The Ann Arbor Pioneer softball team is back with more enthusiasm, focus and offense. And Coach Kim Waddell is excited about what her squad is bringing to the table this season and expects to see her Pioneers rounding the bases and sliding into the win column often this spring.
“Our goal for the season is to bring back the enthusiasm the program had in previous years,” Waddell says. “We want to return to being a dominant program in the state of Michigan and bring Pioneer softball back to a possible state championship over the next one to two years.”
With a strong offense, a two-pitcher combination and defensive hot-spots, the Pioneers are poised for success in 2018.
Returning pitcher, junior, Mimi Maixner, will lead the team in the circle. But unlike last year, Maixner will no longer be throwing solo. She will be joined by the hard-throwing freshman, Sarina Zajchowski, who Waddell expects to be competitive.
“To have a two-pitcher combo will make us strong going into doubleheaders and tournaments,” Waddell says. “Last year, Mimi had the world on her shoulders. We think it’s going to relieve the pressure and make us more successful because they’ll both be fresh when they throw.”
Captain and centerfielder, Lizzie Kuras, and left fielder, Franny Schulenberg, are the team’s top offensive players, but the lineup is strong top to bottom.
“We’ve got a great batch of hitters. Our lineup is going to be so strong offensively we still haven’t decided what our batting order is going to be because they’re all so talented.”
Anytime a team can put up runs early gives their pitching staff an advantage, and that’s what the Pioneers hope to accomplish.
Additionally, sophomore Ella Markley will step into the starting catching role this year and Waddell expects great things on the right-side corner from senior first baseman, Olivia Gregory, who, she says, exhibits exemplary leadership.
Waddell also believes her four freshmen are talented enough to start at any time.
“Our kids seem to be very enthusiastic and happy. It’s a good mix,” Waddell says. “There’s leaders and there’s kindness. They’re always doing something to get better when they’re off doing a task.”
Catch the Pioneers in their first home game on Tuesday, April 3, at 4 p.m., against Brighton.