NBGSA celebrating its 35th season SaturdayPublished 7:13pm Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Summer is the time for sunshine, warm temperatures and girls softball in Niles.
Through the years, girls from ages 4 to 18 have benefited from the work provided by the Niles-Brandywine Girls Softball Association.
This Saturday, a celebration to honor the 35th anniversary of the league will take place. The event starts at 1 p.m. at Fireman’s Park in Niles.
Many of the players on the 2001 state champion Brandywine girls softball team and 2009 state champion Niles softball team got their start in the Niles-Brandywine Girls Softball Association.
“We’re hoping some of the kids from the two high school state championship teams are at the event,” said association president Dave Fisher. “We’ve invited ladies that have played in the league over the past 35 years. We’ll throw together some game with those girls and do a spoof type of thing. There will be regular softball games before and after that game. It will be a day of softball. We’ll also try to recognize the coaches and board members that are in attendance.”
Fisher has been involved with the the program for 15 years and is proud of what the association has produced as softball players.
“It’s great seeing kids accomplish things that they didn’t believe that they could accomplish,” Fisher said. “I credit the success to the quality coaches through the years and the dedication from the people on the board.
“It’s quite a statement that two high school softball state champions have come from Niles and this league was the common denominator.”
Jenna Ignowski, Nellie Coquillard and Brittney Buti, who were on the 2009 state champion Niles squad, are examples of girls who began their softball career under the association’s direction. Ignowski and Coquillard went on to play softball at Eastern Michigan University, while Buti played softball at Ferris State University.
“There are a bunch of memories,” Fisher said. “I haven’t compiled the stats, but I wonder how many of the girls that played out here earned college scholarships. There’s quite a few in just the last five years.
“The younger girls can see the positive impact this program has had for girls and use it as inspiration for them and that anything is possible. So many kids started from nothing and developed into great softball players.”
Former players in the program have also become coaches. Brandywine High School graduates Nicki McGowen, Leah Kachur and Rachel Koller-Carlson are junior varsity softball coaches. McGowen is at St. Joseph, Kachur is at Portage Northern and Koller-Carlson is at Buchanan.
The interest in the program continues to be very high. There are 30 teams in the league and over 340 kids this year.
“That’s the most I’ve ever seen,” Fisher said. “We’ve pretty much got a lock on girls softball. It’s a great place to plant the seeds.”