By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Two reigning champions but also two 2016 runners-up are headed back to MHSAA Softball Finals weekend at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central is playing for its third straight Division 3 title, while Richmond is looking to repeat in Division 2. And while last season’s Division 1 and 4 champions did not advance to this weekend, last year’s runners-up did – Macomb Dakota and Indian River Inland Lakes, respectively – with both seeking the first MHSAA softball titles in their schools’ histories.
See below for a schedule of this weekend’s games, plus glances at all 16 teams that will take the field beginning Thursday.
Semifinals – Thursday
Division 1 - June 15
Clarkston vs. Grandville, 3 p.m.
Macomb Dakota vs. Mattawan, 5:30 p.m.
Division 2 - June 15
Richmond vs. Escanaba, 10 a.m.
Stevensville Lakeshore vs. Ida, 12:30 p.m.
Division 3 - June 16
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central vs. Shepherd, 3 p.m.
Gladstone vs. Napoleon, 5:30 p.m.
Division 4 - June 16
Kalamazoo Christian vs. Indian River Inland Lakes, 10 a.m.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford vs. Coleman, 12:30 p.m.
Finals – Saturday
Division 1: 12:30 p.m.
Division 2: 10 a.m.
Division 3: 5:30 p.m.
Division 4: 3 p.m.
Tickets cost $8 per round and include admission to baseball games those days also at MSU’s Old College Field. 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. Click to order tickets in advance and for a parking map.
All statistics below are through Regionals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)
Record/rank: 33-9, honorable mention
Coach: Donald Peters, 13th season (363-119)
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Abbey Tolmie, fr. 1B (.473, 45 R, 30 RBI); Hannah Cady, fr. C (.488, 27 R, 29 RBI); Paige Blevins, jr. SS (.500 11 2B, 14 HR, 67 RBI, 54 R); Olivia Warrington, soph. P (21-5, 1.86 ERA, 195 K in 132 IP, .365 hitting, 25 RBI).
Outlook: Opponents need to be wary of facing Clarkston this weekend and over the next three seasons. This will be the Wolves’ first Semifinal since 2004, but may not be the last for this group. The team has only one senior and four juniors to go with 12 underclassmen including its top pitcher and catcher. Clarkston avenged its most recent loss, to No. 4 Walled Lake Northern, with a 1-0 rematch win in the Quarterfinal, and also has victories over honorable mention Oxford and Division 2 No. 7 Wayland during a current 10-game win streak. As a team, the Wolves were hitting .376 entering this week with 38 home runs while averaging more than eight runs per game.
Record/rank: 31-7, honorable mention
Coach: Troy Ungrey, fifth season (120-52)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Championship history: Class A runner-up 1982.
Players to watch: Nikoma Holmen, sr. SS/P (.528, 54 R, 19 2B, 16 HR, 54 RBI, 3-0 pitching); Maggie Bentley, soph. OF (.439, 35 R, 15 SB); Kaitlyn Orme, jr. 1B (.417, 12 2B, 34 RBI, 11 SB); Ellie Muilenburg, sr. P (15-1, 1.11 ERA, 156 K in 113 1/3 IP, .309 hitting).
Outlook: Grandville won its first Regional title since 2013 and now will play in its first Semifinal since the 1982 run. The Bulldogs’ last three tournament wins have come against state poll honorable mentions Rockford and Caledonia in the Regional and then No. 6 Midland in the Quarterfinal. Holman made the all-state team as a junior and leads the team in every offensive category except steals. Nine teammates also are hitting .300 or higher.
Record/rank: 34-2, No. 1
Coach: Rick Fontaine, 13th season (278-159)
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2016.
Players to watch: Olivia Patton, jr. OF (.509, 54 R, 25 RBI, 18 SB); Kattie Popko, sr. OF (.445, 37 R, 21 2B, 42 RBI, 16 SB); Kendahl Dunford, sr. P (30-2, 0.90 ERA, 181 K in 164 1/3 IP, .330 hitting, 27 RBI); Julia Salisbury, sr. 1B (.531, 31 R, 16 2B, 40 RBI).
Outlook: Dakota came within a win of its first MHSAA championship last season, and all four mentioned above were part of the starting lineup during that 38-3 run. They’ve lost this season only to No. 5 Mattawan and No. 3 Plymouth, while downing No. 7 White Lake Lakeland and No. 9 Utica Ford among others. Dunford made the all-state team last season and is surrounded with run support. In addition to Patton, Popko and Salisbury, junior outfielder Jackie Popko (.488) and junior shortstop Corbin Hison (.415) top a group of six more regulars batting at least .316.
