Preview: Familiar Contenders, New Home
Preview: Familiar Contenders, New Home
Softball
Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend, for the first time, the MHSAA Softball Semifinals and Finals will be played at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.

But although the tournament’s new stage might be unfamiliar to most, many of the 16 finalists should feel at home playing in championship-deciding games.

Reigning Division 4 winner Kalamazoo Christian is back for more, as are 2013 Division 1 runner-up Bay City Western and Division 3 runner-up Unionville-Sebewaing. Clinton, Gladstone and Livonia Ladywood all played in MHSAA championship games in 2012.

For the first time as well, Semifinal play will begin Thursday and continue Friday with all four Finals on Saturday. Below is this weekend's schedule, followed by a look at each contender. 

Semifinals – Thursday
Division 1
Portage Central (41-3) vs. Utica Ford (30-8) - 10 a.m.
Romeo (31-7) vs. Bay City Western (39-3) - Noon

Division 2
Wayland (42-1) vs. Livonia Ladywood (28-13) - 3 p.m.
Croswell-Lexington (30-1) vs. Stevensville Lakeshore (33-9) - 5 p.m.

Semifinals – Friday
Division 3
Gladstone (28-2) vs. Coloma (34-9) - 10 a.m.
Unionville-Sebewaing (39-0) vs. Clinton (34-4) - Noon

Division 4
Vestaburg (27-8) vs. Kalamazoo Christian (27-16) - 3 p.m.
Fowler (26-6) vs. Rogers City (32-6) - 5 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1 - 11:30 a.m.
Division 2 - 9 a.m.
Division 3 - 5 p.m.
Division 4 - 2:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $7 per round or $15 for an all-tournament ticket that includes admission to baseball games. Radio broadcasts of all games can be heard online at MHSAAnetwork.com. All games will be streamed live online at MHSAA.TV and viewable on subscription basis.

All statistics below are through at least the regular season, with most through teams' Regionals or Quarterfinals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)

Division 1

BAY CITY WESTERN
Record/rank: 39-3, No. 4
Coach: Rick Garlinghouse, 10th season (324-77-3) 
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association North
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2013.  
Players to watch: Hannah Leppek, jr. P (32-1, 0.70 ERA, 290 K, .507 16 2B, 13 HR, 58 RBI); Meredith Rousse, jr. SS (.549, 61 R, 12 2B, 46 RBI), Kaylynn Carpenter, jr. CF (.508, 51 R, 10 2B, 49 RBI), Blair Miller, jr. LF (.441, 41 R, 25 RBI).
Outlook: Bay City Western is back in the Semifinals for the third time in four seasons and after its first championship game appearance a year ago – it fell just shy of the MHSAA title, losing 2-1 to Mattawan after leading through five innings. The Warriors graduated only three players after 2013, with Leppek a returning all-stater and Rousse and Carpenter honorable mentions last season. Western has won 20 of its last 21 games, with its only losses this season to honorable mention Clarkston, Division 2 No. 6 Bullock Creek and Division 3 No. 7 Sanford Meridian.

PORTAGE  CENTRAL
Record/rank: 41-3, No. 3
Coach: Tom Hamilton, first season of second tenure (75-7) 
League finish: First in Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference East
Championship history: Class A champion 1977, runner-up 1975.
Players to watch: Lea Foerster, sr. OF; Gina Verduczo, sr. P (Stats not submitted.).
Outlook: Portage Central eliminated reigning Division 1 champ Mattawan (9-2) during the District tournament and is in the Semifinals for the first time since 2009. Its only losses were early to Mattawan, then to Division 2 No. 1 Wayland and Division 2 No. 4 Stevensville Lakeshore – although Central beat Lakeshore in the other five games the teams played against each other this spring.  Foerster and Verduczo were all-staters last season. Hamilton formerly coached the team in 2010 and also coached Portage Northern to championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

ROMEO
Record/rank: 31-7, No. 2
Coach: Dave McIntyre, fifth season (138-37) 
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Taylor Weaver, sr. P (24-1, 0.60 ERA, 261 K, .469); Danielle Szajna jr. 1B (.440, 23 R, 23 RBI); Kayla Noch, jr. C (.430, 14 2B, 27 RBI); Morgan Gardner, soph. SS (.463, 32 R, 32 RBI, 16 2B). 
Outlook: After falling by just a run to eventual champion Mattawan in last season’s Semifinal, Romeo has stormed back to Finals weekend with wins over No. 1 Canton, No. 6 Lake Orion and No. 9 Fenton during the tournament. Weaver and Szajna were all-staters last season and Gardner was an honorable mention, and total the top six hitters from that Semifinal lineup are the same as what should take the field this weekend – including centerfielder Geordin Craun at the top and third baseman Erin Barg in the six spot.

