The Harper Creek softball program has been down the postseason road with a trip to the regionals many times in recent years – but the Beaver players and head coach on this year’s team are mostly new to it.
Harper Creek has advanced to the MHSAA softball regionals for a third straight season, as schools throughout the state will be in competition on Saturday looking for a spot in the state quarterfinals.
Harper Creek will play in a Division 2 regional at Chelsea High School.
Gull Lake is also playing in Division 2 regional action at Otsego, and Bronson will be in a Division 3 regional at Bronson.
When the Beavers face Carleton Airport in a regional semifinal, there will only be one Harper Creek player playing in the same spot as she did last year in the regional. And the Beavers have a new head coach.
“Heading into the year, we had new people in new positions everywhere basically. We have kind of tinkered with people in different positions all season and we finally found the right nine and we have started to gel,” said first-year head coach Bill Burritt.
Burritt had helped out on the softball varsity staff the last few years as Harper Creek advanced to the regionals, but this is his first season as the skipper.
“It’s a big adjustment. Instead of just helping out, I have that extra responsibility. But I’ve enjoyed it, the kids have been great,” Burritt said. “It helps that I have been here and the kids know me.”
It isn’t a totally new Harper Creek team heading into the regionals, as the Beavers do have four returners who played in the postseason last year. It’s just that only one of them is playing the same position.
Harper Creek’s top pitcher Taylor Shellenberger took the mound in the regionals last year and will do the same this weekend, even though she is just a sophomore.
Beaver senior Paige Shellenberger was a starting outfielder last year and now plays second base. Senior Haley Burritt also played in the outfield last year and has moved to shortstop. And senior Sadie Weller was a role player last season, but starts in the outfield this year.
Add those old faces in new places to the rest of a team of first-year varsity players, including two freshman starters in Katie Wade and Anna Pascoe, and seemingly everybody will be in for a new experience at regionals.
“This week it’s all about making sure the girls aren’t nervous. We know there’s going to be a lot of nerves with so few players being in this position before. So we are going to go over to regionals early, get acclimated and let everything sink in,” Burritt said. “But they are excited about the opportunity and realize this is special as they are one of the few area teams still practicing this week.”
If Harper Creek gets by Carleton Airport in the regional semifinal, the Beavers will play the winner of Tecumseh/Melvindale in the regional final.
Division 2 Regionals
Gull Lake will face No. 4 Stevensville-Lakeshore in a regional semifinal at Otsego.
Gull Lake defeated Plainwell in a district title game, 5-1
Stevensville-Lakeshore edged St. Joseph, 2-1, to take the district crown. Stevensville-Lakeshore has won six state championships under current coach Denny Dock.
The winner of Gull Lake/Stevensville-Lakeshore will face the winner of Paw Paw vs. Parchment.
Division 3 Regionals
Bronson, at 35-4, will face Hartford in a regional semifinal at Bronson
No. 2 ranked Bronson defeated Constantine, 10-0, to win a district crown.
Hartford defeated Watervliet, 3-1, to win its district title.
Coloma and Comstock will play in the other side of the regional in a semifinal.