Jack Anderson has been accustomed to high expectations during his more than three decades guiding the Portland softball program.
This spring, his team was a bit of an unknown quantity
The Raiders had limited varsity experience and entered the season with just three starters returning.
“We didn’t have a lot back, but I thought with the kids and the experience they had the year before that we could be pretty good,” Anderson said. “But at definitely no time would think that we were going to be playing in the quarterfinals.”
The quarterfinals is where Portland ended up as a team that relied primarily on freshman pitchers made improvements throughout the season. The Raiders, who made the deepest tournament run of mid-Michigan teams, finished 30-8 and won CAAC White, district and regional titles.
“We kept getting better,” said Anderson, the LSJ coach of the year. “Our pitching — I had to replace a kid that was a two-time all-stater and that was a dominating pitcher. Our pitchers had to do it more with control and also our defense had to be better this year and they were. It was a combination of those things.”
Anderson, who has won 879 games since taking over the Portland program in 1981, said this year’s team took in everything they could while working to get better. He also said it was much different than past teams.
“It wasn’t a team like we’ve had before where we had a dominating pitcher or somebody that can hit the ball out of the park,” Anderson said. “We’ve had teams that had 30 some home runs during the year. We had two home runs and that wasn’t part of our game. No matter if it was the No. 1 batter or the nine batter, somebody was always coming up and making a big play.
“It was the ability of this team and all of the kids to contribute, whether it was a courtesy runner, whether it was a pinch hitter, whether it was our designated hitter, or it was a starter. Every single one of those kids at some point in time stepped up and made huge, huge plays that made the difference in games.”
Expectations will be high for Portland next year with seven starters slated to return, giving Anderson a chance to reach 900 coaching victories. And Anderson has already let his team know improvement is needed to build off this year’s success.
“We can’t stay where we were because everyone is going to be chasing us next year,” Anderson said. “We were kind of an unknown quantity this year when we started out, and I think a lot of people didn’t think that we were going to be the team that we ended up to be. Next year we’re going to start out with that target on us.”