by Dylan Savela, Manistee News Advocate
With league and district titles up for grabs annually, the main objective for softball teams in the area is to stay competitive.
Though those prizes have eluded Onekama of late, the Portagers plan to keep improving as a program.
The 2012 season was another stride in the right direction.
Under first-year coach Rob Johnson, Onekama went 12-16 overall despite a sporadic start to the schedule where weather caused long layovers between games. The Portagers won a district quarterfinal against county rival Bear Lake before being ousted by eventual district champion Frankfort in the semifinal round.
“At the beginning of the season we talked about playing good, strong fundamental softball,” Johnson explained. “The other thing we talked about was to be in every game. We wanted to avoid the blowouts, wanted to compete. Except for maybe one or two games this year, we did that.
“We played fundamental softball — might have made a few young mistakes which are to be expected from a young team — but we were there in almost every game in the sixth inning,” he added. “A couple things here or there would have made the difference. But that’s what we’re building — we’re building the future.”
The Portagers were strikingly young this year with the exception of a small but solid core of senior leadership. Onekama graduates Jennica Mathieu, Nicki Slater and Mikayla Johnson leave behind some big cleats to fill.
“We had good leadership from our seniors; I can’t really say enough about Jennica Mathieu and the way she kept the team together,” Rob Johnson said. “Anytime you’ve got to fill shoes like that, it might take time.
“These girls who are trying out to play first (in place of Mathieu) and shortstop (in place of Slater) are finding out how good those two were at those spots.