Marion softball looks to build on successful 2018 season

April 11, 2019

By Aaron Michell
Sports Writer

Marion Softball looks to build upon successful 2018 campaign
Following a 20-10 season that culminated in a district championship, expectations are high for the Marion softball team heading into 2019.

Losing three seniors to graduation, new head coach Ryan Raymond expects big things from his returning squad.

“We would like to compete for the conference championship,” Raymond said. “We’re hosting districts, this year, so it’d be nice to bring home a second district trophy in a row, and try to lengthen our stretch through the regionals finals”

With only one senior – all-conference pitcher and infielder Hayle Miller – on this year’s squad, Raymond isn’t going to let the “young team” label be an excuse to underachieve.

“We have to come to work every day, in practice,” Raymond said. “We have to make sure we’re mentally prepared in the games. We can’t stress fundamentals enough. If we do all the things that we should, and few of the things that we shouldn’t, we’ll be alright.”

Competing in the West Michigan D League for the first time, the Eagles will enter the season as one of the favorites to win the conference.

“Bear Lake is going to be good; they have some pretty solid returning players,” Raymond said. “Mesick has a real strong team. Mason County Eastern, traditionally is a very good team – their trophy case is loaded with regional and state championships.”

The Eagles return Miller, along with junior all-area standout Rylie Richards, and fellow all-conference performers Teagan Cox and Payton Raymond. The balanced squad features one senior: Miller; six juniors: Richards, Cox, Ali Bell, Aspen Lagrow, Lexi Salisbury, and Riley Kishnick; five sophomores: Raymond, Aarin Hall, Lexi Bain, Lyly Schwab, and Nicolette Maddox; and two freshman: Emily Barron and Jersey Scott.
“Hayle is probably one of the most versatile players on our team,” Raymond said. “She can realistically play all nine positions, which is tough to come by. She doesn’t lack when we switch her from one position to another. If she can maintain her level of play throughout some of those transitions between positions – until we figure out what our best lineup looks like, defensively – we’re hoping Haylie can play pretty strong for us.”
Rylie Richards, coming off a huge 2018 campaign as a sophomore, will look to improve upon that success in 2019.

“Rylie Richards is a powerhouse all-around,” Raymond said. “If she can have a repeat of last year, that will be great.”

Richards, who had a huge season at the plate, thinks she can do even better personally and has high hopes for her team.

“I need to focus on my batting; working on my power: more home runs, triples,” Richards said. “We’re very solid as team, we communicate well and we’re close – in and out of softball. Districts and regionals we have a very good chance.”

Raymond has high hopes for his hitters up-and-down the lineup, including junior Teagan Cox.

“Teagan Cox is a powerhouse with the bat,” Raymond said. “She’s our center fielder. All-conference, all-area, all-district last year. How hard she hits the ball – her exit velocity – is ridiculously good. We have really high expectations for her.”

Cox, after a solid 2018 campaign, hopes to gain confidence and skills throughout the season. And she knows her team is capable of doing great things, if they can stay focused.

“We’d like to get farther in the playoffs. We need to stay focused, and work towards our goals all the time, every practice.”

On the mound, the Eagles will rely on Miller, Richards, junior Riley Kishnick, and sophomore Payton Raymond to handle much of the pitching duties.

“Peyton, she’s played a lot of games in the offseason, AAU and travel ball, so if she comes out and doesn’t get too anxious on the mound or at the plate, she’ll have a good year,” Raymond said.

The Eagles will look to get plenty of production from their sophomores and freshmen as well.

“We’re looking to have another strong season from sophomore catcher Nicolette Maddox,” Raymond said. “She also plays travel ball and has a lot of experience too. We’re also looking for some help from freshman Jersey Scott. She’s got a lot of upside. She’s an all-around good athlete.”

Raymond credits the use of the Marion Athletic Complex [MAC] for helping his players improve over the last few seasons.

“The MAC has been a blessing – and it’s not just this generation, it’s the generations coming up below us too,” Raymond said. “It’s there, and it’s a facility that not many others have, and we’re very thankful to have it. These kids that you see in front of you have also put a ton of hours in the offseason to work on their game and get better. Hopefully that showcases on the field this season.”

As the lone senior on the team, Hayle Miller wants this season to be her best yet.

“As a team, I just want to do really well,” Miller said. “Last year we made it really far, and I want us to work together as a team. Personally, I want to achieve my goals and make sure this season is fun. We want to win districts again, and play our hardest. We want to bond as a team and play our best.”
If the Eagles are to achieve those goals, communication and hard work will be a big reason why.

“We have to work together, communicate,” Richards said. “We have to close relationships and work hard in practice. We need to treat every practice like we’re about to go into a game. We work hard in practice like we’re in a game and stay focused.”

The Eagles open their season Monday, traveling to the Art Van Complex in Rockford to play their former Highland Conference foe, the Pine River Bucks. Game starts at 4:00 pm.





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