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SOFTBALL: Seven players, coach represent area in annual MHSSCA softball games (PHOTOS)
Roosevelt's Rachel Zimmers was one of seven local players that traveled to East Lansing for the annual MHSSCA softball games. Zimmers was the only player to end the day with a win.
After a stellar career with the Cabrini Monarchs, Paige Altherr started on the mound in Wednesday's MHSSCA softball game, allowing two hits in four innings of work.
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The top players from around the state were invited to play in one of four games playing throughout the day; a game for each division.
Downriver was well-represented with seven players and even a coach.
The Division 1 game was the third game played during the day and saw the first win for a local player.
Roosevelt’s Rachel Zimmers was playing on the D1 Red team and defeated the White team 4-0.
Zimmers started at second and made things happen offensively to push her team to a win.
The experience was made all that more special for Zimmers, who was Roosevelt’s first-ever player represented at the game and it’s not something she’ll soon forget.
“I’m just so thankful for the opportunity I had and I had so much fun and got to meet so many new people and play with the best of the best,” she said. “I had a great time. I was so excited and then I was a little nervous.
“But it’s all about having fun when you’re here and showing off everything you’ve learned throughout the years.”
Although the experience was special, Zimmers was also happy to go home with a win.
“Personally, I’m always a competitor so I always want the “W,” but it is all about having fun and our coaches made that clear,” she said. “We’re not doing anything fancy here. It’s about you guys having fun and doing what you do.”
Zimmers also got to experience something on the big stage that she does throughout a normal season in the Downriver League.
Downriver was represented on the D1 White team by Allen Park Coach Patsy Curnell and player Mikey Kish.
“We’ve always been playing against each other and I’m used to seeing her on the other team,” Zimmers said about Kish. “She’s such a great player and competitor.”
Kish’s thoughts echoed Zimmers.
“It was cool,” she said. “It was nothing new because we play against each other all the time, (but) it was cool because I kind of knew how to pitch her when I was catching because I would call the pitchers during the season.”
Kish saw plenty of playing time in three different positions during the game; catcher, outfield and third base.
It was the senior’s first time making the all-state team and she thanked both Coach Curnell and her teammates for making her four years with Allen Park worthwhile.
Despite being part of a class that recorded over 120 wins, Kish was surprised at the invitation to play in the game.
“I didn’t really believe it at first,” she said. “And then I was really excited to be with a lot of my friends from my summer team because they were all coming.
“It was just an honor to have all my friends here and my coach here with me. It was a blast playing in the game.”
Kish said the experience as a whole was more valuable than getting a win.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know the score until after the game,” she said. “I knew they got a couple great hits, but it was just more important that I was out there with my friends and my coach for my last high school thing.”
Kish says the fact that her high school career is officially over has not hit her fully yet and expects it to do so once she gets to college.
“I think that when I step into my first college class it’s gonna hit me,” she said. “And I’m just gonna take all the memories and take it with me into my college season and just make the best of it.”
The game was Curnell’s first time coaching and the long time coach was flattered to have the opportunity.
“It was awesome,” she said. “First, to be honored, it was quite a compliment and I felt like I’ve got my team to a level where it’s being noticed is nice.
“You hear about these kids and you play against these kids, but to coach them, it’s a wonderful experience.”
Curnell has had three Allen Park players in the game before but said this one was emotional as a last go around with her senior star.
“I found myself telling the girls, you don’t think it’s going to be that emotional (but) it was,” she said. “It’s your last time and she’s going on to such bigger and better things, but it’s hard after four years of telling her what to do all the time and having fun with her.”
Despite the loss, Curnell said the experience was a great one and was proud of the kids.
“That’s what it’s all about. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. We told the kids you’ve been honored. Enjoy your moment and showcase yourself. This is what it’s about.”
In the Division 2 game, friendly foes Desiree Kuczynski of Trenton and Morgan Kaiser of Flat Rock were teammates on the D2 White team, which lost 8-6 to the Red team.
Both girls had a strong showing in the game. Kuczynski snatched a line drive out of mid air on the defensive side of things and Kaiser scored the second run of the game after an error put her on first base.
“I thought it was amazing to play here with all the best players in the state,” Kaiser said. “I’m honored to be here too and it was just a completely different experience playing at Michigan State compared to other high schools.”
Kaiser knew coming into the game how thrilling the chance to play would be.
“I was excited and I was honored,” she said. “I was excited because my teammate two years ago got to play in this and she said it was amazing so I was excited for it.”
Kaiser said playing on the same team with a league opponent was interesting at first, but said it was good knowing someone coming in.
Kuczynski mirrored her thoughts.
“It was fun to play with people I verse from Downriver, so it was good to have them as teammates,” she said. “At first, it was weird because we’ve played against each other since sophomore year, but then it all mellowed out and we all got used to each other and got in the groove.”
Kuczynski was excited to be the only representative from Trenton and honored at the chance to play with the best of the best.
“I haven’t played since school got out so I was just kind of trying to hold my own and stay up there with all the girls who have been,” she said. “It’s kind of bittersweet. I’ll miss it.”
Kaiser felt the same way.
“I think now more than ever, it hit me that I’m done with high school because it’s my last high school game ever and I’m never going to play with the same girls again,” she said. “But I’m excited for college. It will be a new start for everything.”
In the Division 3 game, Cabrini’s Paige Altherr and Sydney Lankford both started for the D3 Red team.
The Red team fell 3-0 to the White team.
Lankford contributed to the offense while Altherr took care of things on the mound, allowing just two hits in four innings of work.
The Cabrini pitching star was thrilled with the chance to start on the mound and play with her high school teammate.
“It’s an honor,” Altherr said. “It feels like an honor to be one of the pitchers here and then to be able to start was just fun.
“I love playing with Sydney. I’ve always been her teammate for four years now (and) she does a great job.”
Lankford had similar thoughts and was glad she got one more high school opportunity because she will not be playing softball in college next year.
“I was really excited especially to come out with Paige because we've been playing together for four years, so it’s just another game to be out here with her,” she said. “It was really exciting. I got to cheer for her, we made some plays, it was awesome.”
Lankford said it was great getting to go out and have fun and Altherr said she loved the opportunity to play against girls she’d gone through high school hearing about.
“It’s different seeing girls that you played against, played with, you know them, you know of them, it’s just enjoyable,” she said. “It’s nice to get to know them a little bit better.”
Most of the girls will be playing in college next season.
Altherr will continue her career close to home at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Zimmers has signed with Gannon University and Kuczynski will be trying out for Grand Valley State University.
Kish and Breanna Keethler, who traveled to Lansing but sat out from a last minute injury, will become teammates at Madonna University.
Last Updated: 7/26/2013 12:09:14 PM EST