During the course of Harper Creek softball’s historic season, head coach Ryan Renner has turned to a pair of names he knows he can count on.
Burritt and Shellenberger.
Those two names actually show up four times on the Beavers roster by way of sister duos Brianne and Haley Burritt and Paige and Taylor Shellenberger.
And each talented sibling has played a huge role in guiding Harper Creek to Saturday’s Division 2 regional at Carleton Airport, where the Beavers will play Tecumseh in a noon semifinal.
“They’re all hard-workers. Positive attitudes. They’ve got experience, they’ve all played for years and years so that makes it easy,” Renner said of the sister teammates. “Their dads are both big on softball, so from a young age, they’ve been coached to play hard and play the right way. It makes it real easy for me, knowing I have four girls out there that automatically I can count on to know what to do when they get the ball and to know what to do in certain situations and can execute.”
Harper Creek is 35-3 on the season, marking the most wins in school history. The Beavers will take on a Tecumseh team that is 28-5-3 overall. Also playing in the regional round this weekend will be Coldwater and Sturgis (Division 2) as well as Homer and Bronson (Division 3).
In her four varsity seasons, senior shortstop/catcher Brianne Burritt has re-written the Harper Creek record books for games played, runs scored, RBIs and hits. This year, the 18-year-old is hitting .405 with nine doubles, two triples, a home run, 26 RBIs and 40 runs scored. Perhaps most impressively, she only has four strikeouts in her 106 at bats.
Haley Burritt, a junior centerfielder, is hitting slightly better than her big sister with a .427 batting average. Along with playing steller defense, the 16-year-old has collected nine doubles, two triples, 26 RBIs and 40 runs scored this season, striking out a mere six times in 103 at bats.
Playing sports together is nothing new for the Burritt’s. Brianne and Haley suited up for the varsity basketball team this winter. And Brianne also played softball along side her older sister Ashley Burritt, who recently completed her sophomore season for the Kellogg Community College softball team.
“(We played) basketball and softball, t-ball growing up,” Brianne said. “We argue sometimes, but we’re still teammates. It’s been good to be with our teammates and our sisters.”
Paige Shellenberger, a junior outfielder, has given the Beavers some extra-base power to go along with her defensive abilities. The 17-year-old is hitting .401 with five doubles, four triples, 36 RBIs and a team-best 45 runs scored.
Taylor Shellenberger, a freshman pitcher, represents the Beavers best chance of winning now and in the future. The 15-year-old hurler is batting a team-best .490, with 15 doubles, three triples, a home run, 34 RBIs and 29 runs scored. In the circle, she owns a 32-3 record, a 3.29 ERA with 205 strikeouts over 214 innings pitched.
According to Renner, the siblings all know how to have fun together while also remaining focused on the task at hand.
“They’ll have a little fun now and then. For the most part we stay loose and try to have a good time with it,” Renner said. “Good or bad, they let each other know and are real close on the diamond and off the diamond. Just good kids who get along well.”
Of course, Harper Creek’s sibling quartet couldn’t rack up all those numbers by themselves. The Beavers have six seniors leading the way this season, including four in their fourth varsity season. Senior catcher Christa Moody now owns the school-record for triples in a season with nine, and has set the program benchmark for career triples, extra base hits and batting average.
It has been quite the spring for athletes at Harper Creek. Over the final days of the school year, the boys’ track and field team won a regional title, the girls’ tennis team advanced to the state finals, and the baseball and softball teams captured district championships.
“Attitudes have been great,” Renner said. “Everybody I think is happy with the way things are going right now, and hopefully we can bring home a couple of trophies, if not one this weekend at regionals, and we can close out the school year on a high note.”