Portage Central hosted Schoolcraft Saturday in the Sophie Strong softball games, held in honor of former Mustang softball player Sophie Varney. Between games, the batting cages at PC’s diamond were christened in her honor in a ceremony with the Varney family.
Sophie remained an active and cherished member of the Portage Central softball team and family as she battled Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a type of rare brain tumor. Varney passed away on December 20, 2020 at the age of 16, but the mantra “Just Keep Swinging” continues to echo for those who knew her.
“She never let the illness of DIPG define her, she continued to thrive and grow,” noted the plaque unveiled Saturday at the batting cages down the left field line. “She had the determination to fight it. She kept playing softball through it all.”
“Her strength and courage in the face of a terminal illness will serve for years to come as a shining example,” the plaque continued. “She was loved by many and will be missed terribly.”
The games Saturday also served as a fundraiser for the ChadTough Foundation, which funds research in the fight against DIPG. The first Sophie Strong games were in 2019 against Loy Norrix and served as the first career varsity start for the then-freshman Varney.
“(Sophie is) the one that makes any situation brighter, she’s a kid that makes you smile,” said PC head coach Lisa Kiino in 2019. “She means the world to this team. She reminds me every day why I do what I do and to put my best foot forward every day.”
Schoolcraft wasn’t the originally scheduled opponent, taking the spot after a late withdrawal by Parchment. Two Maddy Ingle home runs and a strong pitching outing from Cassidy Bruner gave the Eagles a 6-1 victory in game one. A higher-scoring second game saw a 10-5 Schoolcraft win.
Portage Central returns to action with a Tuesday trip to Okemos. Schoolcraft travels to Constantine for a rivalry league doubleheader Monday.