Record/rank: 32-7, No. 5
Coach: Alicia Smith, 17th season (464-194-1)
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Meaghan Markus, sr. CF (.449, 49 R, 15 2B, 7 HR, 43 RBI); Emily Koperdak, jr. P (15-4, 3.11 ERA, 119 K in 103 2/3 IP, .477 hitting, 50 R, 19 2B, 9 HR, 35 RBI); Joanna Bartz, sr. 3B (.588, 54 R, 21 2B, 8 HR, 54 RBI); Alexis Taube, sr. SS (.523, 50 R, 19 2B, 13 HR, 60 RBI).
Outlook: Mattawan has reached the Semifinals every season this decade except for 2014, and this time with the pitcher and middle of its lineup that put up six runs on eventual champion Farmington Hills Mercy last spring. Markus, Koperdak and Bartz all were returning all-staters this season and Taube looks a good bet to join them. Senior second baseman Jordyn Swinehart (.467, 14 2B), freshman outfielder Kendra Cardoza (.407, 31 RBI), sophomore catcher Maddie Duell (.389) and sophomore designated player Olivia Fee (.365) are among others who have put up great offensive numbers. The team has hit 46 home runs – sixth most in MHSAA history.
Record/rank: 33-4, No. 3
Coach: Jamie Segorski, third season (100-14)
League finish: Does not play in a conference for softball.
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2003.
Players to watch: Lexi Chaillier, soph. OF (.655, 30 R, 22 RBI, 30 SB); Emily Bruntjens, sr. OF (.558, 52 R, 31 RBI, 29 SB); Katie Ross, sr. P (14-1, 1.91 ERA, 102 K in 90 IP, .542 hitting, 32 R, 6 HR, 43 RBI); Taylor Gauthier, jr. SS (.441, 39 R, 12 2B, 12 HR, 56 RBI).
Outlook: Like Mattawan, Escanaba is another returning semifinalist and fell last year to the eventual champion, Richmond. But the Eskymos have shown again to be up to the competition all spring, taking down top-ranked
Saginaw Swan Valley in the Quarterfinal but also eliminating No. 8 Muskegon Oakridge during this run and beating Gladstone, Utica Ford and Midland during the regular season. Bruntjens made all-state last season and Ross earned honorable mention. Freshman Gabi Salo is another big-time thrower, entering the week 17-3 with a 0.90 ERA and 170 strikeouts, and senior catcher Taylor Segorski, (.461), junior second baseman Claire McInerney (.419) and senior outfielder Jerikka McAlpine (.413) also load big bats among the regulars.
Record/rank: 35-7, unranked
Coach: Dawn Forter, 14th season (347-131)
League finish: First in Lenawee County Activities Association.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1994), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Brooklyn Woelmer, sr. SS (.545, 50 R, 17 2B, 61 RBI); Hannah Tuller, jr. 2B (.535, 65 R, 12 2B, 5 HR, 55 RBI); Karlee Lambert, jr. OF (.487, 54 R, 22 RBI, 15 SB), Lauren Kreps, jr. P (17-4, 2.62 ERA, 90 K in 115 IP).
Outlook: Ida is back at the Semifinals for the first time since finishing Division 3 runner-up in 2006, clearing a field that included No. 10 Carleton Airport and honorable mention New Boston Huron on the way. Woelmer earned an all-state honorable mention last season and she’s had plenty of help this spring. Ten regulars hit at least .375 – senior Mallorie Duvall (.432), freshman Taylor Wegener (.413) and junior Sydney Janssen (.410) all break .400 as well – and an interesting one to watch might be sophomore Autumn Brososky. She’s hitting .549 over only 51 at bats, but has scored 25 times and also was 12-2 with a 1.79 ERA pitching entering the week.
Record/rank: 32-4, No. 2
Coach: Howard Stuart, 39th season (986-292)
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2016, three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Carley Barjaktarovich, jr. SS (.525, 54 R, 39 SB); Erin Shuboy, soph. P (21-2, 1.75 ERA, 209 K in 148 IP, .408 hitting, 32 R, 7 HR, 58 RBI); Emma Caperton, sr. LF (.368, 30 R); Evelyn Swantek, jr. C (.364, 33 R, 32 RBI).
Outlook: The Blue Devils were a little bit surprise champions last spring rising from the honorable mention ranks to win their first title. They aren’t sneaking up on anyone this time. Barjaktarovich and Shuboy were all-staters last season and the latter was the hero of the championship game as only a freshman. Richmond has had to win three straight extra-inning games to get back to MSU, but hasn’t given up more than three runs in a game during the postseason. Designated hitter Raechel McKiernan supplies another big bat, hitting .432.
Record/rank: 33-6-1, No. 6
Coach: Denny Dock, 28th season (919-199-2)
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West.
