By Mike Staley – Collegiate Staff
Spring is just around the corner and for Casey Evans, that means it’s time to lace up the cleats and take the field for the Grand Rapids Community College softball team.
Evans is a 21-year-old sophomore from Charlotte, Michigan. She came to Grand Rapids to experience a bigger town and be the star pitcher for the Raiders softball team.
“I wanted to get away from home,” Evans said. “But not too far away from home.”
When most of her friends were choosing to stay close to home in nearby Lansing, Evans was attracted to what Grand Rapids and GRCC had to offer.
“It’s very diverse,” Evans said about GRCC. “I love that there’s a lot of different kind of people here. There’s a lot nice people here too. I find it very easy to look at people and smile at them.”
During the week, Evans spends her time doing homework, working at her job, and working out getting ready for the season. But she’ll go out and spend her hard earned money on a few things. Specifically, pizza and musicals.
“If I have the money for it, I love to go see musicals,” Evans said. “(As far as food) I love Uccello’s because I love their pizza. The sauce on their pizza is so much sweeter than any other pizza I’ve ever had.”
On the weekends, her smile gets even bigger when she makes the drive back to Charlotte.
“I actually go home on the weekends,” Evans said. “I’m in a relationship, so I go hangout with my girlfriend and I see my family all the time.
Family is important to Evans and certain members of her family actually inspired her love of the game and influenced her in a major way.
“My two cousins played for Olivet’s high school team,” Evans said. “Growing up, I always watched them. They were a pitcher-catcher duo so one pitched and one caught and they were always on the field…I wanted to be like them, so I started learning how to play and they started teaching me how to pitch.”
The Raiders softball head coach, Brian Skudre, is thankful that her cousins inspired her to get into the game and he’s noticed her hard work payoff.
“She leads by example,” Skudre said. “You go out and see (Evans) play and you want to play like (Evans). The girls respect her…she’s a good influence on the field and off the field.”
GRCC athletic director, Bill Firn, knows that if the Raiders softball team is going to have success, Evans is going to be a huge part of it.
“She’s our veteran pitcher,” Firn said. “Probably the most important position on the softball field. She brings a wealth of playing experience and started a ton of games last year for us.”
Firn went on to explain the temperament needed to be a successful pitcher and he definitely sees it in Evans.
“She has a good demeanor whether she’s up or down,” Firn said. “Pitching is a pretty volatile position. She can have a good outing or a bad outing but I think she stays pretty even-keel.”
That even-keeled mentality helped her get through a disappointment when she first came to GRCC. In 2016, the softball season was unexpectedly cancelled and Evans had to wait until the 2017 season arrived to prove what she could do. She with the rest of her team and Coach Skudre had to begin to rebuild the program from the ground up.
“I love the softball program here,” Evans said. “The girls are amazing and I love our coach. He was brought into a difficult situation of having basically no team, building a team and I think he’s kept a positive attitude through it all, so I definitely appreciate him.”
Evans, a criminal justice major, is a full time student taking 14 credit hours this semester. She plans on transferring to Ferris State next year but isn’t sure if she wants to continue playing softball. For now though, she’s going to enjoy her time and focus on being the best player and leader she can be.
“I want to step up as a leader and just guide the girls to some victories,” Evans said. “I just want to get a few more wins than last year.”
Coming off a difficult 8-32 2017 season, Evans and the Raiders are focused on taking giant steps forward.
“I think our team is a very good balance right now,” Evans said. “We have a lot of dynamics going on, but I honestly just think…we need to believe in ourselves. I think last year we had a lack of confidence in ourselves at sometimes and it made it really hard to come together as a team.”
Evans isn’t the only one who wants to see more confidence. Skudre wants to see Evans lead the team, and that starts by having confidence in her own abilities.
“I’d like to see her have more confidence in herself. She doesn’t think she’s as good as she is, but she’s pretty good,” Skudre said with a chuckle.
As the pitcher of the team, everything will start with her this season when she’s on the rubber. Skudre wants to see certain improvements on the field.
“I want her to be able to improve her ERA (Earned Run Average) and stay mentally tough,” Skudre said. “As far as at the plate, just have faith in her bat. She’s got a good bat, but again, it’s just a confidence thing. When she has the confidence, she’s on fire.”
At the end of the day, win or lose, Evans will give it her all. If she wins, she won’t be boasting about it and if she loses she won’t be hanging her head.
“I’m a chill person,” Evans said. “I’m not stuck up. I love playing the game and I want people to see that I love playing the game.”
Evans and the Raiders will begin their season Fri., March 23, at 3 p.m., at Belknap Park when they take on the Lake Michigan Community College Red Hawks.