By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Today might be the end of a road for Abby Howard and Shawna Esther.
Not THE road, but a road.
The sisters-turned-rivals will face off for potentially the final time as members of Traverse City Central and Traverse City West. Ester is Central’s head coach, while her sister is West’s catcher — and they’ve faced off each of the last four years as Howard has started behind the plate for the Titans for four straight seasons.
“Abby was talking about it (Monday) at practice, and she said, ‘We better win, you guys, or I’ll never hear the end of it,’” said West coach Kathy Breece.
Central and West could face each other in Division 1 districts at Alpena.
“It’s been really fun the past few years I’ve done it,” Howard said. “It’s kind of a bummer that it’s the last time I’ll play against her.
“She used to be my coach in TAGS, so it was weird transferring over to having her as a rival coach. It was kind of sad for me, but it’s always fun.”
Last year, the teams split a doubleheader in their regular-season meeting.
“It’s always very intense and competitive,” Howard said. “I think last year we went to like nine innings.”
At 31, Esther is the oldest of five siblings. Howard, 18, is the youngest, with three brothers in between. Steffen Howard is his sister’s assistant coach.
TC West enters today’s doubleheader at Thirlby Field with a 3-10 record this season. The Titans’ all-conference and all-district catcher aims to improve that mark.
“I’m going to try my hardest. Not that I haven’t before,” Howard said. “I’m going to strive to have everyone play their hardest, too. I have to go out with a bang in my last year.”
A four-year starter behind the plate for West, Howard is a good contact hitter, but her biggest contributions come on defense.
“Her forte is her defense,” Breece said. “She calls the game for us as she has since her sophomore year. We’re relying a lot on her defensively to call out plays.”