The Hartland and Howell softball teams met for a doubleheader in April, one the Eagles swept.
They meet again today in a Division 1 semifinal at Michigan State University, and both coaches say that twin bill two months ago is like it was a decade ago.
“It might as well have been,” Hartland coach Bob Greene says. “I think it snowed a week after we played. Howell’s a different team now, and so are we.”
“Even something as simple as our lineup is totally different,” Howell coach Ron Pezzoni said. “Our defensive lineup, our pitching is totally different. It’s a totally different team.”
Hartland (31-5) has won its last three games in the bottom of the seventh inning, including a three-run rally to beat Clarkston 3-2 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal in Detroit. That, Greene says, is no accident.
“Everything we do (in practice), it’s a 1-0 game, whether its on offense or defense,” he said. “We practice that and we preach that, and it usually cmes down to one-run games this time of year.”
Both teams have multiple freshmen making key contributions as well. Avrey Wolverton, who hit the game-winning home run for Howell on Tuesday, has 55 RBIs this season, while Hartland’s Rachel Everett has emerged as the Eagles ace inside the pitching circle.
Howell won Tuesday in large part because it got to Plymouth pitcher Jenny Bressler for two run in the first inning. Pezzoni says another fast start is essential.
“It’s really important, especially with the way Molly (Carney) is throwing,” he said. “If we have the lead, I think we’re pretty confident. It keeps the energy levels high and keeps the other team down.”
It could very well come down to the pitchers. Both Everett and Carney have been lights-out in the postseason. As Wolverton showed on Tuesday, one swing could make all the difference.
In the meantime, Greene says his team will savor the experience and is looking forward to taking on the Highlanders.
“We’re excited to play them, not as a rival, but as a really good team,” he said. “Good companionship. All the kids know each other. It’s going to be a fun day.”