2017-04-06 / Sports

St. Ignace Saints Baseball, Softball Teams Ready To Begin 2017 Season

By Kevin R. Hess

Stan Helms has taken over as the new head coach for the Saints baseball team. He comes from a coaching family, but this will be his first experience as a varsity baseball coach. He is familiar with this group of players, having coached many of them when they were younger, and has been around this team because his son, Jared, is a senior on the team. Coach Helms served as a base coach at times and helped when asked on other occasions. He is looking forward to the season and believes that the Saints are poised to compete for a conference title and make a postseason run.

“We’ve got a good core of kids who are smart, baseball kids,” he said.

While many players are returning from last year’s team, a few are returning after several years out of the game. Coach Helms wants to focus on the fundamentals of the game, getting back to the basics.

“I can handle physical errors, but I want us to be mentally prepared, making the proper play at the proper time,” he said.

The Saints will rely on their seniors to lead the way this season. Sam Fullerton returns as the ace of the pitching staff, and the cleanup hitter. An injury caused Fullerton to miss his senior year of football and hockey, but he’s ready to go for the baseball season.

“I’m really happy that Sam is able to compete for his senior season. He has a high baseball IQ, loves the game, and knows the game really well,” said Coach Helms.

Jared Helms returns as the team’s number one catcher, and will also serve as a pitcher at times.

“Jared’s a great catcher, but he can really play any position if needed,” said Coach Helms.

Preston Mayle will serve as the team’s number two pitcher, and also play first and third base. Alex France will be a mainstay in the outfield for the Saints and put pressure on opposing teams with his speed on the base paths. E.J. Schultz returns and can play infield or outfield. Robert Rountree brings great spirit, energy, and effort. Kenny Rickley and Drew Marshall did not play baseball last year, but are returning for their senior seasons. Junior Logan DeKeyser adds a lot of speed to the team, and junior Joel Dodds serves as the team’s only left-handed pitcher and hitter.

“I want to see us be more ag- gressive this year,” said Coach Helms. “We’ve got some good team speed and we want to use it to put pressure on opposing teams.”

Coach Helms wants to build on the progress that the team has made in the last few years.

“We may not have the tradition or infrastructure like other teams, but we’re getting there,” he said. “Coach (Chris) Barker has done a great job building this program. I just want to keep it going.”

As a student, Mr. Helms played baseball for Milan High School in Milan, where he was graduated in 1984.

The Saints are scheduled to open their season Wednesday, April 19, at Pellston. The first home game is Thursday, April 20, against Alanson.

Young, Talented Softball Team Looks To Compete for League Title

With no seniors on the roster, the St. Ignace Saints softball team will rely on a crop of young players this season, but young players with a lot of talent.

“I think this will be a really good team,” said Head Coach Mark Sposito. “The sky is the limit the next couple of years.”

St. Ignace will rely on returning juniors Lily Hart, Karlie St. Andrew, and Cecilia Tomas, as well as returning sophomores Shyanne Bird, Audrey O’Rourke, Beth Rountree, and Saylor Sorenson to provide leadership for the team. The Saints lost a number of players from the 2016 team, but an influx of freshmen and a big class of eighth grade talent waiting in the wings will help build momentum for 2017 and beyond. Beginning in 2018, the Saints will be breaking in two new softball fields that are scheduled to be built as part of the Little Bear East outdoor recreation park project. Due to the numbers and talent of the eighth grade athletes who will soon transition to high school, Coach Sposito believes they will be able to field separate varsity and junior varsity teams next year.

“With a smaller school, there are always peaks and valleys in terms of how many kids you have,” he said. “We’re entering a season where we have a lot of good athletes and should be competing for league titles year in and year out. It’s exciting.”

The team has been practicing for two weeks, and girls interested in playing can still join when the team resumes practice after spring break. There are no tryouts, but by only fielding one team, the team is limited to the number of girls who can dress for a game.

“Each week is like an internal tryout. We dress 15 girls, so if we have 16 or 17, the players are competing to fill those spots,” said Coach Sposito.

Ralph Colegrove is once again assisting in the coaching duties, as well as first year assistant Greg Cheeseman. The Saints are scheduled to open their season Monday, April 17, in Mackinaw City. The first home game is scheduled for Thursday, April 20, against Alanson.

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