Will Evart softball team return to state finals next season?

All but two Wildcat starters are returning

EAST LANSING – Not many softball observers expected the Evart Wildcats to be playing for a Division 3 state championship on Saturday at Michigan State University.

And outside of Evart fans, not many expected the Wildcats to take the No. 1-ranked Millington Cardinals down to the wire.

But that’s what happened before Evart’s season ended on Saturday at 32-9 with the 3-2 loss to the Cardinals in eight innings.

It was the Wildcats’ first appearance in a softball state championship game.

And perhaps it won’t be the last.

“We’re second place out of all the Division 3 teams in the state,” Evart coach Amanda Brown said. “That’s a big deal.

“I think we did surprise people. It wasn’t until we talked about it in practice that we had lost last year in nine innings in the regionals and would want to come back next year. They did it and they should be very proud of themselves.”

Not that it’s going to be easy, Brown acknowledged.

“No one is going to hand you anything and you have to work for it every single game,” she said. “It’s not like we won’t be on the radar. People will know who we are for sure.”

Evart was 14-0 Highland Conference champs, district and regional champs and state runners-up. The Wildcats only graduate two players from the team although both were pivotal starters with center fielder Skylar Baumgardner and first-baseman Veronica Lofquist.

“I’ll remember their hard work,” Brown said. “Skylar was our center fielder who made some great catches the last two days. She threw a lot of runners out at bases and did a great job. We had Veronica for three years and she did just a great job. She’s a hard-working kid. They’re both going to be missed, that’s for sure.”

Senior pitcher and top hitter Addy Gray will be among the key returnees.

“No expected us to win (Saturday) and we gave them a game and only lost by one,” Gray said, adding she felt she did as well as she could in the pitcher’s circle.

A three-sport athlete, Gray will have a busy summer getting ready for her senior year.

“I’ll have travel softball and travel basketball,” said Gray, who also plays volleyball.