The Upper Peninsula is quickly becoming a recruiting hotbed for the Alpena Community College softball team.
This year's roster features four players from the U.P. and the Lumberjacks added another on Friday, when Rapid River's Ashleigh Monticello signed a Letter of Intent to play with ACC beginning next season.
"I'm from a small town and I just like this kind of atmosphere and thought it would be a good opportunity," Monticello said. "It feels good, I'm pretty pumped. I love the sport and I'm glad I have this opportunity to play."
News Photo by James Andersen
Rapid River infielder Ashleigh Monticello, center, signs her Letter of Intent on Friday to play basketball and softball for Alpena Community College beginning in the fall of 2012. Pictured with Monticello is ACC assistant softball coach Kevin Willis, left, and Monticello’s mother, Patti Monticello.
As part of a Rockets squad that finished 29-8 and made the Division 4 semifinals last season, Monticello earned a Division 4 all-state honorable mention from the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association. She also earned Division 4 all-district and all-region honors.
In Monticello, who will play second base for the Lumberjacks, ACC is getting a hard-working player who loves to win.
"I love the way that girl plays; attitude, hustle, she gets out and she isn't happy about it. When I look at Ashleigh I see a huge heart and a ton of desire to win," ACC assistant softball coach Kevin Willis said. "She's an outstanding player and hard nosed. When I was explaining Ashleigh to some of my other recruits, I say she's like a little bulldog. She doesn't stop, she just continues to go."
Monticello will also play basketball for the Lumberjacks and is one of two players-the other being Sault Ste. Marie's Katie Wollan- who will join ACC from the U.P. next year.
While Monticello hasn't yet decided on a field of study, she said she'd like to go into something in the medical field.
With most players returning from last year's team, expectations are high for Rapid River and so far the Rockets haven't disappointed, starting the season 9-0 as of Friday afternoon. With pitcher Heather Sanderson leading Rapid River on the mound and several experienced position players, including Monticello at shortstop, the Rockets could be considered a favorite to return to the semifinals this season.
"We've been working really hard. We have a hitting room in our school and we spend most of our time hitting because our coach (George Kanyuh) is really big on hitting," Monticello said. "He wants us to hit good and we've been hitting really good this year."
Last season, Monticello was one of the heroes of Rapid River's 10-0 quarterfinal win over Manistee Catholic Central, coming up with four hits and four RBI.
With Monticello and Wollan joining the Lumberjacks next year, ACC will have brought in six players from the U.P. in three seasons. The small town feel that Alpena and many towns in the U.P. share is part of the reason why Kasi Swajanen (Chatham), Brianna Grimm (Escanaba), Lauren Seibert (Marquette), Brittany Maki (Eben Junction) and now Monticello chose to play at ACC.
"I think that's why the U.P.'s been good to us is because it's not a whole lot different than their high school atmosphere coming to ACC," Willis said. "It's just like an extension of home and that's really nice. It's close enough that the parents can come down."
For Monticello's mother Patti, the fact that Ashleigh will attend Alpena also has benefits because the short distance between Alpena and Rapid River will make it easier to attend games that Ashleigh plays in.
"I think it's great, I mean I love Alpena. This is actually the second time I've been here but this is the first time Ashleigh's gotten to experience the college," Patti Monticello said. "The coach is phenomenal and I just feel like he really cares."