New Patriots softball team looking to take to the diamond

ISHPEMING – Libby Nelson says members of her inaugural Westwood High School girls softball team can’t wait to begin play this season.

“The girls are eager to get out on the field,” the first-year Patriots manager said. “They’re excited to be part of an inaugural team.”

The WHS squad has already seen one scheduled play date postponed due to inclement weather. The Patriots’ next scheduled action – April 23 at Norway – might also be in jeopardy for the same reason.

“It’s frustrating practicing in our gym, but everyone is in the same boat,” Nelson, 31, said. “Everything now is being played by ear.”

The Aspen Ridge Middle School art teacher, who played four years of varsity girls softball at downstate Lake Orion High School, said she has 15 girls on the current WHS roster, but no seniors.

“We have four juniors, nine sophomores and two freshmen,” she said. “Inexperience is going to be a challenge. The first season is usually the hardest, but we went into it with our eyes wide open.”

WHS athletic director Jon Beckman said Nelson was a “natural” to coach the school’s first-ever fastpitch softball team.

“She has been a teacher in our district for years, played softball herself downstate and has been involved from the beginning to bring softball here,” he said.

“The girls are excited (about the team) and we’re very hopeful it will be a sustainable program. We have some good athletes and hopefully, the learning curve won’t be lengthy.”

Beckman added the Patriots’ home field this season will be in National Mine at the Tilden Township field.

“It’s not far from school and Tilden Township officials have been fantastic in every request we’ve made,” he said. “The field is in good shape.”

Nelson said from what she has seen to date, her team’s strength will be speed on the bases. Pitching and catching will be “our biggest challenge,” she added.

“We have a while spectrum of talent,” the manager said. “We have girls who have played fastpitch before, and girls with emerging talent who have played limited slowpitch softball.

“My goal is to teach these girls the basics of softball, to be exposed to – and learn – the strategies of fastpitch.

“It’s going to be an interesting season,” Nelson added.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.