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Hollister’s defense stands out in Corunna’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of Fowlerville

By: Matthew B. Mowery, April 10, 2019, 1:00 am

FOWLERVILLE — Two thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by water.

The other third is covered by Hannah Hollister, patrolling center field.

The Corunna junior made enough spectacular plays in center in Tuesday’s doubleheader — despite a stiff wind blowing out from home plate — that the host Gladiators were grumbling under their breath, even as they pounded out a pair of mercy-rule wins over Hollister’s Cavaliers.

“Why is she only in the places I hit it?” Fowlerville’s Lexi Border groaned as she crossed first base, after Hollister caught a fly-out in dead right field — behind her right fielder — retiring Border for the second time in the same inning, one in which the Gladiators (2-2) scored eight runs in a 14-3 win in the nightcap.

Fowlerville won the opener 19-3.

Both wins were shortened to five innings by the mercy rule, as Fowlerville capitalized on numerous walks and wild pitches by the young Cavaliers pitching staff.

In short, Hollister’s defensive plays — including a pair of outfield assists — were among the few things that didn’t go Fowlerville’s way in the two games.

“She just had so many great plays and you just look and — what can you do? She had great plays all over,” Fowlerville coach Lorrie Chaperon said.

“She’s just all-around. If you’re going to hit it somewhere, don’t hit it around her at all. The one she caught right over the shoulder, like it was nothing. It was fun to see — just good softball is fun to see.”

Certainly, center field is the best place for a speed demon like Hollister — an all-stater in the hurdles last year, earning her the Owosso Argus-Press’ track athlete of the year honors — to best use her speed on defense.

“She can go all the way from right-center to left-center, and she tracks the ball so well, so she can get that jump,” Corunna coach Sam Shuster said, agreeing with Hollister that the catch behind her teammate was just the junior being the captain of the outfield. “She’ll align herself to a position. She’ll kind of have an idea of where I’m having pitches go. She just does an awesome job of controlling the outfield.”

Some of that is just pure speed, something she’s had all her life.

“Yeah. Not until high school did I realize how fast I was, but yeah …” Hollister said, admitting the brisk wind was tough. “It was just more like I had to focus, track the ball in. Couldn’t let my guard down.”

But she’s hardly just a track athlete playing a second sport on the side.

She’s a legitimate softball star — it’s her favorite of the four sports she plays, and it’s the one she’ll play in college at Grand Valley State. Her prowess has earned her a slot as one of the 10 preseason candidates for the Total Sports Softball Player of the Year contest, as well. (To vote, CLICK HERE)

“She is definitely a complete softball player, from being in the field — it doesn’t matter where. Last year, we had her up at shortstop. Her freshman year, we had her out in center field, and this year we kind of put her back out in center field to be that leader, when she’s with us. You saw tonight some of the plays she can just make, and take outs away. She’s just very athletic, very smart. And it doesn’t just extend from here. It extends from the classroom. It extends from her ability to play dual sports. She’ll go ahead and get me a schedule way ahead of time. Very mature young individual,” Shuster said. “The type of team player she is, we had a discussion about her going to center field, and she’s like ‘You know what coach? I’ll play wherever you want me to play.’ It’s just the individual that she is.”

Four different coaches at Corunna could attest to that attitude: Hollister was a contributor on the Cavaliers volleyball squad that lost in the Division 2 semifinals, as well as on the girls basketball team that was ranked all season, before losing in the D2 regionals to eventual runner-up Freeland. By the end of this spring, she’ll have amassed 10 varsity letters.

It’s in the spring, though, that the scheduling gets tough. That’s when Shuster’s squad has to share Hollister’s time with Alan Montgomery’s track and field squad.

“I would say some days I spend more time at track (practice), just because of the workout load, and what we’re doing, and if I’m focusing on hurdles or not. And then days before games — like (Monday) I didn’t go to track (practice) as long, because I don’t have a track meet until Friday. It just depends, I guess,” Hollister said, noting that competition conflicts are more rare. “This last Friday, we were playing against our cross-town rivals (Owosso), and that’s always a big game to be at, but I had to go to track. I wish I could be in both places at once. This week, it’s nice, because we have games on two different days in track, so I can go to both. It’s frustrating when you want to be both places to help the team out.”

Sometimes, though, it’s just not possible. Like the last time the Cavaliers played the Trojans of Owosso in softball, back in last spring’s district finals. That day, Hollister had to be in Zeeland, for the Division 2 track and field state finals — she put track as her primary sport on her dual-sport contract, last year, as well as this year — while the softball team was in Williamston.

Hollister finished third in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 100 hurdles, helping the Cavaliers to a seventh-place finish in the team standings. The softball team lost, 8-4.

“She would and text me ‘As soon as the game’s over, text me and let me know.’ She wanted so bad for us to get that district championship, so she could be with us that regional week, because then track is over. She was just as bummed out as we were. Would she have made that much of a difference in that Owosso game for us, being leadoff? Yeah, I’m sure. But we’ll never know. We just went out and did the best we could without her. But we’ve got great girls on this team that go ahead and step up. And they know Hannah’s responsibilities. Hannah’s one girl, when it comes down to it, and we’ve got 13 girls on the team. They understand that, and they know and they step up,” Shuster said.

“She does a great job. She wants to be here, just for the individual that Hannah is. She wants to be here for her teammates. I know it bothers her when she is away from us, to be with track and do those things. But she is the type of player who wants to be there for everybody. Same with track. She wants to go ahead and do the best she can for them, as well as go ahead and be there for us.

“I mean, would we love to have Hannah every single game? Yeah. Of course we would. Just with everything she’s able to do, characteristic-wise, she’s just a complete individual.”

Hollister’s speed isn’t just an asset on defense. She’s a left-handed leadoff hitter — one who can slap-hit her way on, or draw a walk — acting as the the quintessential table-setter.

In that sense, she’s almost more difficult to deal with than a power-hitting threat you can pitch around: If you put Hollister on, she’s going to end up on third before you know it.

In Tuesday’s double-header, she went 2-for-4 with two walks and four stolen bases, scoring every time she reached base, and totaling four of the six runs the Cavs scored on the afternoon.

Tuesday’s doubleheader pitted two teams very much alike — Corunna lost six seniors from last year’s squad, while Fowlerville lost nine. The main difference? The Gladiators returned their starting battery — pitcher Leah Ash and Lindsey Darby — while the Cavaliers are replacing all of veteran pitching with youngsters. Ginelle Leslie moved from second base to the outfield, giving the Gladiators a solid core up the middle.

Fowlerville took advantage of five free passes in the opener — supplementing 15 hits — and 13 of them in the nightcap. Thirteen of those free passes came around to score.

Ash was 2-for-2 with a home run and a double and two runs scored in the opener, while Arin Szumlinski (three runs, RBI) and Darby (two RBI) were both 3-for-4. In the nightcap, Morgan Byerle was 2-for-2 with a run scored and two RBI, while Szumlinski was 1-for-2 with a triple, an RBI and two runs scored.

“One of our main focuses this year is to be a lot more aggressive on the bases than we were last year. We had nine seniors last year, so we kind of could have a new focus this year, since it’s such a new team. One of those things was to be more aggressive on the bases, and they showed today, when we’re aggressive, it goes in our favor most of the time,” Chaperon said, noting her trio of returners — Ash, Darby and Leslie — have been key in guiding the younger players. “We still have great leadership from them. They learned a lot from the seniors last year. Even as juniors, they were great leaders. My pitcher, it’s her fourth year on varsity. The other two, it’s their third years, so they’re not new to this at all. They got some great training last year from that group.”