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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let's talk area spring sports

Sports editor Mike Bogan and sportswriter Paul P. Adams get you ready for what should be an interesting spring sports season in the Thumb!!!

DET: OK, so the calendar says it’s the spring sports season. But Mother Nature — once again — isn’t playing fair. It feels like the final few weeks of the fall season.
Anyway, there isn’t anything we can do about it, boys.
So, let’s get going.

DET: Let’s start with baseball in the Greater Thumb Conference. Bay City All Saints and Harbor Beach won league titles in 2010, but those two teams lost plenty of talent from last year. Are there some teams out there capable of pushing the Cougars and Pirates from the top spot?

ADAMS: I think the GTW is very open this year. I look for just about every team to be improved from last year. USA, Bad Axe, Cass City and Reese all look like they could contend, along with BCAS. EPBP is a bit of an unknown with a new coach.
In the GTE, I still think Harbor Beach is the team to beat.

BOGAN: In the GTW, Reese, to me, is the favorite. The Rockets have a bunch of all-league players returning, including a couple of top pitchers.
Bad Axe and Cass City are my Nos. 2 and 3. I think both teams are capable of creeping up and taking the league title. 
In the GTE, Harbor Beach is still my No. 1, but Brown City and Marlette have the tools to capture the crown.
The Green Devils, in fact, are state ranked this week.

DET: The North Central Thumb League gets a new team this season in Deckerville. What are the Eagles’ chances? And which teams are the top squads in the North and South divisions?

ADAMS: Deckerville should contend for the NCTL South title, but I think Memphis is still the team to beat. Also, look out for Peck, which may be the most experienced team in that division.
In the North, it's still North Huron, but I think Akron-Fairgrove and Owen-Gage are closing fast.

BOGAN: I am going with Deckerville in the South Division, mainly because the Eagles have their top two pitchers back from a season ago. I also think Memphis will push them awfully hard.
In the North, nobody has really threatened North Huron in recent years. Until someone does, it’s the Warriors’ title to take.

DET: Let’s move on to softball. The Greater Thumb Conference always produces some of the best Division 3/4 teams in the state. Who are the favorites this season?

ADAMS: USA is the top-rated team in Division 4 and for good reason. 
The Patriots returning most of their players from a team that made its fifth straight trip to Battle Creek. USA is still young, but has experience. I believe it will be another season concluding in Battle Creek. 
What I'm interested in is last year's surprise team, EPBP. In 2010, the Lakers were able to sneak up on everyone. That won't happen this year. How will they deal with expectations? I think they will handle it just fine.

BOGAN: I am going with a mini upset and picking the Lakers to stun the Patriots and win the league championship. That’s how impressed I was with the team last season. 
The Lakers won’t ‘wow’ you with their power or explosiveness. They just excel in the fundamentals — good pitching, timely hitting, solid defense — and pick up victories.
And don’t forget about Reese, which is state-ranked this week. The Rockets are loaded, which should make the GTW softball race one to watch this season.
In the GTE, I am going with Marlette, once again mainly due to experienced returning pitchers. But don’t count out Brown City or Mayville.

DET: What about softball in the NCTL?

ADAMS: In the North, Port Hope and Owen-Gage shared the title last year. I expect the same this year. Both teams have talent and experience, so it should be another good race. 
North Huron and Caseville will also play a factor in the North.

DET: Let’s switch gears to track. Adams, you’re a big track fan. Tell us what is going on this season in area track...

ADAMS: We lost a lot of good talent from 2010, including current CMU athlete and former North Huron standout Megan Heffner, who won state titles in the 300 hurdles and high jump. 
We do have one defending state champion back, though, in USA pole vaulter Tim Canfield. He said last year he wants to go over 15 feet, which I think he can and will do. 
Speaking of USA, I think the boys squad is very talented, with a decent chance at winning the GTW and a regional title. The 3,200 relay looks to be very solid, as does the distance running and field events.
In girls track, it will be interesting to see how EPBP's Gala Shivley follows up last year's breakout. I also believe the Ubly girls will contend for the GTE title.

DET: Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port, Bad Axe and Harbor Beach seem to always have strong girls soccer teams... Are they the top teams again this season?

ADAMS: I don't think there's any doubt these three will be contending again this season. 
I think Harbor Beach has just enough to come away with the crown this year.

BOGAN: I agree, those two teams should be 1-2-3 in the area this season.
The Lakers were 12-0 in league play last year, but I don’t think they will be unbeaten again this season.
Both the Hatchets and Pirates have too much talent to not pull off at least a win or two against them this year.

DET: Area golfers and girls tennis players are getting set for their seasons. Who and what teams can we expect to have solid years?

BOGAN: Let’s start in golf.
Some of the area’s top returning players include EPBP’s Tyler Matteson and Bryan Beachy, and Bad Axe’s Cam Streussnig and Brandon Dean.
Those players could push toward making it to the state finals.
In tennis, Bad Axe has the area’s top player in Anya Odabasic, who is 41-9 for her career at No. 1 singles.
She has a chance to do very well at the state level this season.

DET: Anything else you boys want to add?

ADAMS: After a long winter of being indoors, I know I'm glad to get outside again, even if it does still feel like winter.

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