Preview: Welcoming Contenders New & Old
Preview: Welcoming Contenders New & Old
Softball
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Among Michigan’s smallest high school powers, this season’s MHSAA Softball Tournament has rolled along much as expected.

But among the bigger schools, it’s been three weeks of surprises as we head into the season’s final weekend at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.

While the top-ranked and No. 2 teams in both Division 3 and Division 4 are among 16 semifinalists taking the field this weekend, the Division 1 and 2 brackets have seen upset after upset – with No. 3 Escanaba in Division 2 the highest-ranked contender left in those respective fields, and a pair of unranked teams also in the mix.

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 

Warren Regina vs. Caledonia, 10 a.m. 
Howell vs. Hartland, 12:30 p.m.

Division 2  
Dearborn Divine Child vs. South Haven, 3 p.m.
Escanaba vs. Eaton Rapids, 5:30 p.m.

Semifinals – Friday
Division 3 
Sanford Meridian vs. Millington, 10 a.m. 
Clinton vs. Coloma, 12:30 p.m.

Division 4 
Rogers City vs. Coleman, 3 p.m. 
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Centreville, 5:30 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1: 10 a.m. 
Division 2: 12:30 p.m. 
Division 3: 3 p.m. 
Division 4: 5:30 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.)

Division 1

CALEDONIA
Record/rank: 27-6, No. 7
Coach: Tom Kaechele, 17th season (364-192-2)
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2015. 
Players to watch: Samantha Gehrls, sr. P/IF (19-2, 1.30 ERA, 192 K, .495 hitting, 13 HR, 47 RBI); Taylor Cross, jr. C/3B (.433, 36 RBI); Abby Mitchell, soph. OF (.468, 11 HR, 36 RBI), Emmalee Hamp, soph. IF/P (.426, 11 2B, 31 RBI, 5-3 pitching, 2.89 ERA).
Outlook: Caledonia has come full circle as Gehrls starred as a freshman when the team made its only other Semifinal appearance. She was an all-stater in 2017 and will continue next season at Grand Valley State. The Fighting Scots have outscored their postseason opponents 36-3 over six games, giving up no more than a run despite facing honorable mentions Mattawan, Lowell and Jenison. Junior second baseman Ashley VanZytveld (.378, 40 R) is a strong starter at the top of the lineup and earned an all-state honorable mention last spring.

HARTLAND
Record/rank: 32-5, No. 9
Coach: Bob Greene, fourth season (110-43) 
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold
Championship history: Class A champion 1996. 
Players to watch: Madelin Skene, sr. 3B/P/1B (.484, 19 2B, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 9-0 pitching, 1.76 ERA); Sam Nagel, jr. OF/3B (.504, 14 2B, 45 RBI); Rachel Everett, fr. P/1B (18-4, 1.65 ERA, 148 K); Bri Robeson, sr. 2B (.431, 48 R)
Outlook: Hartland has enjoyed two straight walk-off wins, over honorable mention South Lyon and top-ranked Clarkston, respectively, to reach its first Semifinal since the championship season of 1996. The Eagles also own an early-season sweep of No. 10 Howell, its Semifinal opponent. Skene has been the star of a dangerous lineup; eight regulars are hitting .345 or higher, and freshman shortstop Delaney Robeson joins Everett among impressive first-year players hitting .443 with 44 RBI.

HOWELL
Record/rank: 29-10, No. 10
Coach: Ron Pezzoni, fourth season (129-33-1)
League finish: Second in KLAA Gold
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Sydney Pezzoni, sr. OF/IF (.482, 29 RBI); Avery Wolverton, fr. P/IF (.443 6 HR, 55 RBI, 9-2 pitching, 2.12 ERA); Maddie Springer, fr. C/IF (.413 29 RBI); AJ Militello, jr. OF/IF (.408 8 HR, 44 RBI, 18 SB).
Outlook: Howell has been building toward this first Semifinal appearance since 2008. One more win would give the Highlanders at least 30 all four seasons under Ron Pezzoni, to go with a fourth straight District title. Militello and Sydney Pezzoni earned all-state honorable mentions last season. Sophomore Molly Carney has been the ace, heading into this week 18-8 with a 2.66 ERA and 198 strikeouts.

