For a second consecutive year, the Calvin Christian softball team has clinched at least a share of the OK Silver conference championship.
Calvin finished its championship run Monday afternoon with a 6-1 win over Kent City. Kent City took an early one-run lead after Paige Smith doubled to left field, but Calvin responded immediately with a three-run home run by Heidi Boeve in the bottom of the first inning. Calvin added runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings on a balanced team effort—all nine of Calvin’s players reached base at least once, and seven players recorded at least one hit. “Lots of different girls contributed today in many ways,” said Coach Mike Gruppen. “It doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet, but it’s so important for everyone to accept their roles. We’re starting to see that.”
Some rivals expected Calvin to struggle this year, but the team has fought through inexperience, illness, and injuries to make its way back to the top of the conference. After graduating four senior starters from last year’s regional championship team, Coach Mike has had to experiment with a young but athletic roster to find the winning combination. Calvin started seven different defensive lineups over eight conference games this season, and multiple players have started at three different positions. Junior Amber Jourdan reflected, “At first, I was surprised, but with a lot of help from the coaches and encouragement from my team, I feel better about moving around. I think by being willing to play wherever I’m needed, it has helped the team—and has helped me become a better softball player.”
Adding to the complexity, Calvin’s JV temporarily merged with the varsity team this year due to a small number of freshman and sophomore players. Coach Mike does his best not only to divide playing time among 18 players, but also to help each player identify her role on the team. Sometimes that means filling in as a courtesy runner or being asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt in one of your only two at-bats of the game. Young players have made big contributions this year. Freshmen Savanah Allen, Laurel VanNoord and sophomore Avery Vlasity have become reliable hitters during the second half of the season. “I knew varsity was going to be a challenge,” said VanNoord. “I worked on my softball skills whenever possible during the winter, and hard work always pays off. I’m grateful for the chance to contribute to this team.”
Outside the conference, the Squires have played a brutal schedule, including four matchups with state-ranked and honorable mention teams. This young team has reasons to be proud of their effort this year. Calvin was competitive in one-run losses to solid division 2 programs Zeeland East and Unity Christian, and in April, Calvin beat division 2 Grand Rapids Christian on their home field. Having finished conference play with a record of 7-1, Calvin sets its sights on another district championship on Saturday, May 31 at Calvin Christian High School. Come out and support Squires Softball!