SPRING LAKE – When the Spring Lake softball season started, expectations were low under first-year coach Brian Glover.
But expectations do not always equate to reality, and the reality is that the young Lakers are off to a surprising 14-6 start this season.
“I think they’re overjoyed,” said Glover about the mindset of his team. “The whole community has been awesome. It’s been a shock to me as well. I didn’t know what we had. I had no idea, and I knew mentally it would be a challenge. But I’m pleasantly surprised. The girls thought we could win 10 games this year and we’ve won 14, so we’re way ahead of where they thought.”
One player who has had a major impact is senior pitcher/infielder Avery Flynn, who’s excelled on the mound and at the plate.
“Her competitiveness drives her,” said Glover about Flynn, who has an 11-5 record with one save on the mound while racking up 115 strikeouts. “She has to be in the top five of any girl I’ve coached as far as being competitive.”
That competitive mindset is obvious when you talk to Flynn, who isn’t completely satisfied with her performance despite her impressive stats.
“I’m happy with how I’ve performed,” said the senior about her year so far. “I feel like I’ve had certain plays, though, where I could’ve done something different. But overall, I’m pretty okay with how I’ve done.”
When Flynn is on the mound, the defense behind her is more relaxed, according to Glover.
“She’s got a great changeup and good speed on her fastball,” the coach said. “I’ve never coached a kid who’s had as many strikeouts as her. She lets the defense relax a bit and it makes it nice for them.”
Part of what has helped Flynn excel on the mound this season is the trust that Glover has shown in her.
“He (Glover) has the catcher, Alexa Carter, and I call most of the game. By doing that, I feel like both of us have grown. We can learn through that by using different pitches and speeds.
“Each batter has their strengths and weaknesses. With coach calling the game, you’re not connecting with the why of pitch calling. With us calling it, we’re connecting with why we should do what we’re doing and it makes more sense.”
Flynn has also been excelling at the plate, hitting a blazing .604 with 15 RBIs and one home run. She has also walked nine times on the season, which shows how much her patience has grown at the plate.
“We’ve been talking about working the count,” said Glover about improving Flynn’s approach. “We want her looking for her pitch and she’s done that. She swings with velocity and hits the ball hard.”
Flynn admits she needed to be more patient at the plate this season.
“In the beginning of the year, it was pointed out to me that I was a very aggressive hitter,” she said. “I didn’t like to wait for things to come to me. I just kind of attacked. So patience is something that we’ve worked on. I feel like I’m getting a little closer to understanding that every pitch isn’t going to be your pitch.”
Her pitching and hitting skills have added up to some great performances this season.
In a doubleheader against Holland Christian, she struck out 13 from the mound and added three hits at the plate in Game 1, then had eight more strikeouts and pitched the win in Game 2. In a win over Saugatuck she struck out 10 and went 4-for-4 at the plate while hitting a home run.
While Flynn won’t be around after this season, she’s excited about setting an example of excellence that her young teammates can follow moving forward.
“This season has taken me by surprise,” Flynn said. “We knew we’d be better than last year, but it’s just crazy to see the difference in what one year can do. We currently have two seniors and one junior. The rest are underclassmen and that’s something we’re focusing on. We wanted to make all of these girls one unit, and we’ve been able to do that and win 14 games, which has amazed me. All of us have stepped up and really shown our capabilities.”