WARREN REGINA
Record/rank: 25-7, unranked
Coach: Diane Laffey, 48th season (1,130-467-5)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2015). 
Players to watch: Melina Livingston, sr. 3B (.489, 15 HR, 33 RBI); Maria Muglia, jr. P/C/1B (13-2, 2.06 ERA, 108 K, .480 hitting, 50 RBI); Leah Munson, jr. SS (.490, 26 RBI); Miranda Nicholas, fr. IF/P (.500).
Outlook: The winningest coach in MHSAA history has Regina back at Finals weekend with an upset of No. 2 New Baltimore Anchor Bay coming along the way. Livingston made the all-state team last season and is one of five senior hitters in the starting lineup. Second baseman Meghan Berlin (.462, 31 RBI) and outfielder and Megan Ross (.443) are among other senior standouts.

Division 2

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Record/rank: 22-9, unranked
Coach: Regina Dunn, third season (57-35) 
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League AA
Championship history: Class B champion 1975, Division 2 runner-up 1998. 
Players to watch: Angela Dunn, sr. SS/2B/3B/OF (.511, 40 RBI); Maddie Zang, jr. P/1B (14-4, 2.22 ERA, 149 K); Katie Connolly, sr. 3B/1B/OF (.571, 15 2B, 39 RBI); Kerstin Hamann, sr. 2B/3B/1B (.500, 41 RBI).
Outlook: Divine Child also made the Quarterfinals the last two seasons but this week broke through to earn a first Semifinal appearance since 1998 with an extra-inning win Tuesday over No. 7 Richmond. Five seniors anchor the
starting lineup, and seven regulars hit at least .346. The Falcons played possible championship game opponent Escanaba to a 4-1 loss near the end of the regular season, one of a number of prep games that should have them ready for this weekend’s tough competition.

EATON RAPIDS
Record/rank: 36-6, honorable mention
Coach: Scott Warriner, 14th season (458-107-4)
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1981. 
Players to watch: Grace Lehto, soph. P (23-4, 1.62 ERA, 237 K, .520 hitting, 18 2B, 11 HR, 60 RBI); Morgan Vanderwall, soph. RF (.385, 31 RBI, 14 SB); Shelby Kunkel, fr. OF (.411, 9 HR, 46 RBI, 30 SB); Peyton Benjamin, soph. CF (.421, 15 2B, 56 R, 36 SB).
Outlook: Eaton Rapids has dominated Lansing-area competition over the last decade and has a chance on the statewide stage thanks to its first Regional title since 1981. And this could be just the start: All but two of the nine starting hitters are underclassmen. Seven regulars entered the week batting .322 or better, and the Greyhounds as a team also had 157 stolen bases in 175 attempts. Senior shortstop Aubrie Benward (.322) can pitch too; she was 11-2 with a 1.96 ERA entering the week.

ESCANABA
Record/rank: 29-3, No. 3
Coach: Jamie Segorski, fourth season (129-18) 
League finish: Does not play in a conference for softball.
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2003. 
Players to watch: Lexi Chaillier, jr. OF (.511, 6 HR, 24 SB); Taylor Gauthier, sr. SS (.411, 14 2B, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 11 SB); Gabi Salo, soph. P (18-3, 0.41 ERA, 253 K); Claire McInerney, sr. 2B (.483, 12 2B, 16 SB).
Outlook: Escanaba will make its third straight Semifinal appearance after falling to Richmond both of the last two. The Eskymos have outscored their five postseason opponents by a combined 47-2 – against a group including No. 8 Muskegon Oakridge and honorable mention Saginaw Swan Valley. Salo, just a sophomore, was all-state in 2017 and has committed to play collegiately for Wisconsin. She has a loaded lineup supporting her; in addition to those mentioned above, five others are hitting at least .371, with senior Madison Griffin at .408 with 40 RBI and freshman Nicole Kamin hitting .567 with 10 stolen bases in limited varsity at bats.

