to play and compete. I think we showed some people that we could do some things, but being considerably younger this year, the challenge will be a little bit greater.

“Glen Lake, Kingsley and Frankfort are obviously the class of the conference, but we’ll do our best to compete each and every game.”

The team went 11-19 a year ago.

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