Local girls play for Michigan Expos
BIG RAPIDS — Two teams, featuring players from the Big Rapids - Evart area, recently concluded an inaugural travel softball season.
The Michigan Expos 10U and 12U girls ended the season with a double championship win at the recent Mount Pleasant Jim Powell Legends tournament.
The 10U record was 43-6 and the 12U record was 21-9-2.
Coaches have announced tryouts the 2018 season will be Aug. 6 at Evart High School.
Tryouts are 1 to 3 p.m. for 10U; 3 to 5 p.m. for 12U and 5 to 7 p.m. for 14U.
12U players were Maddie Affers, Riley Brigham, Josie Cornell, Gigi Green, Lillie Gallinger, Addysen Gray, Rylie Haist, Hannah Kaverman, Hanna Smith, Layke Sims, Jenna Williams and Mackenzie Ososki. Head coaches were Kevin Brigham and Cullie Smith.
“The team was made up of six Big Rapids girls, four from Evart and others (from Reed City),” Brigham said. “This is our inaugural team. I’ve been coaching a lot of these girls (in past season). In the past it was kind of a local Little League team. Now it’s a travel team where we’re trying to find the best teams we can play.”
Brigham said the Michigan Expos had two teams this season.
“We’re adding a 14U softball team for next year,” Brigham said. “We’ve been going at it for 11 months and played anywhere from Traverse City to Midland to Grand Rapids. We played 11 tournaments this year. That includes the fall season as well.”
Practices were at Big Rapids and Evart high schools during the winter.
“Once the weather broke, we practiced in Big Rapids and Evart, both at the high schools,” Birgham said.
10U players were Pharis Carroll, Kiera Elder, Kyrah Gray, Katelyn Gostlin, Cailin Knoop, Zoe Taylor, Allyson Theunick, Alivia Vanassche, Alanah Thompson, Mattisen Tiedt and Kayanne Tiedt. Head coaches were Shaun Gray and Rod Taylor and assistant coach Matt Tiedt.
Gray also is president of the Expos, in its first year.
“We started last August and played a few fall tournaments and fall this summer,” he said. “Kevin and I for the past few years had played each other. The girls started weeding out and a few of them still wanted to play travel ball, we were playing for different organizations. We decided why travel for organized ball when we can start one local here. We got a few other guys that got involved in it.”
Gray recalls having “a little bit of everything” for a 9-and 10-year-old squad.
“We had weekends where we struggled hitting and played a lot of small ball offensively,” he said. “At the end of the season, I didn’t call any bunts. They were hitting the ball well. It was very aggressive, smart base-running. The key to it all would be defense by everybody. We had two solid pitchers and two solid catchers. Every girl could play defense. Defense was our biggest key.”
The 2017 season has concluded, but with next month’s tryouts, plans are underway for next season.
“We’ll practice every couple of weeks through the fall going through the fall and winter,” Brigham said. “Once the spring breaks, we (keep practicing).”
The goal continues to be to “make these kids better ballplayers when they get into high school,” Brigham said. “By traveling as far as we are and playing teams from large cities, it enables us to get better by playing better competition. We were very successful this year. But the goal is to become better ballplayers.
“We’re looking to have a fall tournament (in Evart or Big Rapids) this coming season. We have a (Michigan Expo) board meeting coming up next week to determine how that will go.”
Brigham noted he’s getting interest from players outside the area with the tryouts.
“Any kid is welcome to come try out,” Brigham said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. We’re taking the best kids. However, with as many travel teams as there are out there in the bigger areas, we’ll mainly draw from the local area.”