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West Michigan Conference 2022 softball preview: Team-by-team capsules

Oakridge, Ravenna are the clear frontrunners again this season.

Oakridge’s softball program has been the benchmark in the West Michigan Conference in recent seasons with five straight league championships.

Last season, Ravenna rose up as the Bulldogs showed they’re ready to contend with the Eagles by earning a share of the conference title.

Those two teams should be the frontrunners again this season, which is underway and gets rolling in earnest after spring break.

Conference coaches were asked to anonymously predict the order of finish in the league. Here’s how it looks based upon the responses CatchMark received:

  • Oakridge
  • Ravenna
  • North Muskegon
  • Whitehall
  • Montague
  • Hart
  • Mason County Central
  • Shelby

Here are team-by-team preview capsules, arranged alphabetically:

Hart’s 2022 varsity softball team poses for a photo. (Courtesy of Hart softball)

HART PIRATES

Coach: Rocky Smith (8th season)

Last year’s records: 15-16 overall (3-9 WMC, fifth place)

Returning starters:

Skylar Smith (Sr., C/SS)

Finley Kistler (Sr., P/OF)

Morgan Marvin (Sr., OF)

Kloe Klotz (Sr., 3B/2B)

Audry Swihart (Sr., 2B/OF)

Mariana VanAgtmael (Jr., OF)

Abby Hicks (So., C/Utility)

Gabby Quijas (So., P)

Returning letterwinner:

Ella Smith (Sr., OF)

New varsity prospects:

Makayla Rockwell (Jr., 2B/DH)

Allysen Hopkins (So., 1B)

Gabryella Schmieding (So., P/SS/OF)

Returning stat leaders:

Skylar Smith (two-time all-conference, two-time all-region)

Morgan Marvin (all-district)

Kloe Klotz (all-district)

Season outlook:

Hart is looking to build upon its first district championship in program history. The Pirates have a great group of seniors, who will help lead the team in taking the next step for the program, said coach Rocky Smith. Hart will need to continue to improve at the plate and put together big innings offensively. The Pirates’ goals are to repeat as district champions and compete for a first-ever regional title while continuing to build the program. This is the first time in nine years that Hart has been able to field a full junior varsity team.

Mason County Central’s 2022 varsity softball team poses for a photo. (Courtesy of Mason County Central softball)

MASON COUNTY CENTRAL SPARTANS

Coach: Jonathan Blake (4th season; coaching softball more than 30 years)

Last year’s records: N/A

Returning players:

Jessica Gerbers (Sr.)

Keyara Peterson (Jr.)

Geralyn Soberalski (Jr.)

Alex Luttrell (Jr.)

Maxie Green (Jr.)

Wren Nelson (So.)

Riley Mast (So.)

Emily Adams (So.)

Aylin Davila (So.)

Sarah Keefer (So.)

New varsity prospect:

Gracie Weinert

Returning stat leader:

Alex Luttrell .545 BA in conference (all-conference and all-district as a sophomore last season)

Season outlook:

The Spartans have a young team this season, but they’re very athletic and skilled. Blake said it’s a very good group of girls and players. Strengths will likely be at the plate and defensively. Mason County Central should be solid in the infield and outfield. A weakness could be in their youth and young pitching, as their Nos. 1 and 2 are both sophomores.

MONTAGUE WILDCATS

Coach: Amy Myers (6th season)

Last year’s records: N/A

Returning starters:

Gabby Moreau

Presley Davis

Stacia Scheidegger

Returning letterwinners:

Alissa Wynn

Abby Thommen

New varsity prospects:

Kennedy Johnson

Kiara Mikkelsen

Season outlook:

Myers believes that defense will be Montague’s strength this season. The Wildcats feature good speed and ball tracking defensively. The coach said her pitchers are working hard and improving every day. Moreau returns to lead Montague after hitting seven home runs last season with plenty of extra-base power. She will be utilized across the infield and expected to do some catching again this season. Davis is another top returnee, who possesses good strength and bat speed. She’ll be expected to catch and play outfield as well as first base.

