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04-23-2020 Tri-City Area Sports

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant

Winter Sports Awards Watervliet High School Athletic Department held out for good news, hoping it could get together for a traditional winter sports banquet, just like everyone has been hoping for some good news about going back to some kind of normal. That good news about their ability to get together and celebrate face-to-face never came, so some of the Panther teams held virtual banquets. The Panther girls basketball team gathered around their computers and phones last week as Coach Ken Dietz talked about the season and the growth of his team. Freshman Samantha Dietz was named the team’s MVP. She posted a season for the ages in her first try at varsity basketball, averaging 18.5 points per game and 14.5 rebounds per game. She made 45 steals and had 17 assists. Madison “MJ” Flowers was named the team’s Most Improved Player. The freshman point guard did a great job in her first varsity season, usually being defended by the opponent’s best player and not only surviving, but thriving in the role. She averaged eight points per game with 24 three-pointers, 24 steals, and 41 assists. Her quick hands and feet also made her a formidable defender. Senior Alexis Worley was named Team Leader. The senior was called upon to be the elder for a group of young teammates and filled the role well. Coach Dietz said, “Alex was rock solid for us this year. Her leadership was outstanding and appreciated. With the youth and lack of experience we needed someone that would help players on and off the court. Alex checked both those boxes every day.” The boys basketball team named Andrew Chisek the team’s Most Valuable Player. The sophomore guard led the team’s offense again in his second year with 13.7 points per game, but also became a defensive force that regularly disrupted his opponent’s offenses. Coach Dan Hoff selected two players as most improved. Junior Davis King seemingly came out of nowhere after injuries ruined his first two high school seasons, showing off a lethal outside shot. Junior Jordan Abney was a solid ball handler off the bench who showed some great moves when driving for the basket. Both players will play important roles as seniors next year. The Leadership Award was given to Brennan Bornas. The sophomore point guard played above his age all season, showing surprising speed when opponents thought they had an opening but didn’t. Cole Pline was given the Scholar-Athlete Award by Coach Hoff. The senior center is near the top of his class academically and was instrumental in the team’s improved performance this season. The Panther wrestling coaches, Joe and Dan Isbrecht chose Isaiah Yazel for the team’s 110% Award. The junior competed in one of the toughest high school weight classes at 160 pounds, the natural weight of many strong teenagers. His coaches said he worked hard all year and never gave up, even when facing some of the top wrestlers in the state. Sophomore Parker Lanning was named the Most Improved Player. Parker was an entirely different wrestler this season, entering his matches with a confidence and determination that served him well all season long. Look forward to seeing him use that confidence on Friday nights this fall. The winter sideline cheer team also presented awards recently. Freshman Ella Shunkwiler was named the Most Improved Cheerleader. Junior Riley McKinney was named the Most Valuable on the team in her third year on the sidelines. Junior Abby Burrows was named the Most Spirited.

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath

Coloma Comet senior baseball players recognized It is more than appropriate to continue honoring Coloma Comet senior athletes who have earned recognition through years of work on and off the athletic fields. The following is a brief look at the careers of some of these student athletes, and their feelings about how their high school athletic careers ended because of the worldwide pandemic. According to Coloma head baseball coach Kevin VanPeteghem (Coach V), Jacob Hammond, who is a left-handed pitcher and an outfielder, was being looked at this spring to be at the top of the Comet pitching staff. Talented left-handed pitchers are very rare, and a real asset to a successful baseball team. Coach V stated that Jacob had been working extremely hard in the offseason to become a dependable arm in the Coloma pitching rotation, and also to try and win a spot in the Comet outfield, in hopes to be playing every day. Jacob was a first year varsity player last spring, in his junior season, and was ready to blossom in his senior year, with the hopes of getting some notice from college baseball coaches. Jacob is still hoping to play at the next level; he was an all-academic all-district player last year.

