Union Grove softball starts the season as the states No.5 ranked team.
Nothing new for the Wolverines, said coach Rod Pipkin.
“It’s something we’ve kind of grown accustomed to,” Pipkin said. “The school’s always had a good softball team and for the last three years or so, we’ve always played in a tough, tough region.”
The Wolverines have advanced to the elite eight seven times since 2003, including a fifth-place finish last season.
For the last three years, they’ve boasted one of the state’s top pitchers in Megan Betsa who Pipkin said will be an early signee to the University of Michigan.
But after being the only No. 1 seeded team that did not win a state title in 2011, Pipkin believes that this year’s bunch is ready to take the next step from being a great team to elite.
“I’m calling our season ‘humble and hungry,’ Pipkin said. “We were a little bit humbled by not winning it all last year. This year, we’re not looking to the next game. We’re just going to take it one game at a time.”
Betsa, who won a state title her freshman year at Eagle’s Landing Christian, will hope to be the difference in helping Union Grove to a championship season in her final year.
In her last two years with Union Grove, Betsa has tossed almost 700 strikeouts, leading Pipkin to call her “the most dominant pitcher in the state.
In addition to Betsa, two-year starter and junior center fielder Katie Spinks, a team captain, should provide strong leadership for Pipkin’s bunch.
Sophomore Lindsey Gilliam is poised to emerge, Pipkin said. And he’s also looking for catcher Megan McConnell to continue being a versatile leader for the Wolverines.
“She’s been in our program the last two years,” he said. “She can play everywhere. Short, second and outfield. She’s extremely versatile.”
With Ola ranked No. 2 and finishing third in state last year, Northgate who finished first and a tough Whitewater squad all in Union Grove’s region, Pipkin said that the road to a state championship will be arduous, and will require his team’s bats to come alive.
“I think to take that next step, we’ve just got to be better hitters,” he said. “We hit the ball okay last year, but in the playoffs our bats went a little bit cold. And in this region, you have to come ready to play every single game.”
The Wolverines begin their season Wednesday against Locust Grove.