ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – From an 0-9 start to a district championship, the Ishpeming Softball Team proved a thing or two last season.

“We battle and we’re resilient, it doesn’t always go our way and when it doesn’t, we keep battling,” said Ben McGuire, the head coach for the Hematites.

After taking huge strides last year, the Hematites have found the identity they’ve been searching for.

“That’s kind of our motto, play hard, have fun and trust your training,” said McGuire. “This is one of my favorite teams fun-wise, they love to have fun. But, they know where to draw the line and get serious. They’re a really fun team to be around, they enjoy playing, they love the game, and that’s the biggest part, you know?”

The Hematite’s passion and dedication to their sport have been a big reason for their growth.

“A lot of times you get kids out here and they’re just doing it for something to do, or their parents tell them you got to do something to get out of the house,” said McGuire. “None of these kids are like that, these kids all love the game and that’s why they’re here. It makes it a lot more fun when that’s the case.”

With a strong and talented senior class returning, the Hematite’s confidence is sky-high.

“We have pretty high expectations this year, I have five seniors and that’s the most I’ve ever had at one time,” said McGuire. “Everybody played last year, I have a lot of kids back from last year. So, our expectations were really high we made it to the regional finals last year and we’re hoping to go farther this year.”

“Honestly, for all of us we’ve improved,” said Abby Koski, a senior for the Hematites. “Even last year, we had to be a lot of the leaders because we didn’t really have many seniors and we missed a lot of them on our district day because they had graduation so we had to step up and it’s been really beneficial to our team this year.”

Starting their 2022 campaign with a winning record hasn’t been easy. Just last week Ishpeming played in four doubles headers.

“It was really chaotic,” said Koski. “It was actually a lot of fun. I like spending time with my team, so being with them the whole week was honestly team bonding. It worked out really well.”

“Front ending our schedule allows us to get a lot of games in early, get experience for our younger kids, get our pitchers going, and get them where we want them to be,” said McGuire. “In the end, we try to wind them down a bit and give them some rest and recovery days before we get to District before we make our big push for playing there.”

This team has seen tremendous improvement, but they are far from satisfied.

“I feel like one of our biggest strengths is definitely our pitching,” said Koski. “We have really great pitchers. For improvement, it’s definitely communication. We do get a little bit mixed up sometimes, but other than that we’re pretty good.”

“Consistency is really important, especially batting,” said McGuire. “We need to make sure that we’re getting good at-bats and we’re putting the ball in play to move runners. A big part of fast-pitch softball is being able to move runners. You know, the bases are only 60 feet so if you can just put the ball in play and move runners and force the other team to make plays, then a lot of the times they will make a mistake that’s costly.”

If the Hematites can reach their full potential, watch out.

“I think we could win a regional title,” said McGuire. “We’ve never done that and I think we can do that for sure. Then, once you get to that point, you’ve only got three games after that.”

“I think our big goal this year is regional,” said Koski. “That’s definitely been a goal of mine since I was a freshman. Knowing the capabilities we have, especially us five seniors, that would be a really, really big goal for us and that would be so cool.”

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