UTICA FORD
Record/rank: 30-8, honorable mention
Coach: Matthew Joseph, fourth season (86-42)
League finish: Third in MAC Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Gabby Schefka, sr. C; Alex Sorgi, jr. CF/P; Nikki Sorgi, fr. P/IF (Stats not submitted.).
Outlook: Utica Ford is making its first Semifinal appearance after making its first Quarterfinal just a season ago. Schefka and Alex Sorgi earned all-state and honorable mention, respectively, in 2013 and have keyed the team’s taking the next step – they and Nikki Sorgi also fill the top three spots in the lineup. Ford has increased its win total every season since Joseph took over the program.  

Division 2

CROSWELL-LEXINGTON
Record/rank: 30-1, No. 9
Coach: Bob Young, eighth season (196-70)
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Megan Guitar, jr. P (21-1, 1.77 ERA, 179 K, .392, 4 HR, 41 RBI); Kylee Barrett, sr. SS (.446, 8 HR, 37 RBI); Rebecca Oden, fr. OF (.392).
Outlook: Croswell-Lexington’s lone loss was late to Utica, and it stormed back by outscoring two District opponents by a combined 31-6 and then edging Frankenmuth and No. 8 Saginaw Swan Valley to win its first Regional championship. The Pioneers have been on the verge, however, with this their fifth straight season with at least 30 wins and fourth in five seasons winning their District. All nine starting hitters are batting at least .330. 

LIVONIA LADYWOOD
Record/rank: 
28-13, No. 7
Coach: Scott Combs, seventh season (236-53) 
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League Central
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2012, runner-up 2009.
Players to watch:  Haley Lawrence, sr. SS (.420, 46 R, 18 2B, 39 RBI); Erika Selakowski, soph. 2B (.410, 41 R, 21 2B, 57 RBI); Hallea Garcia, sr. 1B (.415, 40 R, 22 2B, 8 HR, 58 RBI); Christina Meyer, jr. OF (.402, 55 R, 31 RBI, 10 3B, 48 SB); Rozlyn Price, soph. P (240-8, 2.60 ERA, 235 K).
Outlook: Ladywood is making this a regular trip, heading to the Semifinals for the fourth straight season and fifth in six years. Lawrence is a returning all-stater and Selakowski earned an honorable mention last season, and they are big bats in a lineup that earned valuable experience during last season’s run. So did Price, who also earned all-state honorable mention after pitching the Blazers into the Semifinals as only a freshman.

STEVENSVILLE LAKESHORE
Record/rank: 33-9, No. 4
Coach: Denny Dock, 25th season (834-168-1)
League finish: Second in Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), one runner-up finish. 
Players to watch: Haley Thibeault, sr. P/IF (26-6, 1.09 ERA, 210 K, .471, 14 2B, 10 HR, 57 RBI); Julia Carpenter, soph. CF (.413, 22 SB);. Alex Forsythe, sr. SS (.375, 52 RBI).
Outlook: Lakeshore has won five Regional titles in six seasons and is back in the Semifinals for the first time since winning back-to-back Division 2 titles in 2010 and 2011. The Lancers returned by avenging last season’s Quarterfinal loss to Tecumseh, the eventual champion last spring. Thibeault was an all-state second baseman a year ago but has taken over the majority of pitching duties in addition to leading the team in hitting.