Jacob says, “Having my baseball career cut short was a real shot to the heart, especially being my senior season, and because of all the hard work I put in, preparing for it.” Jacob also says that it has been a great privilege to play sports representing Coloma, and he still has great-many memories playing sports – which he wouldn’t trade for anything. Nick Eastman has been on the Coloma varsity baseball team since he was a freshman, so this spring would have been his fourth. According to Coach V, Nick was an all-conference performer his junior season and he also was honored to be named to the all-state and all-district academic teams last year as well. Nick was also honored by his teammates as the Ultimate Grinder, a most prestigious Comet baseball award. This season Coach V had Nick pegged to be the starting third baseman. He also would have been batting in the leadoff position and looking to increase his stolen bases over last year, when he led the team with 23 swipes. Nick says he was heartbroken when he found out this season was canceled before a pitch was ever thrown. One of his biggest wishes would be to just play one more time with the friends and players he’s grown up playing with, because it is those close relationships that he’ll always cherish and miss the most. Nick also stated that he put in a lot more off season work this year in preparation for his senior campaign, but doesn’t feel any of the time was wasted because all of the memories of playing baseball, and all of the work, has made him into the man he has now become. Nick has several college options he’s mulling over, and wherever he lands, he’s hoping to play some baseball on the varsity or club level. Ethan Price is another very talented athlete who would have been playing his 4th year at the varsity level, and would have been looking to add to the many accolades which came his way over the first three years of being a Comet baseballer. Last year as a junior, Ethan was just about all everything – he made the all-conference, all-district, all-region, and honorable mention all-state teams. Ethan was also voted on by his teammates as the offensive player of the year last season. Ethan hit over .600 in conference games last year, and he would have been back at his starting shortstop position for his last go around. He also finishes his career with a very impressive total of 98 hits, and one of his biggest disappointments about the season being taken away, was that he was denied the opportunity to enjoy getting that 100th hit.

Ethan echoes the thoughts of his teammates of not being able to play that final season with them. One of his favorite memories occurred during his junior season while on a team road trip to Coldwater they stopped at a pizza place and some antics occurred there involving him and his teammates that he will never forget. Connor Bittner would have been playing his second season on the Comet varsity baseball team. Coach V states that Connor

was also a player who was looking much improved, and had been putting in a great deal of work in the off- season. Also Coach V says that Connor was a solid defensive outfielder, last year, and could see him getting much better. He also had been working very hard on his hitting, and would have been challenging to get more at bats this year. Coloma Youth Baseball / Softball 2020 season has been officially canceled Coloma Youth Baseball Softball Association President Cody Kelley announced via a letter posted to Facebook on Monday, April 20, that they had officially canceled their baseball and softball seasons this year, because of the COVID-19 crisis. Kelley states in this news release, they will be working over the next few weeks on reimbursing families the money they had paid during sign-ups. There is also the option to leave the money in, as advanced payment toward next season. Questions regarding the situation or the refunds can be directed to Cody Kelley at 269-470-5220.

Ethan Price bags a long beard with a bow Ethan Price, who normally is roaming around the shortstop position for the Coloma Comets this time of year, but with the shutdown of the world happening, found a way to get outside and find some peace. In the process, bagged his first ever turkey with a bow and arrow. Ethan states that he has been hunting since he was 11 years old and has shot three turkeys with his shotgun, but this was his first ever with the more primitive weapon. Ethan is actually quite accomplished with his bow because he tells that he has shot 10 deer with it, and only one with his gun. Anyone who hunts knows bow hunting for any game is a much more difficult task. Ethan says he loves hunting, and does so with many of his family members. The bird he bagged on Sunday, April 19, had a 10-inch beard and 1-inch spurs, which most likely is a 2-year-old, tasty bird.

