While Lowell High School seniors have had their last day of classes, spring sports are still wrapping up. The Lowell Varsity Softball team of 14 has 6 seniors who will see the season through until the end. There are two home games remaining. The May 22nd game is Community Day and a salute to the team’s seniors.
Welcoming Coach Mel
First year head coach Melissa Trainor may be new to Lowell, but has a long history with the game of softball. Trainor played collegiate softball at University of Wisconsin – Madison. She has been a Michigan High School Athletic Association coach since 2012 involved with Sparta’s JV program and East Grand Rapids varsity team prior to coming to Lowell. “With the intentions of only coaching one season to help them out, I realized that I was a better teacher of the game than I was aware I could be and here I am 6 years later still coaching.” she says of the transition from player to coach. “Being a walk-on for the Badgers, I found myself having to understand the game differently than I ever had to in High School in order to succeed at that level with my skill sets and that has helped me tremendously as a coach.”
Trainor has found the Lowell community to be welcoming and supportive. Advice and guidance during her first year came from Athletic Director Dee Crowley, baseball coach Juston Miller, and previous coach Bill McElroy. And leading the varsity team is not done as an individual. Trainor eagerly gives props to her coaching staff and assistants, saying they supported her endeavors and challenged her throughout the season becoming friends and confidants in the process.
On the Field
Team photo. Photo courtesy of Heather Eveland.Six seniors on the team this year contribute on and off the field in various roles and will leave some big shoes to fill next year. However, it’s Trainor’s hope that the coaching staff and members of the team have helped them find a confidence which will carry on after high school.
The team began the season with four new coaches having to get to know a new team. In order to be successful as a team throughout the season, trust and confidence were needed to continue forward progress. In instances where athletes were involved in a winter sport, coaches weren’t able to get to know the players until the week of the first practice. Part of the bonding process early on was a training trip to Alabama during spring break. Team dinners, morning coffee meetings, and other bonding efforts helped turn 14 individuals into a single team. “The girls have been outstanding at buying into the process and learning to be teammates on and off the field.” says Trainor of building a group where individual and team play are both important.
Senior Focus: Emily Depew
Emily Depew has been played softball all four years in high school. She started playing in 5th grade when some of her friends were also getting into the sport. It was also a way for her to bond with her dad. “I love the competition and that feeling of winning.” says Depew of the game. But she has also faced challenges over the years having to overcome injuries. Aside from the typical bumps, bruises, and sprains, Depew has broken her foot twice and recently had carpal tunnel surgery, the last of which was the most difficult to come back from. But these setbacks have only made her a better player.
The senior’s main position is that of pitcher but she’s able to play anywhere on the field. On being the team’s main pitcher she says, “I love being a pitcher because I like being part of every single play. It is the best feeling in the world when the game is on the line and I strike someone out.” But she’s also aware the opposing team can feel the same. “It is a lot of pressure because that feeling can be reversed too.”
Depew says the team has a respect for all players regardless of individual roles on the team. She enjoys the give and take of support as the team is there for each other on and off the field. Depew will continue to play at Saginaw Valley State University next year. “I am very thankful to my family, team and coaches that have helped me become the player I am today.” she says as high school ball comes to an end.
Two Home Games Remain
Those looking to catch the Lowell High School Softball Varsity team in action have two opportunities before the regular season ends. Wednesday, May 22 is Community Day with activities and games taking place on the field behind Cherry Creek Elementary. The team invites the community to come and play games, have ice cream, pick up some swag, and get autographs from players. Seniors on the team will also be recognized. Festivities will be 4pm-8pm with the game starting at 5:15pm. The final home game, also taking place behind Cherry Creek, will be Tuesday, May 28 at 4:15pm.:
The team’s current record is 19-6 and if they win this week’s series against Northview they’ll clinch the first place conference title for the third year in a row. Post-regular season play will begin June 1. Lowell will face Northview again in the first round of district play.
While nearly half of the team will graduate this year, there are current juniors eager to take on starting spots, some of which have already been placed in these roles due to positive commitment and ownership of their roles on the team. In the off-season the team will continue to train open gyms focusing on hitting, defense, hitting/pitching, and pitching/catching. Trainor is eager to see what next year’s team has in store. But first her focus will be ending the current season on a high note. Looking back at the season she sees what were once challenges for herself and the team as blessings. Each challenge has helped her as a coach or a positive change for the team. She will take these lessons learned into her second year as the head coach for the team.
Stats, schedule, and team information can be found at the Lowell Softball page of Red Arrow Sports. Go Red Arrows!