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Despite semifinal loss, Clarkston's future still very bright; 'I know we can be even better' WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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EAST LANSING >> It always hurts when you lose after a deep run in the playoffs, and doubly so if it’s the end of the line, if the players who got you there are all moving on.

It’s devastating then, almost like a bereavement.

“It always is (heartbreaking). I told the girls they probably won’t, and I know I won’t sleep for a couple nights. Yeah, it is,” said Clarkston coach Don Peters, who’s had plenty of those playoff heartbreaks as coach of the Wolves, and before that at Ortonville Brandon. “Days, sometimes weeks. But that’s part of being an athlete and a coach. You put so much into it.”

Peters’ Wolves suffered one of those heartbreaks on Thursday, a 2-1 loss to Grandville in the Division 1 semifinals, a game that turned on a trio of sixth-inning plays, and a game that was very much in reach.

It’ll sting for a while, for sure, but the best part for the Wolves (32-10) is that they lose only one senior from their 2017 team, so this is hardly the end of the line.

In fact, it may just be the beginning.

“To get here was hard, and they played hard. And they played hard in this game. Obviously, when you get a team to the semifinals, you’re very proud of them,” Peters said. “I don’t want to use the young card, I don’t mean it that way, but there’s a lot of growth and a lot of potential in front of those girls, as young as they are.”

Young, they are. The Wolves started five freshmen and two sophomores, along with a pair of Division I-caliber juniors. Six more reserves were sophomores this season, along with two juniors.

The only subtraction from this year’s roster will be senior Alex Gladding, the flex player, who lined up in left field.

Everyone else is back.

That has to leave the Wolves — once they get over the sting — extremely elated about what’s to come.

“I’m very excited for next year. Our motto this year was ‘We can, she can, I can,’ but I want to continue that next year, for sure. … We’re pretty young overall, so I’m pretty excited with what we could do. It’s just so exciting for next year, because I know we can be even better,” said Abbey Tolmie, one of the freshmen. “I’m already looking forward to next season. Like, I can’t wait. I’m just going to work hard in the travel season, and make us better right now. Then, next season, we’ll be rock-solid, ready to go.”

Obviously, there are no guarantees. Nobody would be silly enough to write Clarkston in on next year’s semifinal bracket in permanent ink. There are so many things that can derail a team — regression, unexpected losses, injuries, a different attitude — but there’s still no reason to think that Clarkston isn’t set up better than most to make a run.

“Oh, yeah. Because don’t you think walking out here and having this experience, there’s no big eyes. I think they handed it pretty good, but I think they’ll handle it better the next few years. I mean, there’s no given, but certainly we have the potential. There's so much growth in those kids yet. And this girl, to face a pitcher like that (Grandville’s Ellie Muilenberg), she was a veteran pitcher, a presence on the mound, how can that not help?” Peters said.

“The future is very bright. I’m very excited. We know there’s a lot of work — you don’t just walk on that field and perform like you did there — so there’s a lot of work in front of them. But what I like about this group of kids is that they’re, ‘OK, let’s do it. How hard can you work me?’”

Last Updated: 6/17/2017 4:56:20 PM EST

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