Despite rough start, East Lansing softball continues to fight, looking to the future

May 7, 2017

The softball program is struggling through a rebuilding patch, but the Trojans see good things on the horizon.

EAST LANSING-- East Lansing High School softball lost its first two games by a combined score of 38-0. Things haven’t gotten too much better, as this season is marked by lopsided losses.

Despite the rough learning curve, the players are not letting everything derail their season.  The team has five seniors, but the rest of the roster is young – so inexperienced that a freshman starts at catcher and its two top pitchers both underclassmen as well. 

Head coach Jeff Lampi put his team’s development into perspective when he mentioned that the coaching staff has had to teach basic skills.

East Lansing infielder Brianna Bernstein makes a throw to second base during practice.
Credit Grant Essenmacher

A major reason for the inexperience at the varsity level was the fact that the junior varsity team was cut. There were not enough girls that tried out to keep it, so Lampi was forced to bring every junior varsity player to varsity.

“Every year we just cross our fingers for 26 girls. You split it up and take the top 13 on varsity, and have the bottom 12-13 develop on JV. This year unfortunately, some of the girls stopped playing. It was a bummer,” Lampi said.

Lampi still finds some strength in his team, despite the 2-12 start. He likes his outfield and his future in the infield. 

“We’ve got girls who love the game. Academically, we’re super strong, that’s a big thing for us too. A lot of them act as big sister type girls to the younger ones,” Lampi said. “As far as practical softball strengths, we’ve got some girls that are great outfielders. The years to come are looking good.”

Freshman pitcher Ellie Myron, sees that the youth development is the big key for the team this year, as well as the future.

“Everybody is willing to learn. You can teach skills but you cannot teach the work ethic,” Myron said. “We have a lot of younger players, players who could use more development.”

Myron also realizes that she is a key cog in the future of the Trojans. She is aware of the expectations she faces and is willing to take them head on.

“I have been in a lot of high pressure situations, faced a lot of talented teams. I knew what he (Lampi) expected of me. It’s been rough, but hard work is what I have to do to get through it,” Myron said.

Myron joked that she relies on the seniors for a ride to practice, but also that they are huge role models for the team. Senior infielder Brianna Bernstein said her class has accepted that role and realizes how key that is for this Trojan team.

“Positive reinforcement always. They (freshmen) have grown a ton. I’m impressed. We definitely want to win, but we have good team chemistry and that’s really important,” Bernstein said.

Lampi’s past teams have been successful. Last season, the Trojans won 16 games. He admits that this season has been a learning curve for him, and he did not expect to start as slow as they have.

However, he feels he has adapted. He has taken up a new approach to coaching. He does not want to sugarcoat things, but he has been taking his time following games before deciding what his team really needs to improve on.

“I’ve started a new thing this year. After games, I don’t bring them out in the outfield anymore. I don’t want to get out there and go, ‘Here’s what we did wrong’,” Lampi said. “At practice the next day, I go through the things we can work on, and I give a praise of each kid.”

The youth has forced Lampi to balance the idea of looking for the future, as well as focusing on making his current team as good as it can be.

“I think your balancing those two things. You’re constantly looking at the future as far as development too. I’m talking to the youth coaches about doing youth clinics and coaches clinics,” Lampi said. “You want them to be doing the stuff you’re teaching up here, so you don’t have to continue to develop.”