FHS softball ends season with improved offense, five earn honors
With 40 seasons of softball under his belt, Brad Walraven knew his 2019 Frankenmuth varsity softball team needed to adapt offensively to win games this spring.
The practices and strategies paid off for the Lady Eagles, who finished 28-13 overall and improved in seven major offensive categories.
‘Muth improved by three wins over 2018 as Walraven recorded his 1,200 career victory, plus the team won a MHSAA Division 2 District title this season.
“We showed improvement in a lot of areas over 2018,” Walraven said.
For comparison sake, the Lady Eagles team batting average was .369 (.336 last year), scored 57 more runs (358 runs), totaled 404 hits (343), cracked 95 doubles (72), connected on 35 home runs (31), struck out 27 less times (200) and totaled 40 sacrifices (bunts flies, 29).
"Ater last season, we knew we had to put the ball in play more and go to a little more small ball. The numbers back that up and the girls made great improvements offensively over last year,” Walraven explained.
The season also saw 11 season and career records broken. Senior Emily Coulter now holds the season record for batting average (.585), hits (69), doubles (17, shared with senior Claire Breinager), home runs (13), and RBI (77) and career marks for pitching wins (57) and RBI (150). Coulter was a three-year varsity player, transferring here following her freshman season at Reese.
Senior Kaylee Kujat, a four-year varsity player, holds four career records for hits (242), runs scored (220), stolen bases (79) and being hit by the pitch (16). Kujat batted .462 this season.
Claire Breinager was also a four-year varsity player, batting .416 in 2019.
“The team was led by all three seniors. That will be a lot of offense that the 2020 team will have to make up,” Walraven noted.
Coulter and Kujat were All-Tri-Valley Conference East Division first-team selections, with Claire Breinager, her sister, freshman Faith Breinager and junior Brooklin Karwat named to the All-TVC East second team.
Coulter, Kujat, Karwat and both Breinagers earned All-District Team kudos while Coulter, Kujat and Karwat were chosen to the All-Regional Team. Finally, Coulter was given All-State status and Karwat landed on the All-State honorable mention list.
Other highlights on the diamond this season include junior Tara Keller with a grand-slam home run against Flint Powers, junior Shea Hecht’s perfect five-inning game against Valley Lutheran, Faith Breinager as a freshman swatting five homers, junior Faith Hippensteel leading FHS with eight sacrifices and Karwat’s offense, with a .473 batting average, 63 runs scored, 39 RBI, four triples and five home runs.
Walraven also felt the team’s makeup was better, which led to interchangeable players at different spots and the ability to come back when behind in games.
"Another difference over 2018 was the girls were more versatile this year. We were able to move girls around to play more than one position,” the coach pointed out.
Frankenmuth compiled six come-from-behind triumphs for 2019.
On April 9, ‘Muth was down 7-0 in the third inning and came back to beat state-ranked Freeland, 11-9.
On April 27 at the Frankenmuth Invitational against Brighton, the Lady Eagles were down 5-2 in the final inning when Kujat’s walk-off single scored two runs for a 6-5 victory.
On April 30 against Flint Powers, FHS was behind 6-4 in the fifth inning. The Lady Eagles tied the contest 6-6 in the fifth inning and Claire Breinager’s RBI single in the seventh inning was the margin of victory.
On May 13, Frankenmuth was trailing Essexville Garber 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Coulter smacked a two-run homer for a 3-2 lead. The Dukes plated three runs in the top of the seventh inning but Coulter got back to the plate and hit a two-run walk-off dinger for the win.
On June 1 in the MHSAA Division 2 District semifinal game, Frankenmuth trailed the whole game, 5-3. In the seventh inning, ‘Muth rallied, scoring three runs to take the lead 6-5. The Vikings knotted the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. In the eighth inning, the red and gray scored an unearned run and won the contest.
Finally, on June 8 in the regional semifinal, Frankenmuth was behind 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Faith Breinager’s two-run homer tied the game and Coulter’s two-out walk-off single gave FHS the win.
Walraven wishes to thank his coaches for their hard work and effort, making the team what it was this season. They include Leon Wright, Joe Chowaniec, Tom Keller and Matt Karwat. He also thanks announcers Eric Jacob and Mike Hecht for playing the players’ walk-up music.
“I thank Julie Felten, our athletic trainer. I’m not sure people realize how much and how often the athletes utilize Julie,” Walraven said.
Walraven also listed the Frankenmuth Athletic Association, Athletic Director Kevin Schwedler and the parents “who made sure their daughters were fed between games, raked the fields in between our home games and the support they gave their daughters,” the coach added.
Walraven is optimistic for the next season, despite graduating three seasoned players.
"Even though we lose the heart and soul of our lineup and on defense, it will be challenging for us to make up the offense. What girl will step up next year? I believe it will have to be a true team effort to make up the numbers on offense for us to play competitively next year. We still have a good core of players back who have plenty of experience,” Walraven concluded.
Fellow TVC East school Millington not only won the league this season, but also captured the 2019 MHSAA Division 3 state title. The Cardinals, however, will be joining the 10-school TVC West Division for the 2019-20 season.
The Lady Eagles will merge from the now-defunct East Division to the eight-school TVC Central. Former East schools Bridgeport, Birch Run, Essexville Garber and ‘Muth will share the Central with Alma, Freeland, Swan Valley and Standish-Sterling.
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