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Olivia Freehling, sr. 1B (.431, 12 2B, 43 RBI); Lindsay Zavoral, sr. SS (.321, 27 R, 10 2B, 25 RBI); Mahri Younger, sr. OF (.438, 44 R, 20 RBI); Taylor Simon, jr. P (18-5, 1.82 ERA, 208 K in 161 2/3 IP, .407 hitting, 17 2B, 41 RBI).
Outlook: After rebounding from an injury-filled 2016, Lakeshore is back seeking its fourth Division 2 title in eight seasons. Zavoral and Simon, who missed much of last season, have shined again, and Freehling was an all-stater last season. Joining Younger and Simon among the leading hitters are junior second baseman Becca Spenner (.389, 13 2B, 34 RBI) and junior third baseman Cassidy Zavoral (.383, 45 R) – giving the team a strong junior group behind four starting seniors. Lakeshore hasn’t given up more than a run in a game during the postseason, with wins against No. 5 Spring Lake and No. 4 Vicksburg along the way after finishing the regular season with a sweep of Division 1 semifinalist Mattawan.
Record/rank: 34-9, unranked
Coach: John Nevala, first season (34-9)
League finish: Does not play in a conference for softball.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Tasi Martinez, sr. 1B (.451, 6 HR, 23 RBI); Jenna Steinhoff, sr. P (16-5, 2.39 ERA, 97 K in 126 IP, .356 hitting, 29 RBI); Kaitlyn Hardwick, jr. OF (.400, 5 HR, 27 RBI); Sydney Herioux, soph. 3B (.402, 29 R, 29 RBI).
Outlook: This will be the team’s third Semifinal in four seasons and second straight. Gladstone will try to win its third championship over the last nine seasons with a third coach; Nevala took over this season for Ashley Hughes, who led the 2014 team, and Gladstone also mourned last fall the death of former longtime coach Gerald Smith who led the team to the 2004 and 2009 titles. Martinez was an all-stater last season and Steinhoff earned honorable mention.
MONROE ST. MARY CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 25-3, No. 1
Coach: John Morningstar, third season (90-13)
League finish: First in Huron League.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Meghan Beaubien, sr. P (20-1, 0.49 ERA, 302 K in 145 2/3 IP, .444 hitting, 11 2B); Kenna Garst, jr. C (.483, 28 R, 13 2B, 30 RBI); Kelsey Barron, jr. SS (.455, 33 R, 27 RBI); Abbey Johnson, soph. OF (.434).
Outlook: Beaubien again is arguably the most highly anticipated standout taking the field this weekend as she tries to finish her high school career by leading her team to a third straight Division 3 title before going on to University of Michigan. The all-state pitcher has been nearly untouchable again, giving up only 46 hits this spring entering this week while the Kestrels have outscored their six postseason opponents by a combined score of 44-1. She and centerfielder Grace Mikesell are the team’s only seniors. St. Mary shut out No. 2 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 5-0 in the Quarterfinal.
Record/rank: 36-4, No. 3
Coach: Douglas Richardson, 15th season (381-124)
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Paige Kortz, sr. SS (.599, 74 R, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 35 SB); Rachel Griffin, sr. C (.524, 56 R, 20 2B, 55 RBI, 24 SB); Dylan Wiley, sr. OF (.474, 60 R, 44 RBI, 26 SB); Sydney Coe, sr. P (26-2, 1.92 ERA, 170 K in 149 IP, .477 hitting, 10 2B, 33 RBI).
Outlook: A talented crew of eight seniors has brought Napoleon to its first Semifinal after the team also made the Quarterfinals in 2015. The Pirates are a combined 140-20 over the last four seasons, and returned four all-staters this spring – Coe, Griffin, senior second baseman Ashton Jordan (.440, 43 R, 34 RBI) and senior third baseman Haley Rose (.436, 45 R, 14 2B, 52 RBI). All eight seniors are hitting at least .400; outfielder Kallie Pittman comes up at .483 and first baseman Kaitlyn Weaver at .438 with 40 RBI. Napoleon edged No. 6 Coloma in the Quarterfinal and also has significant wins against No. 7 Dundee and Division 1 No. 7 White Lake Lakeland.
Record/rank: 25-18, unranked
Coach: Bobb Servoss, third season (87-34)
League finish: Fourth in Tri-Valley Conference Central.
Championship history: Class C champion 1978.
Players to watch: Haley Peska, jr. P (15-7, 2.33 ERA, 133 K in 138 IP); Adri Nelson, jr. C (.456, 41 R, 13 2B, 30 RBI); Ashleigh Bryant, jr. 1B (.504, 53 RBI); Hannah Cluley, sr. LF (.368, 32 R, 21 RBI).
