Defending state softball champs looking to get in gear with postseason approaching

Mike Moore

FARMINGTON HILLS — They were semifinalists two years ago.

Then in 2016, the girls on the Farmington Hills Mercy softball team put it all together and took the next step, winning the Division 1 state championship.

So, just what’s in store for the 2017 edition?

We’re about to find out.

After winning it all last spring and then going through a major roster turnover, the Marlins appear ready for another run toward East Lansing — if a lot of things fall into place, as coach Alec Lesko put it.

“We have to continue to get better in all phases of the game,” Lesko said last week. “We’re pitching better, we’re having good looks at the plate, and our defense is strong. It’s what you want at this time of the year.”

After somewhat of a slow start, by Mercy standards anyway, the Marlins have found their groove of late.

The team was 20-9 overall at press time, fresh off a tournament victory in Woodhaven and preparing to play in the Catholic League championship, which was held May 22, after press time.

“We’re still very young at some key spots, but we knew that coming into the season,” Lesko said. “Before the year started, we talked to the kids about our goals, knowing what our youth was. We wanted to play as well as we could, have a chance to win the Catholic League and then go on a run in the playoffs.”

With freshmen starting or seeing major time at pitcher, catcher and in the outfield, it took some time. It also took some adjustments from the team’s senior core.

“For this group of seniors, they were a tremendous supporting cast the past couple seasons. I think it was tough to have a team this young for those girls, but they came together,” Lesko said. “But a few weeks ago we had a meeting, and I think since then, they’ve really come together. They’ve blossomed into tremendous leaders. They’ve bought in totally to what we’re doing.”

Which is repeating as state champions.

The Marlins begin that quest in the Farmington High district, opening with Farmington Hills Harrison at 4 p.m. May 30 at home. The winner faces Farmington in a 12:30 p.m. semifinal June 3.

North Farmington and Livonia Stevenson face one another in a 10 a.m. semifinal that same day, with the title game set for 3 p.m.

So, the obvious question for Lesko is whether or not this is a group that can make a long run?

“I think it is, but we’re going to need some things to happen,” he said. “We have to pitch to location and keep the balls in the park. If we’re making other teams beat us with multiple hits, we’re going to be all right. We’re hitting the ball well, and we’re going to put pressure on their defense. For us, we want to hang tight and have a chance to strike in every game we play. One inning at a time is how we approach it.”

It worked last time around.