Vandercook Lake High School pitcher Maddie Smith earned the pitching win Friday during a 5-2 win over Quincy at home. Photo: Jeff Steers/JTV Sports.
The ‘Cook shall rise again?
By Jeff Steers
With two games remaining in the Cascades Conference softball season, the Vandercook Lake Jayhawks are in rare territory … one win away from winning a title.
The Jayhawks are 10-2 in the conference, one game ahead of Napoleon and Michigan Center.
Vandercook has not won a conference title in softball since 2004.
Coach Tim Hoffman said he worries about their opponent on Wednesday – Grass Lake – but not about his teams.
“This is a unique, coachable team that has experienced little drama,” Hoffman said. “It has been a lot of fun this season.”
The Jayhawks defeated Quincy Friday night at home, 5-2, in the opening round of the Al Glick Classic softball tournament. VCL will face the winner of Sand Creek/Napoleon Saturday at home beginning at 10 a.m.
Pitcher Maddie Smith is one of three seniors helping to lead the Jayhawks to a 26-6 record. Smith said success by the Jayhawks in other sports is paying off.
“It has been a year of record-breaking at our school,” Smith said. “The volleyball improved in wins, girls’ basketball improved, we had a state champion bowler again and now this.
“We have built this together.”
The Jayhawks are within striking distance of equaling the most wins in a season – 34 also set in 2004.
VCL appears to be doing it by committee, not one big player.
Case in point, six players are hitting better than .450 for the Jayhawks. Morgan Lefaive is hitting .593 with six triples to lead the team. Catcher/pitcher Mackenzie Johnson is hitting .550 with 40 RBIs. Kate Leach is hitting .546 with a team-high 43 RBIs.
Danielle Cheney is hitting .460 with four home runs, Olivia Applegate is hitting .458, and Kaely Howard has a .452 average.
Three other players are hitting better than .400 – Erika Cheney, Anne Leach and Abby Riddle.
Smith leads VCL with 18 wins on the mound and Johnson has added eight wins.
The Jayhawks have an overall fielding percentage of .920 for the season.
But the ultimate goal is to put all of it together with a banner on the wall.
“Winning a Cascades Conference title would mean a lot to the school, our community and our team,” Smith said. “As a senior, the younger players are listening to us more.”
But Smith realizes that Grass Lake can beat anyone in the conference.
“We can’t go in there with big heads,” Smith said. “Our saying is we will build it together … and it has worked.”
Grass Lake (14-8) will travel to Vandercook Lake on Wednesday with a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. At 8-4 in the Cascades Conference, the Warriors still have an outside chance of earning a share of the conference title with a lot of help.
Both Michigan Center and Napoleon are 9-3 heading into the final conference doubleheader of the season. Napoleon will host Hanover-Horton Tuesday and the Cardinals will host Addison with both doubleheaders beginning at 4 p.m.