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GRCC softball team prepares for season during fall ball

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The GRCC Raiders softball team ended their last season with a 29-24 record, which they hope to improve this year, beginning by showing their strength and dedication to the sport during fall ball.

“Fall ball is where you learn everything and then you coast into spring,” said pitcher Russelle Slimmen, 18, from Ludington.

Slimmen is one of 17 athletes on the Grand Rapids Community College softball team.

At fall ball practices, the girls do sprints, throwing, catching and sliding drills. The softball team builds up the stamina it takes to be team players. They also work on improving their own strengths and overcoming their weaknesses.

Fall ball is mandatory and crucial for these athletes.

“Softball is played outside, not inside, so the fall is where we work on the fundamentals, mechanics and the relationships between coach and athlete, as well as athlete and athlete,” said Paula Maloley, who has been coaching the Raiders for 25 years. “If we didn’t have fall ball, I wouldn’t be here.”

“The jump between high school and college softball is a huge difference,” said first base/catcher JoBeth Bouwens. “We have to learn how to set goals, manage our time wisely, and learn how to be a college student athlete.”

They are allowed to play outside until Nov.15. After that, they begin to work on their pitching and hitting inside. The Raiders play 10 games in the fall and 30 in the spring.

“These girls are different from last year. There is so much growth between the first and second year, and if they could do things all over again, they would,” Maloley said.

There are students who believe that Fall ball is very valuable, that it prepares them for the season.

“Fall ball helps me stay focused, get motivated and gain confidence for the upcoming season,” said shortstop/catcher Tiffanie Wolan, 20, of Allen Park.

Maloley believes fall ball will prepare her team to compete for a conference title.

“This year’s team has more speed, athletic ability and leadership,” Maloley said.

The team mottos are “no excuses” and “W.I.N- what’s important now?”

GRCC Raiders’ first ball tournament, the Aquinas Tournament, will take place at Northview High school on Sept. 15. The three games will be against Cornerstone University at 9:30 a.m., Ferris State University at 12:30 p.m., and Owens Community College at 3:30 p.m.