WAYLAND
Record/rank: 
42-1, No. 1
Coach: Cheri Ritz, 19th season (636-129) 
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2006. 
Players to watch: Sam Merren, sr. OF (.500, 12 2B, 37 SB, 48 RBI); Mallory Teunissen, jr. P (34-1, 1.09 ERA, 252 K, .313); Sierra Mutschler, sr. SS (.523, 16 2B, 11 HR, 83 RBI); Britt McLain, sr. C (.432, 22 SB, 36 RBI).
Outlook: Wayland is back in the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons with an all-state pitcher in Teunissen – but also a talented lineup averaging 12 runs per game. Merren, Mutschler and McLain all also were all-staters a year ago, and they are only three of seven regulars hitting .400 or higher. Mutschler’s RBI qualify as fourth-most for one season in MHSAA history. The Wildcats have won 39 straight games since falling to Hudsonville Unity Christian in their only loss, and have given up only five runs during the tournament including a 7-0 shutout of Unity Christian in the Quarterfinal.

Division 3

CLINTON
Record/rank: 34-4, honorable mention
Coach: Kim Phillip, second season (65-10) 
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (2011 and 2012), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Ashleigh Donahey, soph. DH/DP (.500, 55 R, 18 SB, 35 RBI); Kristin Forest, sr. 3B (.477, 52 R, 12 HR, 16 2B, 67 RBI); Elizabeth Barkel, sr. 1B (.454, 36 R, 33 RBI, 12 SB); Megan Burton, soph. P (21-3, 1.34 ERA, 120 K).
Outlook: After missing the Semifinals last season, Clinton is back for the fifth time in six seasons and first time under Philip, who formerly coached Saline and was the assistant at Clinton before taking over the program a year ago. The Redskins are especially strong on the base paths, with 94 stolen bases in 102 attempts entering the week. Only an honorable mention in the final coaches poll, Clinton earned an 8-0 win over No. 10 Napoleon in the Regional Final to highlight this run.

COLOMA
Record/rank: 34-9, honorable mention
Coach: Wendy Goodline, 15th season (389-158-1) 
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference West
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Makenzie Moody, sr. C (.381, 6 HR, 40 RBI); Jenna Faultersack, jr. SS (.418, 56 R, 10 2B, 22 SB); Emily Najacht, sr. P (25-7, 0.97 ERA, 266 K, .378, 39 RBI).
Outlook: Coloma is making its second Semifinal appearance in three seasons after winning its third straight District title and playing in Division 2 last season; the Comets beat No. 8 Springport 6-2 in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal to return. Coloma prepared by facing many of the best from the Kalamazoo area during the regular season, earning a win over Division 4 Semifinalist Kalamazoo Christian and falling to Portage Central, Stevensville Lakeshore and out-of-area Lake Orion among larger ranked opponents. Faultersack was a Division 2 all-stater last season, and Najacht earned an honorable mention.

GLADSTONE
Record/rank: 28-2, No. 3
Coach: Ashley Hughes, first season (28-2) 
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), one runner-up finish.  
Players to watch: Jess Beaudry, sr. 1B (.353, 20 RBI); Tinner Sharon, sr. P/3B (.458, 12 SB, 18-1 pitching, 0.92 ERA, 160 K); Lexi Hongisto, jr. SS (.532, 31 RBI, 13 SB).
Outlook: Gladstone has played in the MHSAA Final three of the last 10 years, also finishing runner-up in 2012 and champion in 2004, and won its 12th straight Regional last week. First-year coach Hughes was part of a Quarterfinals team as a player in 2003 and took over this spring after three seasons as an assistant. The Braves have given up only three runs during the tournament, and not more than one in any game. Beaudry was an all-state selection last season.

UNIONVILLE-SEBEWAING
Record/rank: 
39-0, No. 1
Coach: Steve Bohn, third season (116-9) 
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference West
Championship history: Three championships (most recent 2009 in Division 4), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Stephanie Neuman, sr. 2B (.513, 14 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI); Breanna Dinsmoore, jr. C (.404, 35 RBI); Erica Treiber, jr. P/1B (.514, 14 2B, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 17-0, 0.07 ERA, 173 K); Allison Hoppe, sr. CF (.417, 22 RBI, 11 2B).  
Outlook: USA is making its ninth straight trip to the MHSAA Semfinals after finishing runner-up a year ago. That ERA for Treiber is not a typo – she’d given up only one earned run in 98 innings entering the week, and again teams with sophomore Nicole Bauer (19-0, 0.50 ERA) for an impressive 1-2 pitching punch. Adding in the 10-1 win over No. 9 Reese in the Quarterfinal, USA has beaten its tournament opponents by a combined score of 53-2. Neuman, Dinsmoore and Treiber all are returning all-staters.

