FERNDALE — Ferndale High softball coach Akilah Evans flashes a bright smile when thinking about her new team.
Evans is in her first season with the Eagles after being the head coach of Southfield-Lathrup last season.
“I am so hopeful. Even with us not having our first competition yet, they are doing so well,” she said as her team stretched before practice March 27. “Their skill level is there. Even though there is always room for improvement, some of the basic fundamentals are good.
“We just want to make sure we push them even further. I really think we’re going to do awesome this year.”
The Eagles return half the team that finished 6-12 overall last season, including sophomore pitchers Emily Kulick and Shelby Slabiak.
Evans called them power throwers with a variety of pitches. Along with the one-two punch in the circle, Evans is optimistic about the defense as a whole.
“I think my team is very versatile. We have a lot of players that can play more than one position, and I think that set us up pretty well this year. I’m super excited,” she said. “I think that’s really what’s going to pull us through.”
Senior shortstop Gaby Leas and junior catcher Shelby Simpson believe the team’s camaraderie is also going to play a factor in its success.
“The girls are happy when they’re here,” Leas said. “I really think she brings out the best in all of us.”
“We’re all going to come together and keep pushing each other to do well,” Simpson added.
Evans said her approach is to take it one game at a time, but she believes this team could be the best of the Oakland Activities Association Gold Division by season’s end.
“As long as we’re making small strides toward the bigger picture, I’m good with that. Where we are now, I feel good about. So I know by midpoint, I’m going to feel really good,” she said. “With this team, I think we are in line for (a championship) — I honestly do.
“Some people in their first year are a little shaky with that, but like I said, with our versatility, the fact that I have two strong pitchers and we have girls that played on varsity — with that leadership and experience, I feel that we can compete.”