Portage Central softball star ready to play at Toledo after program nixed at EMU

PORTAGE, Mich. — At the beginning of January 2018, Becca  Cottrell didn’t know where she wanted play college softball. However when she played at a camp later that month, Eastern Michigan University spotted her. Within a week they invited her on campus. By the end of January, she signed on the dotted line to be an Eastern Michigan Eagle.

“I remember going home crying in the car saying ‘Mom this is what I want,’” Becca said with a smile. “'I don’t want anything else. I want Eastern.'”

It was the greatest feeling in the world, Becca said. She’d been playing softball since elementary school and played all four years in high school at Portage Central. And when she wasn't playing for her own team, she helped younger players develop their skills including a local little league team.

“This is a kid that eats, breathes, sleeps softball,” said varsity coach Lisa Kiino. “She wants to hit in the cage all the time. She’s here. She practices all the time.”

Becca’s joy was short-lived though. In April, she learned that her softball program at Eastern had been cut. A friend, whom she was supposed to go to Eastern with, texted her the news.

“It was very hard, especially you’re at school and you have to focus on your studies and suck it up for the day,” Becca said. “I had a game the next day so I had to go to practice. I had to deal with it for the day.”

Becca was devastated. Coach Kiino was crushed too, she said. However she wanted to encourage her. So she pulled her aside and gave her a pep talk.

“'Let’s just start over',” Coach Kiino remembered saying to Becca. “We still have time. We still had her junior season in front of her. So let’s focus on fundamentals, one game at a time, continuing to push yourself, work hard in the summer. And things will happen.”

Becca spent the summer before her senior year working on fundamentals as Coach Kiino instructed. She also spent a lot of time making phone calls and sending emails to other collegiate programs and coaches, including Joe Abraham. She’d known the Hillsdale coach since she was in 8th grade. When she found out he became the head coach at the University of Toledo, she reached out to him.

“The way he presented the game to me was perfect,” Becca said. “When he moved to Toledo, I just called him and emailed him and I said ‘Hey please remember me, I really want to play for you.’ And surely enough he did.”

That was in September, Becca said. She then visited the school and said “everything was better.” The campus, the academics and the softball program, she was impressed with them all. On November 19th, she officially signed to play softball with Toldeo. 

“It’s definitely been a rough ride,” Becca said smiling once again. “But I’m definitely happy that I have a home at Toledo.”

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