By Mike Walters
It’s been almost two years since the Clinton Softball Team has taken the field, and on Tuesday night, after much anticipation and some fretting, the Girls of Summer hit the basepaths in style, posting two easy victories over Ida -- an 11-1 mercy win in game one and a 15-10 win in the second game.
“We have waited a long time to play a game, emotions will be running high, but like any game, we will take our team approach... pitch-by-pitch,” Head Coach Kim Phillip said in an email interview before the game.
Phillip expressed optimism for her 2021 team, which features many new faces, like her daughter, Kendall, who was in 7th grade the last time the varsity team took the field.
“There will be some ups and downs early in the season until we figure ourselves out,” Phillip said. “We are only returning four from the 2019 team, therefore you will be seeing a lot of new faces out on the field.”
Phillips said she will expect her senior leadership to come from veteran players like senior captains Libbi Fair and Chloe Houghton, who have a deep knowledge of the game from two years of varsity play. Jaecy Jones and Lily Thompson will also be returning in their final year of eligibility.
“These four are strong returners,” Phillip said. “and I know they will do whatever it takes to show these fresh faces the ropes.”
Clinton joined the LCAA this school year, so the list of opponents will look different for the players, but not for Coach Phillip.
“(It) feels normal for me since that is where we were back in my day,” Phillip said. “We are excited to be back in the LCAA, but it doesn’t matter who the opponent is -- we will give it our everything, every game. We know we have some steep competition to overcome.”
Phillip is in her ninth season as Clinton’s head coach, and she jokingly points out that her record was perfect last season -- 0-0 due to the COVID-19 cancellation of the season. Phillip has coached a total of 18 years, including 7 under legendary coach Al Roberts. Her dedication is unparalleled. Her daughter, freshman Kendall Phillip, was born on opening day 2006, and Phillip was catching practice just four days later.
While the Girls of Summer competed on the field Tuesday, news of ever-increasing COVID-19 cases in Michigan led many to speculate that the 2021 season may be a repeat of last year. Not Coach Phillip, whose optimism remains strong.
“Covid is that dark cloud that just looms overhead,” Phillip said. “It is just another obstacle for us to overcome... off the field, we have to make smart choices, end of story.”
Phillip said weekly testing and other protocols have helped the season start on time.
“We hope that this continues for us, and we can get a complete season in,” she said.