Downstate all-stars: Negaunee Miners’ Payton Drew, Ishpeming Hematites’ Madison Pruett to play in softball games at Central Michigan
The two seniors — Ishpeming’s Madison Pruett and Negaunee’s Payton Drew — have both been selected to play in the annual games held at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant.
Pruett, the Hematites’ standout second baseman for four seasons, will compete in the Division 4 game, while Drew, who emerged over time as arguably the best third baseman in the Upper Peninsula, will represent the Miners in the Division 3 game.
Pruett was named to the MHSSCA Division 4 All-State First Team while Drew was a Division 3 All-State Honorable Mention, helping Negaunee to consecutive state quarterfinal berths. The Hematites fell in the district round this season, but Pruett helped guide Ishpeming to a district championship in 2018.
Both Pruett and Drew agreed that it’s a big honor to be selected for the games.
“It means a lot,” Pruett said. “Not a lot of players get picked from the Upper Peninsula. It’s kind of a big honor.”
“It’s a super-big honor considering nobody else (from Negaunee) has ever done it,” Drew added. “It took a lot of hard work and help from coaches. It’s a big deal.”
Speaking of coaches, both Negaunee head coach Randy Carlson and Ishpeming head coach Ben McGuire had high praise for their players.
“We’re really proud to have Payton representing Negaunee in this game,” Carlson said. “Payton is a kid who when she came to the program as a freshman, she was a good player but not one of our best.
“Over the years she worked really hard and made herself into a great player. As a coach, that’s something you love to see. She worked for what she got and it paid off at the end. We’re very happy for her and we’re proud to have her representing Negaunee.”
“Madison has been our leadoff hitter for four years,” McGuire said. “She got our offense started all the time. She batted over .500 and had an on-base percentage of over .600, which is pretty good for a leadoff hitter.
“She’s a great kid, a 4.0 (grade-point average) student, valedictorian, a hard worker, a great leader and we’re definitely going to miss her. She’s one of those kids you don’t get very often. Everything about her got better every single year and we’re really proud.”
Games for all four divisions take place at CMU’s Margo Jonker Stadium. Teams for each game are split into Red and White squads, with each being allowed to select 17 players. Seniors can be selected for the games by invitation only.
Players stay in CMU’s Fabiano Hall next week and are treated to dinner and social time on Tuesday evening, before a game day breakfast on Wednesday. Each team will also have an allotted practice time.
Asked whether they’ll take the games fun or seriously, both Pruett and Drew said both.
“I plan to have fun but I’m also a very competitive person,” Pruett said. “I definitely think I’ll be playing to win.”
“Definitely both,” Drew added. “I’ll be getting in workouts with my coaches so I don’t look like I don’t know what I’m doing. There’s going to be a lot of talent on one field. It’s a lot of good competition and there will be a lot of new friends to make. It will be a good time and a good experience to have.”
Pruett will attend Ferris State University in the fall to study nursing. Drew will attend Northern Michigan University for general education.
Quite possibly the most important aspect of it all to both, however, is the communities they grew up in and the programs they’ve been apart of for the last four years.
“It was just very comforting to know I came from Ishpeming,” Pruett said. “Everyone was so supportive and I knew that I had my town behind me whether we won or lost.”
Pruett also believes nothing would’ve been special had she come from a bigger city.
“I don’t think the support would be as good,” she said. “It wouldn’t be as sentimental.”
Drew said she hopes softball in Negaunee and the rest of the U.P. continues to grow.
“Since our program wasn’t really respected or feared, it was hard starting out because it was like something that was almost just for fun,” she said. “Nobody took it super seriously. Since my class in particular had a lot of talent and girls that worked hard, I think it sort of became a main sport for girls.
“We saw smaller girls look up to us and we made (Negaunee softball) our own thing. The community supported us and how far we’ve come and I hope it stays as strong as it is now.”
The Division 2 All-Star game takes place at 9:30 a.m., followed by Division 3 at 11:30 a.m., Division 4 at 2 p.m. and Division 1 at 4 p.m., all on July 17 at CMU.
For more information, visit the website www.mhssca.com.
Email Ryan Spitza at firstname.lastname@example.org.