By Matthew Scheidel
The Grand Rapids Community College softball team is coming off of a rough season, but the Raiders feel like they have the pieces in place to improve in 2019.
GRCC head softball coach Brian Skudre said that on paper, the team should be better than last season.
“We have better depth across the board,” Skudre said. “The girls have been putting in a lot of work.”
Skudre mentioned sophomore shortstop Sierra Stoepker, freshman pitcher Alexa Abrahamson, sophomore outfielder Aaron Kietzman, and sophomore catcher Stephanie Kruskie as impact players for the upcoming season.
“Both Sierra and Stephanie are vocal leaders, and they bring a lot to the table both offensively and defensively,” Skudre said. “Aaron leads by example, and Alexa has been putting in extra work in the weight room.”
Skudre said that the team has set several goals for the season, not only on the field, but in the classroom as well.
“We set a team goal to finish in the top four in the conference,” Skudre said. “We also want to increase our team batting average. And academically, we want to maintain a 3.2 GPA as a team.”
Skudre said that the team’s upcoming trip to South Carolina will show him and his team what kind of squad they have.
“We’ve been looking forward to getting outside,” Skudre said. “The competition we’ll face down there is pretty competitive, so it’ll give us a good idea of what we’re gonna face when we get back.”
GRCC athletic director Bill Firn said that the sophomore class is going to be the key for improvement this season.
“They’re very competitive,” Firn said. “In terms of their commitment, and their desire to be better. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how hard they’ve been working. I think it’s gonna pay off on the field this year. I know (Coach) Brian (Skudre) worked hard in recruiting. I think those factors will help us improve our win-loss record.”
Firn listed several key players for the upcoming season, also including Stoepker and Kruskie, as well as sophomore second baseman Andrea Chipman.
“Those are the key sophomores that are coming back and pushing the freshman,” Firn said. “The freshmen are taking to that well. They’re constantly watching the sophomores and how they do things. It kind of shows you how practice is going, and if they practice well, that’ll tell you how they will do on the field.”
Firn said he is trying to keep his goals for the season realistic, considering last season’s struggles.
“Well, starting from where we were last year, I’d like to be able to finish in the top third of the conference,” Firn said. “I think that’s a realistic expectation. I want to see them keep improving. I think it takes a while to build a program and to have girls that want to come play for us. I think this season is another step in that process, but I think we also have a chance to surprise people this year.”
Firn said that the team is looking forward to the upcoming trip to South Carolina to begin the season.
“I think the girls are really looking forward to it,” Firn said. “It’ll get them ready for what they’re gonna face when they come back here. I know they’re all chomping at the bit to get outside and face some other girls.”
The Raiders will begin the season with the aforementioned trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Saturday, March 2. Their first scheduled home game is a doubleheader against the Red Hawks of Lake Michigan Community College on Friday, March 29 at 3 p.m.