NORTH MUSKEGON NORSEMEN

Coach: Matt Houseman (5th season)

Last year’s records: 25-15 overall (9-5 WMC, tied for third place)

Returning starters:

Megan Houseman (Sr., P/C/OF)

Mattie Houseman (So., INF)

Onna Heikkila (Sr., OF)

Madison Balon (So., P/C/INF)

Rylee Cooper (So., INF)

Baila Lang (So., OF)

Returning letterwinners:

Josee Cooke (Sr.)

Lauren Dahlquist (So.)

New varsity prospects:

Serenity Pastor (Sr.)

Mia Perez (Fr.)

Mila Van Tol (Fr.)

Returning stat leaders:

Megan Houseman (.462 BA, 4 home runs, 24 RBIs, 41 stolen bases)

Rylee Cooper (.357 BA, 4 home runs, 41 RBIs, 40 stolen bases)

Madison Balon (.351 BA, 7 home runs, 52 RBIs)

Baila Lang (.306 BA, 7 home runs, 37 RBIs, 15 stolen bases)

Season outlook:

North Muskegon has some unknowns defensively and the Norse are working hard to figure those out, according to coach Houseman. Pitching should be solid this season with Balon and Houseman both returning. Offensively, the Norse lost a lot of firepower, particularly in multi-tool all-stater Emma Houseman, but Matt Houseman is confident his players will step up and play the aggressive brand of softball for which North Muskegon is known.

OAKRIDGE EAGLES

Coach: Joe Coletta (14th season)

Last year’s records: 34-5 overall (13-1 WMC, tied for first place)

Returning starters:

Brooklyn Galdeen (Sr., P/SS/3B)

Jasmine Pastor (Sr., 2B)

Delaney Ruel (Sr., CF)

Andrea Romero-Serano (Jr., C)

Madison Clark (So., 1B)

Ahria Doornbos (So., LF)

Mallori Whipple (So., RF)

Kaelinn Jozsa (So., P/SS/3B)

Returning letterwinner:

Kaley Coppege (Sr., OF)

New varsity prospects:

Gracie Willea (Fr., OF)

Madison Bowen (Fr., C)

Brenna Cabrera (Fr., 3B)

Kylee Willea (Fr., P/OF)

Returning stat leaders:

Brooklyn Galdeen (.512 BA, 12 home runs, 69 RBIs; 18-4 pitching record; Division 2 first-team all-state, all-conference)

Jasmine Pastor (.435 BA, 11 home runs, 66 RBIs; Division 2 first-team all-state, all-conference)

Kaelinn Jozsa (.393 BA, 6 home runs, 47 RBIs; 15-1 pitching record; all-conference, all-district)

Delaney Ruel (.389 BA, 38 RBIs; all-conference, all-district)

Ahria Doornbos (.377 BA; all-conference, all-district)

Andrea Romero-Serano (.377 BA, 5 home runs, 56 RBIs; all-conference honorable mention)

Madison Clark (.384 BA, 34 RBIs; all-conference honorable mention)

Mallori Whipple (.350 BA; all-conference honorable mention)

Season outlook:

The now-retired Coletta returns as Oakridge’s head coach after a one-year hiatus. Nothing has changed for the Eagles: Win the conference championship, win the county title, win district and regional crowns, and play in the final four at Michigan State with a shot at the state championship. Oakridge believes if it can execute fundamentals, make routine plays and not give opponents outs, it will be in good shape. Pitching and offense should be strengths, but the Eagles will have to find a replacement for all-state shortstop Hayden Ruel.