Outlook: The Bluejays have come on strong during the tournament, with Peska no-hitting No. 4 Millington in the Quarterfinal after they also eliminated No. 8 Beaverton during the Regional. Playing in a league with a number of larger schools – including Division 2 top-ranked Saginaw Swan Valley – no doubt prepared Shepherd for the postseason at least a little, and it’s 9-2 over its last 11 games. Junior shortstop Kianna Andrews (.326, 48 R, 13 2B) and senior third baseman Carey Smith (.308, 11 SB) are among other notable batters. Servoss, formerly an assistant at Coleman, also played in the Kansas City Royals minor league system during the early and mid-1970s.
Record/rank: 35-6, No. 5
Coach: Chad Klopf, seventh season (176-76)
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference.
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2005.
Players to watch: Jaden Berthume, soph. 3B/P (.518, 57 R, 14 2B, 53 RBI; 16-3 pitching, 1.49 ERA, 102 K in 112 2/3 IP); Faith Barden, jr. P/1B (.433, 30 R, 13 2B, 50 RBI, 16-3 pitching, 1.41 ERA, 172 K in 114 1/3 IP); Makailyn Monson, soph. CF (.444, 43 R, 25 SB); Liz Dana, sr. C (.478, 60 R, 45 RBI, 23 SB).
Outlook: Coleman broke through to make its first Semifinal since 2005 after two straight Quarterfinal losses – and did so despite graduating five who made all-state or earned honorable mention last season. Dana is the team’s lone senior this spring, while eight underclassmen make up two-thirds of the team. The Comets eliminated honorable mention Morrice and then No. 6 Holton on its way to this weekend after also beating reigning Division 2 champion Richmond during the regular season.
INDIAN RIVER INLAND LAKES
Record/rank: 33-5, No. 1
Coach: Krissi Thompson, 15th season (record N/A)
League finish: First in Ski Valley Conference.
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2016.
Players to watch: Cloe Mallory, sr. P; Precious Delos Santos, soph. OF; Pamela Braund, sr. C; Vanessa Wandrie, sr. IF. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: A season after making the championship game for the first time, Inland Lakes has been the favorite to finish the run and justified that top ranking. The Bulldogs have outscored six postseason opponents by a combined 75-3, including No. 4 Rogers City 11-1 in the Quarterfinal. Mallory made the all-state team last season, and the entire hitting lineup is back from the 1-0 Finals loss to Unionville-Sebewaing.
Record/rank: 23-17, unranked
Coach: Terry Reynolds, fourth season (109-61)
League finish: Third in Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), four runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Sydney Duong, soph. SS (.415, 44 R, 29 RBI); Stephanie Richardson, jr. 2B (.414, 32 R, 11 2B, 33 RBI); Maggie Niewoonder, sr. OF (.322, 28 R); Jayme Koning, soph. P (.458, 10-6 pitching, 2.54 ERA, 81 K in 93 2/3 IP).
Outlook: Kalamazoo Christian played in three straight Division 4 Finals from 2013-15, so this shouldn’t be a giant surprise despite the team’s near-.500 record entering the postseason. The Comets avenged a regular-season sweep to Three Oaks River Valley with the Regional Semifinal win and went 8-4 in their league. And they’ll be able to rely on some valuable final-weekend experience over the next three days; Richardson, Niewoonder, catcher Jill Rozeveld, and infielders Monica Locker and Aliyah Lemmer all started in the 2015 Division 4 Final. Lemmer was 12-11 pitching heading into this week as well.
OTTAWA LAKE WHITEFORD
Record/rank: 32-6, No. 8
Coach: Kris Hubbard, 39th season (812-362)
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1987), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Erin Manley, sr. CF (.470, 55 R, 13 2B, 7 HR, 55 RBI); Lindsey Walker, soph. P (27-5, 1.50 ERA, 241 K in 242 IP, .384 hitting, 11 2B, 36 RBI); Karsyn Berns-Moore, soph. SS (.373, 47 R, 14 SB); Alyssa Granata, sr. C (.407, 40 R, 9 3B, 31 RBI).
Outlook: After getting back to the Quarterfinals for the first time in nearly a decade last year, Whiteford has taken another sizable step returning to the Semifinals for the first time since its Class D runner-up season of 1994. Manley was an all-stater last season, and Walker earned honorable mention. They are part of a foundation that has brought excitement back the last two seasons but also could add more over the next two – Manley, Granata and rightfielder Victoria VanBrandt are the only seniors, while the rest of the roster is freshmen and sophomores. Whiteford avenged last season’s Quarterfinal loss by beating No. 2 Unionville-Sebewaing on Tuesday after also earning tournament wins over honorable mentions Morenci and Waterford Our Lady.
PHOTO: Stevensville Lakeshore celebrates its Division 2 District title earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.)