BAGGING A BIRD FOR DINNER! Coloma Comet senior Ethan Price, a shortstop on the Comet varsity baseball team, bagged his first turkey with a bow on Sunday, April 18. Ethan, who has been hunting since he was 11 years old, says he has bagged three turkeys over the years with a shotgun, but he’s very proud of his first turkey with a bow. (Photo courtesy of Ethan Price)

Coloma vs. Watervliet could

happen in playoffs! The MHSAA on Monday, April 20, announced their new classification system, which it will begin instituting with the 2020-21 eleven man football season. For the first time since 1998, the schools will know their classification for the football playoffs before the season begins. It has been breaking the teams down to divisions after the completion of the season, as the number of teams in the playoffs has been established. The divisions announced this week have Coloma and Watervliet both landing in Division 6 for the upcoming football season. They will be joined in Division 6 in our area with Brandywine and Buchanan, two old foes the Comets have faced for many years. The rivalry between the two schools, only separated by two miles of Red Arrow Highway, could really add more significance if the two schools should face each other in the playoffs. Coloma and Watervliet have met on the football field during the regular season more than 100 times, but never in the playoffs, when they’re usually playing in different divisions.

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele

Senior athletes … we feel your pain Over the last month, the COVID-19 pandemic has filled our television airwaves, news media outlets, and social media channels with plenty of bad news along the way. All the while, the hurt is made greater for student-athletes around our local area of the world who are not able to compete in baseball, soccer, softball or track and field, and especially those seniors whose high school athletic careers have ended far too soon. The Hartford Press Box wants to let those senior student-athletes know it is okay to feel angry that their final season of playing sports with their fellow classmates, friends and teammates ended so abruptly. It’s also okay to feel sad that the memories they would have created in their final season in competition will never happen. And it’s also okay to show their emotions, because knowing that all the blood, sweat and tears they have given for so long representing their community and school is gone – just like that. While I never faced a pandemic or anything even remotely close to this in my time as a Hartford Indian, I want them to know that their hurt is felt straight in this writer’s heart. Having played sports myself representing the Indians, I know all too well the feeling they have when they have to hand in that uniform one last time. It’s one of the toughest moments most student-athletes face as they realize that high school life is ending, and the “real world” is only just beginning. But when their final season is taken from them, and is out of their hands, it has a unique pain all the same. This is why over the next several weeks, Hartford Press Box will be highlighting all of the great seniors who have dedicated their athletic lives to Hartford, and wore the green and white with immense pride. So, this is where everyone’s help is requested. Senior athletes or their parents are encouraged to reach out to me via email at When doing so, in keeping with the term “student-athlete”, please include both athletic and academic accomplishments for publications. Tri-City Record is excited to recognize as many senior student-athletes as we possibly can in the weeks, and months, ahead. Forever and for always, GO INDIANS!

Press Box Player of the Week!

By Jerrod Birmele Jaelyne Galvan, a senior at Hartford High School, and a member of the Lady Indian basketball and softball teams, is this week’s Tri-City Record Press Box Player of the Week.

Jaelyne was expected to be one of the major contributors for the Lady Indian softball team this spring; a season which has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s very unfortunate fans will not be able to see her play, especially after she would have come into this year off of a 2019 season where she earned first team all-conference. Last year offensively, in 135 plate appearances and 118 at-bats, she hit .449 with 10 doubles, eight triples, 30 runs batted in and 39 runs scored. On the defensive side of the diamond, she had 137 total chances in the field, making 122 putouts and nine assists, while committing just six errors for a total fielding percentage of .956. This past winter on the basketball court, Jaelyne was a steady presence and counted-on leader for a team that finished 10-9 on the season. In those 19 appearances, she averaged seven points per game, led the team in scoring four times, and finished in double figures on eight different occasions. She scored a season-high 14 points in a victory over Cassopolis on January 28, while also scoring 12 points in two other games: a victory at Cassopolis on December 10 and in a loss at Bloomingdale on February 4. At the end of the season, she received honorable mention all-conference honors from the Southwest 10 Conference. As a student in the classroom, Jaelyne has been on the honor roll several times, including receiving high honors during the first semester of the current school year. Because of her academic achievements, she, along with her fellow teammates on last season’s softball team, were honored with Team Academic All-State honors from the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association (MHSSCA). Congratulations on this great honor, Jaelyne! Thank you for all the memories you have given Hartford fans over the past four years. Everyone wishes you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors!

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