ROGERS CITY – After a one-year absence from the MHSAA state finals, the Rogers City softball program has its sights set on East Lansing this spring.
The Hurons saw their streak of back-to-back state semifinal appearances snapped by Inland Lakes a year ago, but a talented lineup has veteran coach Karl Grambau optimistic in 2016.
"We’re really excited that we’ve got a great group of athletes, they love the game of softball, they’re going to represent our community well and they’re going to represent our school well,” said Grambau, who enters his 14th season.
Rogers City begins 2016 ranked sixth in the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Division 4 preseason poll, joining Inland Lakes (third), Coleman (fourth), Hillman (seventh) and Frankfort (ninth).
A program already steeped in tradition, Rogers City claimed its first Division 4 state championship in 2014 after posting runner-up finishes in 2001 (Division 3) and 2004 (Division 4).
Senior four-year catcher Sarah Meredith is the lone Huron remaining from that state championship team, but seniors Ally Streich and Megan Brege are ready to follow in their sisters’ footsteps.
"Watching them go that far into the season was definitely something that I set for my personal goal for this team this year,” said Streich, whose sister Courtney Streich started at short stop on the 2014 title team.
"My sister (Cassie Brege) said that their team had such a chemistry, their team was a family and this year we’re really starting to build that as well,” added Brege. “I think that’s the extra step we need to take to make it down to MSU."
Rogers City opens its season Saturday at the Portage Central Invitational. The tournament features Division 1 fourth-ranked Mattawan, Division 2 third-ranked Stevensville Lakeshore and 2015 Division 4 state runner-up Kalamazoo Christian.
"We try to play the toughest schedule we can play and with the teams we have on it this year, once again we have a very, very tough schedule,” Grambau said. “We play the best teams in Northern Michigan, and then we go down state and play quite a few teams. So, we should be battle-tested when it comes playoff time."