SOUTH HAVEN
Record/rank: 31-8, honorable mention
Coach: Wilma Wilson, 29th season (707-346) 
League finish: Third in Wolverine Conference
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1977-79. 
Players to watch: Hayley Kreiger, sr. P (27-5, 2.01 ERA, 232 K, .526 hitting, 14 2B, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 26 SB); Anna Bocock, sr. 1B (.381, 26 RBI); Jordyn Holland, fr. OF (.359, 41 R, 19 RBI); Haley Mines, sr. 2B (.379, 19 RBI).
Outlook: South Haven is one of the most intriguing stories of this tournament as it heads to its first Semifinal since 1982. The Rams emerged as the last team standing from a Wolverine Conference that also included No. 5 Three Rivers and talented Vicksburg, and they advanced to this week by upsetting top-ranked Stevensville Lakeshore in the Regional Final. For an encore, South Haven handed No. 2 Spring Lake its first and only loss of this season in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. Seven starters hit at least .312 entering this week, while Kreiger has starred at the plate and in the circle.

Division 3

CLINTON
Record/rank: 37-1, No. 3
Coach: Kim Phillip, sixth season (185-36)
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2012), one runner-up finish. 
Players to watch: Renee Hoffman, sr. P (26-0, 0.77 ERA, 258 K, .550 hitting, 22 2B, 39 RBI, 17 SB); Rilee Szczesniak, jr. SS (.514, 55 R, 31 RBI, 31 SB); Libbi Fair, fr. C (.513, 12 2B, 57 R, 56 RBI, 24 SB); Payton Hernandez, jr. 2B/P (.392, 11 2B, 46 RBI, 8-1 pitching).
Outlook: Clinton eliminated both of last year’s finalists – No. 5 and reigning champ Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central and honorable mention Napoleon – at the Regional, then got past No. 7 Allen Park Cabrini in the Quarterfinal. The team’s only loss this spring came to honorable mention Adrian Madison, by a run. Hoffman and Szczesniak both made the all-state team in 2017, and the Redskins have made this first Semifinal run since 2014 despite losing all-state honorable mention outfielder Briana Johnson to an injury.

COLOMA
Record/rank: 36-3, No. 2
Coach: Wendy Goodline, 19th season (513-198-1)
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Megan Koenigshof, soph. SS (.601, 62 R, 37 SB); Morgan Wagner, sr. C (.519, 18 2B, 55 R, 52 RBI, 21 SB); Kayla Yore, sr. CF (.434, 58 R, 14 2B, 44 RBI, 18 SB); Skylar Crisenbery, sr. P (17-2, 1.45 ERA, .364 hitting, 29 RBI).
Outlook: Coloma is playing in its third Semifinal in seven seasons (and first since 2014) after falling to Napoleon in a high-scoring Quarterfinal a year ago. An experienced crew is ready to push for its first championship: Crisenbery and Yore made the all-state team last season, while Wagner, Koenigshof and senior Jaidyn Hutsell, (.411, 11 2B, 40 RBI) earned honorable mentions. Nothing should surprise the Comets this weekend – they own wins over Division 2 top-ranked Stevensville Lakeshore and Division 1 honorable mention Mattawan.

MILLINGTON
Record/rank: 38-2, No. 1
Coach: Greg Hudie, eighth season (223-88) 
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Sydney Bishop, jr. C (.512, 8 HR, 42 RBI); Gabbie Sherman, jr. P (25-2, 0.80 ERA, 220 K, .481 hitting, 11 2B, 51 RBI); Lean Denome, jr. CF (.481, 12 2B, 58 R, 45 RBI, 16 SB); Darrien Roberts, soph. RF (.470, 59 R, 14 2B, 10 HR, 61 RBI).
Outlook: Millington has been in the mix with three straight Regional titles and its first Semifinals appearance in 2016, but this group is especially intriguing with no seniors and tons of firepower. Bishop and Sherman earned all-state honorable mentions last season and help pace a team that is a combined 111-12 over the last three seasons. Sophomore first baseman Madi Hahn adds another big bat at .426 with 10 homers, and all nine starting hitters are batting .364 or higher. The Cardinals have outscored five playoff opponents by a combined 57-3.

SANFORD MERIDIAN
Record/rank: 27-14, honorable mention
Coach: Jamie Smith, 18th season (record N/A)
League finish: Second in Jack Pine Conference
Championship history: Class B champion 1987, Class C runner-up 1983.
Players to watch: Mya Hall, (.448, 10 2B, 14 SB); Baleigh Hill, jr. 1B (.438, 11 2B, 37 RBI); Ally Sutton, fr. 2B (.363, 21 RBI, 13 SB); Peyton Grice, jr. P (15-10, 2.34 ERA, 109 K, .311 hitting, 11 2B, 33 RBI).
Outlook: Meridian will play in its first Semifinal since 1997, and despite entering the tournament with seven straight losses – albeit those mostly to ranked teams in Divisions 1 and 2 as the Mustangs tuned up for the playoffs. The nonleague schedule was loaded to start the spring as well, and facing that level of competition has paid off. Hall earned an all-state honorable mention last season and helps lead a team that is graduating only two starters and three seniors total. Smith has more than 400 career wins over 28 seasons coaching, including a decade at Midland Bullock Creek before coming to Meridian.

