For high school baseball and softball teams in Michigan, today is the midpoint of the 2021 campaign.
For the Hartland and Howell teams in both sports, today also is a day that they’ve looked forward to since the season began.
Both softball teams are off to rousing starts. The Highlanders are 16-1 and feature righthander Avrey Wolverton, who has signed to play at Furman University.
She’s not entirely unhittable, but close enough.
Wolverton has held opposing batters to a minuscule .088 batting average in 63 innings, striking out 149 batters. She has two no-hitters, including a perfect game where she struck out 19. Her earned run average is 0.44.
Hartland counters with Rachel Everett, a lefty who hasn’t allowed an earned run in her five starts over 27 innings. Hartland’s other starter, Kylie Swierkos, has a 1.20 ERA in 41 innings this season.
That’s the setting as the teams meet for the first time this season in a doubleheader that will be broadcast on The Livingston Post, starting at 3:45 p.m. Click here for the link.
“Every year you circle this game on the schedule,” Hartland coach Taylor Wagner said. “Whether you’re a freshman, a senior, or a coach it doesn’t really matter. This is a fun game with two really good teams, and I think everybody’s really looking forward to it. Both teams are starting to hit their stride. It’s going to be fun to watch, that’s for sure.”
Unlike past years, their next meeting will be well before the final four in East Lansing. it would be at a Division 1 district at Dexter, likely in the finals.
“There’s potentially some strategy involved,” Howell coach Ron Pezzoni said. “What’s your biggest priority, winning the KLAA or moving forward in the state tournament? Whether you want to give them too many looks at your pitchers, that kind of thing.”
All that, though, would be a subtext in what should be an entertaining twin bill between two very skilled softball teams.
Wolverton leads the Howell offense, hitting .452 with five homers and 25 RBIs, both team highs. Delaney Gillett is batting .563 with 24 RBIs Maddie Springer is hitting .583 with 18 stolen bases to key a Howell lineup that has no easy outs.
Hartland, meanwhile, is led by Delaney Robeson, who is hitting .621 with a team high 21 RBIs, with nine of her team=high 18 hits going for extra bases. Kelsey Zampa, who missed the first couple weeks of the season, is hittihg .522 with seven steals while Abigail Gardner is batting .407, mostly from the leadoff spot.
And yet… “it’s hard to know what to expect,’ Wagner said. “There’s incredible pitching on both teams and there’s some really awesome hitting. We really have no idea what’s going ot happen. You just hope that both teams show up and lay their beat game.”
The teams haven’t met since the 2019 season due to the pandemic, but the players are well familiar with each other from travel teams, which have Hartland and Howell players as teammates as they play in tournaments around the Midwest and beyond.
“They’re friends and they talk to each other on almost a daily basis,” Wagner said. “That’s a lot of fun because both teams just want to win. You see it in these girls. You could see it the last couple of days of practice, definitely. It’s a fun rivalry and I’m glad we’re getting to the point where we have something to be excited about. It’s cool to see again, regardless of the outcome.”
While there are no attendance restrictions in general, no more than 200 fans will be allowed to sit in the stands behind home plate at either the baseball or softball diamonds. Both were refurbished this year with press boxes and improved fencing around the fields. Fans will be allowed to watch along the fences on both diamonds.