Ravenna’s 2022 varsity softball team poses for a photo. (Courtesy of Ravenna softball)

RAVENNA BULLDOGS

Coach: Dave Sherman (6th season)

Last year’s records: 25-5 overall (13-1 WMC, tied for first place)

Returning starters:

Liberty Willick (Sr., CF)

Maddie Kilbourne (Sr., SS/2B)

Emma Gillard (Jr., P/SS)

Kara Postema (Jr., C/3B)

Ellie Solem (Jr., OF/1B)

Kendra Denhof (So., 2B/C)

Returning letterwinners:

Alexis McMahon (Jr., OF)

Raven Millis (So., OF)

New varsity prospects:

Emma Herremans (Fr., 3B/P)

Addison Gillard (Fr., 1B/P)

Amelia Porter (Fr., OF)

Isolde Deal (Fr., OF)

Returning stat leaders:

Emma Gillard (.565 BA, 47 RBIs; 1.88 ERA)

Kara Postema (.443 BA, 49 RBIs)

Liberty Willick (.418 BA)

Season outlook:

Ravenna shared the West Michigan Conference title with Oakridge last season as the teams split their league doubleheader. The Bulldogs feature several key returnees from that squad, plus they have an influx of some serious talent, so expectations are high again this season.

SHELBY TIGERS

Coach: Harmony Blount (4th season)

Last year’s records: N/A

Returning starters:

Kendall Zoulek (Sr.)

Kaylynn Clark (Sr.)

Daphne Clark (Sr.)

Megan Sly (Sr.)

Ally Corey (Sr.)

Jackie Hammerle (Sr.)

Claire Gowell (Jr.)

Remington Johnson (So.)

Returning leaders:

As an all-district shortstop and all-conference honorable mention recipient, Kendall Zoulek will look the lead the charge for the Tigers in the 2022 season. Zoulek will be a threat at the plate and is the returning leader for hits and RBI’s in 2021. Pitcher and catcher duo Daphne and Kaylynn Clark are considered important assets for the Tigers as well. Both sisters held solid batting averages and played sound defense last season. These three players along with the additional three seniors will hold a big leadership role for Shelby softball in 2022.

Season outlook:

Blount is excited to coach the senior class that she has worked with for the past four years. The fourth-year coach is hopeful for many more wins and to be competitive in the conference. With limited errors and consistent pitching, Shelby hopes to be right in the mix with the league’s best competitors.

WHITEHALL VIKINGS

Coach: Denis Koegel (3rd season)

Last year’s records: N/A

Returning starters:

Kyleigh Martin (Sr., P/SS)

Alexis Taylor (Sr., OF)

Alyssa Taylor (Sr., 2B)

Illeana Hatcher (Sr., 3B)

Hailey Carnes (Jr., OF)

Onnyka Dempsey (Jr., SS)

New varsity prospects:

Anela Hyrns (Jr., 1B)

Chase Baker (Jr., OF)

Lucy Tucker (Jr., P/1B)

Evelyn Darke (Fr., C)

Lianne Fagan (Fr., INF/OF)

Megan LeaTrea (Fr., INF/OF/P)

Returning stat leaders:

Kyleigh Martin .395 BA, 14 home runs, 44 RBIs; as a pitcher, 236 strikeouts

Illeana Hatcher 38 stolen bases

Season outlook:

According to Koegel, Whitehall should be six to eight games better than last year in the win column. The Vikings’ pitching will be anchored by Martin, who enjoyed a breakout season last year. Newcomer Megan LeaTrea will be one to watch in the circle as well. Offensively, Martin is poised to lead the way, but Hatcher will be a force in the batter’s box and on the base paths. Offensive upgrades should provide Martin with much more run support than she had last year. With that said, three freshmen in the starting lineup could make for some growing pains early in the season, especially considering the difficulty of the Vikings’ early-season schedule.

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Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Scott Broton

    April 5, 2022 at 10:10 am

    One would think Ravenna has the same aspirations as Oakridge with their goals. Securing a share of the Conference Title last. year. Some of the very best talent coming through in the County for the next several years, They are primed to challenge every year.

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