Cougars loaded with athletes

EBEN After finishing the 2012-13 basketball season with a flawless 20-0 record and dominating nearly every opponent they faced, the Superior Central Cougars’ softball team hopes that their success on the court converts into success on the diamond.

“These girls are just all-around athletes, as you can tell from basketball and volleyball,” said Cougars coach Martha Verbrigghe. “This year, they are much stronger than they were before.”

Given their extended trips into the playoffs for basketball, this group naturally has had less time to prepare for this weekend’s tournament in the Superior Dome at Marquette.

“It slows down practice a little,” she said. “But I think they are prepared overall. When they are in the middle of basketball season, it’s not like they have time to focus on softball. But they are working really hard, and they’ll be ready to go.”

Superior Central only has one senior on the team this year in Lindsay Richmond. However, she is a veteran pitcher that has been with the team for three years, and she will most likely anchor the entire cast of Cougars.

The junior group features some fairly well-known names; Vanessa Freberg, Brooke Pasanen, Molly Swajanen, Beth Pirman, Teslyn Tyner, and Mikayla Barrows. All of these players were on this year’s basketball team, and will look to continue filling some important roles on the softball team.

“We’re not going to have a big team, but the 10 or 12 we have I think are going to be strong,” Verbrigghe said. “All of our juniors have started all three years.”

One of the good things about young teams is, they don’t have to face much disparity from year to year. Superior Central only lost one player to graduation last year, but that one player was all-district right fielder McKenzy Shega-Fox.

The Cougars will also be having a JV squad for the first time this year, and Verbrigghe said she is excited to see just how much that will add to their varsity program in the long run.

“Before, when girls would graduate, we would basically have to go back and start over,” she said. “We can build up the varsity this way, and more players will end up getting to play softball.”

This weekend’s roster will feature a pair of freshman, Hailey Lintula and Ally Bray, as well as sophomores Abby Johns, Brooke Krysiak, Elena Torongo, and Kaitlyn Trowbridge.

Although their official lineup is yet to be decided, there has been healthy competition throughout practice, and Verbrigghe said that will be necessary down the stretch when looking at the other area teams.

“The caliber of teams around here is really high this year,” she said.

She added that the Marquette tournament is a great way to start off the year, because it’s not a hyper competitive event but it is still productive for all the teams involved.

“It gives everyone a chance to get together, gives players a chance to meet each other, and compete,” she said. “Overall, it’s just a fun time. We may not have a chance to play some of these teams during the regular season, so it’s fun, but it’s still competitive. It gives you a chance to figure out what you’ve got, and gives the girls a chance to get going.”

This weekend, the Cougars are scheduled to play against Ishpeming, Ironwood, and Kingsford. After that, they will resume April 8 at Norway.

“We’re hoping the snow will be gone by then,” Verbrigghe said.