Cleary softball team kicks off season today

Cleary University's Megan Robinette hits off a tee during a softball workout Thursday afternoon. The Cougars begin the 2017 season at 9 a.m. today indoors at the Legacy Center. They'll play Indiana Wesleyan at 1:30 p.m. (Photo by Tim Robinson)
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HOWELL — Yes, the temperatures are set to hit the 60s this weekend.

Yes, the Tigers are working out during their spring training.

Which, of course, makes today a perfect candidate for Opening Day.

It is, at least, for the Cleary University softball team.

The Cougars begin the 2017 season at 9 a.m. against Indiana Wesleyan, followed by a contest with Kalamazoo College at 1:30 p.m.

Both will be played indoors at the Legacy Center in Green Oak Township.

It’s not the first time Cleary has used the facility; it played home soccer games there the first year the school offered the sport.

Today’s games are part of a season-opening event which was put together by Concordia University in Ann Arbor.

The games will count as official games, coach Tim Bailey said.

“We’ve had a couple of scrimmages there,” he said. “We can play a full game in there. Every once in a while we hit the ceiling, but not too often.”

The Cougars are coming off a trip to the USCAA nationals last year and are working to return this season.

“We have a lot of new, raw talent,” said Tara Smith of Howell, a senior outfielder and co-captain. “We’re looking to go further in nationals. We’ve already been there, so we know what to expect and take what we’ve learned from every game and put it toward nationals.”

The games come less than a week before the Cougars depart for a week in Florida.

“It’s preparing us to play for those games,” Smith said of today’s contests. “Getting the chemistry back and facing live pitching, especially the live pitching because seeing other pitchers besides our own is always good.”

“The first game, you want to build the foundation to work off of the rest of the season,” co-captain Allie Newcomb said. “We’ll make mistakes. It’s bound to happen. But the key is to make mistakes and get them out of the way, so in those big crucial games you live and learn from them. That’s what I’m excited about, to get the kinks out and get going.”

The 9 a.m. start might be a bit of a jolt for a Cleary team that practices in the evenings during the offseason. Newcomb, a night owl who didn’t schedule morning classes for that reason, nonetheless says she’ll be ready.

“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I won’t be able to sleep.”