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Varsity softball adds youth and looks to take OK white conference

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Behind first-year head coach Jasmine Watson, along with plenty of junior talent, the FHC varsity softball team looks to take over the Lowell Red Arrows for a conference title this season. After falling one game short to Lowell last season late in the year, this season provides a big opportunity to avenge last year’s second place conference finish.

“It was a huge accomplishment to earn second place in the conference,” junior captain Molly Donovan said. “Our softball program has not been traditionally successful and last year was the first season in a long time we were able to make a name for ourselves. Losing to Lowell left a bad taste in our mouths, especially because they only beat us by one run. We’re looking to have a winning conference record again this year, and redeeming ourselves in the Lowell series will be a big part of that.”

Despite the one run loss in the all-or-nothing title game, the Rangers still managed to finish with a 25-13 record, and a 13-5 conference record. FHC picked up sweeps against Ottawa Hills and Northview throughout OK white play.

FHC also had big successes on the weekends of last year, placing in two tournaments. After taking second in the Reeths Puffer invite, they again placed second in the Holland invite after a one-run loss to the West Ottawa Panthers.

This year will provide a new and revitalized look for many reasons in the Ranger dugout, as Watson takes over the reigns of a young FHC team.

“Coming in as a new head coach definitely came with a transition, but I had help from a few of our upperclassmen to make it easy,” Watson said. “Our expectations this year are to compete in every game and the wins will come.”

With only one senior on the roster from FHN, captain Hannah Miller, the Rangers will look to Molly, along with fellow juniors Tori Macleod and former all-conference outfielder Alex VanElls. Tori and Hannah will be huge to give FHC an effective one-two punch throughout their season.

“Their success on the mound will be huge this year,” Watson said. “If they hold their own in the circle, that will keep us in games and allow our hitters to get us some runs.”

Tori was thrilled to have Hannah join in with FHC, after pitching for her whole freshman season due to the lack of other pitchers on their roster. She will also play some outfield and corner infield when she isn’t in the circle.

“To be honest, it feels amazing to be able to play other positions, especially if I can contribute more somewhere else,” said Tori, who enters her third year on varsity. “Freshman year was hard because it seemed as though I had to be more than I was in order to do what was needed for the team. Having to pitch game after game gets repetitive and can seem like an endless task, so having Hannah take over that position has honestly been a blessing. After pitching as much as I did freshman year, I really just wanted to have the ability to get out of that position every once in a while.”

Molly will also be a huge keystone this year, after an all-conference and all-area selection last year. After hitting .426 with 46 RBIs and 38 runs, she made herself known as one of the biggest offensive threats in the OK white.

She also provides a huge base stealing threat and adds a plus glove to the infield. She’ll find herself in the three or the five spot in the batting order, and locking down shortstop in the infield.

“I hope this year I can continue to play at my best in order to contribute to the team,” Molly said. “If everyone on the team does what they can to get on base and score runs and then go out on defense and make the routine plays, we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Regardless of some youth being forced into big roles, FHC has two experienced pitchers, an all-conference shortstop, and an all-conference outfielder still returning. The Rangers will look to make a run with Lowell for a conference title.

“This team is already such a cohesive unit that once we get going I think we’ll be hard to stop,” Molly said. “If we play with enough heart and intensity I truly believe we can beat anyone out there. We have the skill and the unity, we just have to continue to execute every inning of every game.”

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Varsity softball adds youth and looks to take OK white conference