by RANDY GREGORY
New Rockford varsity softball coach Troy Brown welcomes back a plethora of returnees to the 2012 squad, but still feels that the Rams are basically a young team in general.
“We are in the great position of welcoming back quite a few players from last year’s team,” said Brown. “But at the same time, we don’t have an abundance of upperclassmen. If we can play solid defense on a daily basis, we will be pretty darn good. We already scrimmaged last year’s state champs [Mattawan] and held our own. I think we feel that if we can carry over that type of effort into every game then we will be a force. We are working really hard at becoming more consistent. This team is extremely talented, but when combined with our youth we will have to be careful to not lose focus.”
There are only two seniors on the team, but both are returning All Conference players in Kayla Tykosky and Carmen Zeboor. Tykosky will hold down the fort at second base and Zeboor will become the primary pitcher for the Rams, while having to fill the large shoes of now Central Michigan University pitcher Tricia Graham.
Rockford will also primarily feature only three juniors, Hannah Pattok (RF), Isabelle Mudgett (3B) and Rachel Feinauer (LF), as part of the regular rotation in the field. Meanwhile no fewer than four sophomores and a freshman have earned their way into starting positions. The sophomore contingent is comprised of Karlee Tykosky (CF), Jessi Ramos (C), Lexi Brown (1B) and Ashley Mengyen (P). Mackenzie Vallad is the lone freshman, and the talented infielder will be right in the forefront as the starting shortstop for last year’s OK Red runner-up.
The OK Red is an absolute meat grinder in both the preseason rankings and historically. Grandville is ranked third and Hudsonville seventh in the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Division I preseason rankings. Rockford, Jenison and West Ottawa all currently reside in the honorable mention portion of the poll. No other league in the state has a collection of five teams rated so highly from an eight-team field.
Brown previously spent two years as the varsity coach at Forest Hills Northern and two years as the Huskies’ junior varsity coach. He spent the last four seasons as Rockford’s JV coach. He is also a part of all of the University of Michigan’s camps as a featured instructor for Coach Carol Hutchins and her perennial powerhouse program. Brad Thomas and Bob Wells will serve as the two assistants for Brown.
Rockford will kick off the regular season with a twin bill against Kenowa Hills at home on Wednesday, April 11, before hosting the Rockford Invitational on Saturday, April 14.
“We have been inundated with support from the administration on down as we have kicked things off this year,” said Brown. “This is a determined team and a determined coaching staff and we are really looking forward to what lies in front of us.”