Division 4

FOWLER
Record/rank: 26-6, unranked
Coach: Kat Schmitt, fourth season (career record N/A)
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Tori Wirth, jr. SS; Sydney Feldpausch, jr. P (Stats not submitted.).
Outlook: Fowler is making its first trip to the Semifinals since 1997 after winning its first Regional title since 2002. The Eagles took on their share of larger schools in preparation for the tournament, with wins over Lansing Everett and Eastern, Lake Odessa Lakewood, Owosso and Haslett among others – and the playoff run included a 5-1 Quarterfinal win over No. 7 Westland Huron Valley Lutheran. Wirth earned an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore.

KALAMAZOO CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 27-16, No. 8
Coach: Terry Reynolds, first season (27-16)
League finish: First in Kalamazoo Valley Association
Championship history: Seven championships (most recent 2013), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Tori Sides, sr. CF (.521, 54 R, 24 SB); Rebekah VanDam, sr. P (18-10, 2.94 ERA, 183 K, .366, 34 RBI); Morgan Locker, sr. SS (.368, 11 2B, 47 R, 34 RBI); Kara Gjeltema, soph. C (.523, 13 2B, 10 HR, 62 RBI).  
Outlook: Kalamazoo Christian’s record might seem a little off for a reigning champion returning to the Semifinals, but it also took regular-season cuts against a number of larger opponents including Division 1 or 2 ranked Portage Central, Stevensville Lakeshore and Portland and honorable mention Parchment. Former Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Hackett coach Reynolds took over the program this spring and inherited a number of standouts from last season’s run including returning all-stater Sides.

ROGERS CITY
Record/rank: 32-6, No. 4
Coach: Karl Grambau, 12th season (303-128) 
League finish: Second in North Star League
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 2004). 
Players to watch: Sarah Meredith, soph. C (.536, 14 HR, 62 RBI); Logan Fleming, jr. 3B (.545, 15 2B, 8 HR, 45 RBI); Morgan Hall, sr. 1B (.529, 11 2B, 34 RBI); Courtney Streich, sr. SS (.441, 10 2B, 36 RBI).
Outlook: Rogers City is making its second straight trip to the Semifinals with an experienced lineup that makes it hard to pick who should stand out most. In addition to those mentioned above, junior second baseman Alexa Quaine is hitting .515 with 14 doubles and 39 RBI and also is 14-2 pitching with a 1.88 ERA. Centerfielder Cassie Brege (.362, 25 RBI) joined Meredith and Fleming among all-staters last season, when Streich received an honorable mention. Senior Nikki Radke  (16-4) returns as the team’s leading winner in the circle. Rogers City beat No. 3 Posen and No. 10 Rapid River during this run and reigning champion Kalamazoo Christian during the regular season.

VESTABURG
Record/rank: 30-8, No. 6
Coach: Dan Rons, 10th season (258-97)
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference.
Championship history: Class D runner-up 1980.
Player to watch: Jannelle Rons, sr. P (20-2, 1.46 ERA, 143 K, .557, 62 R, 16 2B, 14 3B, 11 HR, 85 RBI); Shana Fisk, sr. 2B (.379, 52 R, 28 SB); Karigan Gates, sr. C (.487, 37 R, 46 RBI, 13 2B).
Outlook: Vestaburg made its first Quarterfinal appearance Tuesday since 2007 and is back in the Semifinals for the first time since 1986. The Wolverines defeated an impressive field to return, including No. 9 Coleman, No. 5 North Muskegon and then No. 2 Ubly on Tuesday. Jannelle Rons was an all-state pitcher last season and is one of seven seniors. 

PHOTO: Kalamazoo Christian’s Rebekah VanDam connects with a pitch during last season’s Finals weekend in Battle Creek. Her team is the reigning Division 4 champion.


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