Lake softball looking to answer questions

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

LAKE TWP. – The beginning of the 2021 softball season has been filled with a wealth of emotions for players and coaches around the area.

They've been relieved to have gotten back on the field after having last season canceled due the COVID-19 pandemic, anxious because the pandemic remains an issue and could derail the current season at any point and they've also been reflective on the disappointment of losing an entire season.

Veteran Lake head coach Mike Hagy has seen his team go 4-3 in the first two weeks of the season and he sees both sides of the equation.

"That part of it's been a blessing (being able to play again), but we have to be strict about till wearing masks in dugout, masks on the bus ride, so it's all kind of strange and if a player isn't playing they have to have a mask on and it's reminder that even though free, we're not totally free yet."

Hagy also noted that he's had quite a few conversations about the disappointment of missing last season, when his roster would have had seven seniors who had committed to play college softball and been considered a contender for a Federal League championship.

Instead, those seniors never got a chance to have a final season in a Lake uniform and that left this season's senior class as one that was the sophomore class the last time a varsity season ended. Needless to say, it's a predicament that many area teams are facing, but that common ground doesn't make the process any easier.

"Tonight was our seventh game ... we've had two doubleheaders so far and it's been a learning experience having only one girl with varsity experience back from our last season," Hagy said, alluding to senior shortstop Maggie Pertee. "We're trying to get the right people in the right spots.

That tough task became even tougher when starting pitcher Autumn Fowler broke her hand over the weekend, knocking her out for the rest of the season. Her absence came at a tough point for the Blue Streaks, with Pertee among those asked to help fill the void in the pitching circle.

On the plus side, most players on the roster play travel ball in the summer, so missing the varsity season in 2020 doesn't mean going two years without competitive softball. However, the atmosphere for travel ball and the one for high school competition for a player's school is drastically different. Travel teams compete in tournaments where they have a fresh start every weekend, while the high school season is a more contiguous block of softball.

"It's different when you play in the Federal League and we try to tell them how important every game is ," Hagy said. "Every day counts."

Following a loss to Jackson earlier this week in which they began adjusting to life without Fowler, Hagy gathered his team and challenged them with the message of figuring out what they need to do to be successful with their roster as it now stands. There remains the looming concern of COVID and making sure everyone stays healthy to avoid a possible pause in the season, but the mission of winning games remains.

While the pandemic precludes typical team activities such as team dinners and parties and the home team feeding the visiting squad on doubleheader days, there is a feeling of gratitude for being out on the field. There's also the plus of mostly hospitable weather this season and given how much of a menace rain and snow are in many seasons, that's a reason to rejoice.

As the season unfolds and the quest to find an identity, gain valuable varsity experience and win games along the way takes shape, the Blue Streaks will seek to use chances like an upcoming appearance at the Duhon Tournament in Massillon to further answer the questions facing them and craft a winning way forward that sees them playing their best softball come tournament time.