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North Branch softball brings big bats to league title hunt

With 155 hits across just 12 games, it’s hard to find a gap in the North Branch softball team’s lineup this spring. 

“I’m very hopeful this season. So far our bats are on fire, it’s my entire lineup,” head coach Alyssa Welling said. “This is the first time in a long time I’ve had some very strong leadoff batters, and my entire batting lineup is consistent. I don’t have a single batter where a pitcher would be like, ‘Hey let’s pitch to this girl.’

“They can’t pitch around our lineup this year and it makes me very excited.” 

North Branch junior Alana Deshetsky stands ready at the plate.

The Broncos are 8-4 to start the year, 5-1 in BWAC play after sweeping Imlay City and Croswell-Lexington and splitting with Richmond. They find themselves among some of the best in the state, receiving honorable mention status along with Richmond and St. Clair in the latest Division 2 state rankings

Their first four wins of the season were shutouts, outscoring opponents 45-0. 

To top that, six different players have combined for 17 home runs: senior Grand Valley State University commit Jasmine Mauk leads the way with five, junior Alana Deshetsky has four, junior Cate Welch has three, senior Natasha Bickel and sophomore Emily Brinker each have two, and junior Hannah Carmack has one. 

Welling said the team is far exceeding her expectations. 

“We’re producing very well. I think we even had 21 hits in the USA game, which is astronomical,” she said. 

On Thursday, April 20, North Branch played Unionville-Sebewaing and split the doubleheader, losing 8-2 and coming back to win 15-6. They combined for 31 hits in both games, 21 in the second alone with five home runs. 

As for their defense, senior Courtney Ludescher has lead the Broncos on the mound, maintaining a 6-0 record with 55 strikeouts on the year. Deshetsky has added 38 strikeouts in five games for a 2-3 record. 

“Defensively we’ve got things to work out, but so far we’ve been pretty steady,” Welling said. “I’m pretty excited for how this season has started and how I picture it going.”

What’s more than North Branch’s pitching staff is its team chemistry. Welling said the team is made up of best friends – and many relatives. 

“We have amazing chemistry. I have a lot of relatives on my team: two sets of sisters and a set of cousins. Probably extended cousins on top of that,” she said. “This year they decided to do team breakfast on game days. They get to school about a half hour early just to hang out with one another.

“That’s pretty cool and special. It shows you how excited they are to just be together and build each other up outside of our games.” 

Ten of the 14 players on the roster also went to Myrtle Beach over spring break to get in quality training and practice before the season began, which was the first time in program history a team has done that, Welling said. 

When the Broncos returned from their training trip, they dove right into league play against Cros-Lex, sweeping the Pioneers 15-0 and 11-0. 

“The BWAC is obviously loaded, which is a blessing. It’s nice not having to schedule outside of the league to get those teams to make us better,” Welling said. “Hopefully as we get to those tougher teams…we put our best foot forward.”

The BWAC returns two regional champion teams this year, Richmond and Algonac, and Imlay City even returns with a district title. North Branch, however, is no stranger to championships either.

Many of the girls on this year’s softball team have already won conference titles, first in volleyball and then in basketball. A softball title could make for a three-season sweep. 

“We’re in the top. We know whatever the outcome is, we're going to give it our best and it’ll be very exciting for these girls,” Welling said, “especially the ones who’ve played volleyball and basketball and gotten those titles already.”


For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli

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