By Amanda Allie

aallie@my.madonna.edu

The Madonna Crusaders softball team has a tough season ahead of them.

In the first 30 games, the Crusaders will play 12 teams that are ranked nationally, according to Head Coach Al White.

They start the season March 2 in Panama, Fla., facing the 17th-ranked team, and play their second game against the fourth-ranked team in the country.

White, who has been Madonna' head coach for 15 years, has been with the program since it started in 1989. A spirited man, White beamed when talking about all his players, and was pleased at the good competition on the schedule. 

"If you want to be one of the best you have to be the best or play the best," White said.
 
Madonna has four newcomers and 13 returning players this season. Promising newcomers include Angela Pavilanis, a pitcher from Flat Rock with a great, hard throw; Kasey Trierweiler, a talented shortstop from Grand Ledge who is bound to see a lot of playing time; Karleigh Crayton, a shortstop from North Farmington with great enthusiasm and a straight-A average; and Bree Crampton, a pitcher from New Baltimore who also carries straight A's.

Returning players include two seniors, Hallie Minch (pictured at left), the team’s No. 1 pitcher and an outfielder from Garden City; and Kiley Thornton, a strength in the outfield from Ida, Mich.

Minch showed her excitement for the upcoming season when she was asked what she was looking forward to.

"All the games. I love that I have been given the opportunity to play after high school, and I can't believe it's coming to an end. It's all fun for me."
 
White says excitement is an emotion that the whole team shares, as well as being scared and nervous. Madonna softball seems to have the perfect combination of reputation, skill, and spirit. The team is in very good shape and works on defense constantly. White said if you have good defense and good pitching, chances are you are going to be in good shape.

"You can play anyone," he added.
 
Incoming freshmen Crayton shared a smile that was familiar to her coach and her teammates surrounding her at practice.

"I'm looking foward to traveling the most, and our spring break trip," she said. "Above all, I'm looking forward to hanging out with my amazing teammates. Everyone is so nice, and I love them all."
 
White also made it a point to attribute his enjoyment of being a coach and the team’s great success to the privilege of having wonderful assistant coaches.

Baseball

Madonna's baseball team has a strong season ahead of them. Their roster consists of 45 players, over 20 new to the team. The team has many promising newcomers including Matt Cook, a right-handed pitcher/infielder and a junior from Ontario; Josh Vandemark, a right-handed pitcher and a junior from Ohio; and Josh Deeg, a right-handed pitcher and outfielder from Lake Orion. These men are only three of the six right-handed junior college pitchers the team has to offer.

The team has won six conference titles in the last seven years, and plans on winning a seventh this year. They are currently in pre-season and will start their season on February 9th vs. Oregon Institute of Technology in Costa Mesa, CA. From there they will visit Tennessee and Florida. Their biggest area competitors this year are Davenport and Indiana Tech.

Head Coach Greg Haeger welcomes back Jeremy Gooding (pictured at left) of Livonia this year, a junior and Criminal Justice major, who was named First-Team All-American last year and Pre-season All-American this year. Gooding, a right-handed pitcher, has been playing baseball for sixteen years.

"The first thing I think about when I step onto the field is winning for myself and for my teammates," Gooding said. "I love coming to practice, and have dreamed of being drafted ever since I was a kid. I think that dream may come true. My ultimate goal for this season is focusing on helping our team win the National Championship," he added. 

Haeger is confident in his squad and counting on his seniors to hold the floor. Among them, Billy Hardin, Garrett Rebain, Andy Omilian, Drew Adamiec, and Dan Harder are having a strong, committed preseason. According to Hardin, a Criminal Justice Major and infielder, the only sad part of this season is that it will eventually come to an end.

"I'm going to miss going out there and playing the game," Hardin stated dismayingly. "I love my teammates, I love the excitement of being on the field, and I love winning."

Haeger is especially thankful for his exceptional coaching staff, and feels privileged to share his passion for baseball with all 45 young men. He is looking forward to this season, and plans on having a successful one. He also attributes the great success of Madonna Baseball to its well-groomed baseball field.

"I'm most excited about the talent we have here. We brought in a lot of new players and have a lot of good pitching. I'm really excited to see it go out on the field," Haeger commented.


 



Sports

Softball faces tough schedule; baseball fields young team