Division 4

CENTREVILLE
Record/rank: 34-6, No. 10
Coach: Scott Logan, fourth season (92-31)
League finish: First in Southwest 10 Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: MaKenzi Troyer, jr. SS (.414, 57 R, 14 2B); Joanna Larsen, soph. 3B (.595, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 65 R), McKenzie Sheteron, soph. 2B (.469, 63 R, 13 2B, 51 RBI); Hannah Duchene, soph. P (10-3, 1.34 ERA, .555 hitting, 13 2B, 66 RBI).
Outlook: Centreville is back at the Semifinals for the first time since 2011, advancing with a Quarterfinal win over reigning runner-up Ottawa Lake Whiteford and a Regional Final victory over No. 3 Kalamazoo Christian – an impressive showing for a team with only two seniors and 10 underclassmen. The lineup is loaded with seven hitters batting at least .410 – sophomore centerfielder Kenleigh West-Wing (.466), sophomore catcher Jaedan Blades (.461) and sophomore leftfielder Olivia Deeds (.410) are also part of that group. There are pitching options as well; Duchene is expected to start, but senior Emma Russell was 11-1 entering the week, and Sheteron was 7-2.

COLEMAN
Record/rank: 29-9, No. 2
Coach: Chad Klopf, ninth season (205-86) 
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2005. 
Players to watch: Jaden Berthume, jr. 3B/P (.512, 46 RBI, 8-2 pitching, 1.40 ERA); Faith Barden, sr. P/1B (18-6, 1.85 ERA, 212 K, .407 hitting); Autumn Tubbs, sr. SS (.487, 10 2B, 41 RBI, 13 SB); MacKenzie Miller, jr. 2B (.411, 51 R).
Outlook: Coleman won its fourth straight Regional title and will play in its second straight Semifinal, with Barden a returning all-stater from a year ago. Tuesday’s 1-0 Quarterfinal win over Frankfort was easily the closest of the tournament for the Comets; they won their other four games by a combined 45-3. Eight regulars were hitting at least .303 entering the week, with junior centerfielder Makailyn Monson (.374, 18 SB, 52 R) a strong starter at the top of the lineup and junior outfielder Annabelle Bovee (.390, 11 2B, 42 RBI) another big bat driving runs home.

ROGERS CITY
Record/rank: 32-5, No. 1
Coach: Karl Grambau, 16th season (435-156)
League finish: First in North Star League
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2014, two runner-up finishes. 
Players to watch: Hannah Fleming, sr. 3B (.479, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 52 R); Jayna Hance, jr. 2B/P (.480, 59 R, 18 2B, 14-3 pitching, 2.89 ERA,); Kayla Rabeau, sr. SS (.550, 62 R, 10 2B, 44 RBI); Taylor Fleming, jr. 1B (.494, 11 HR, 51 RBI).
Outlook: After falling to Indian River Inland Lakes in Quarterfinals the last two years, Rogers City got past its nemesis in the Regional Final and back to the Semifinals for the second time in five seasons. Hannah and Taylor Fleming, Rabeau and Hance all were all-state selections a year ago and lead a team that has lost only once to a Division 4 team – in a split with No. 6 Onaway. Eight regulars hit at least .302 entering the week, and sophomore Kyrsten Altman (16-2, 2.21 ERA) is expected to start in the circle with Hance another great pitching option.

UNIONVILLE-SEBEWAING
Record/rank: 31-8, honorable mention
Coach: Isaiah Gainforth, second season (62-18)
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference West.
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2007), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Maci Montgomery, fr. C (.500, 11 2B, 36 RBI, 11 SB); Katie Engelhardt, sr. P/1B (.496, 21 2B, 6 HR, 62 RBI); Rylee Zimmer, jr. SS (.463, 14 2B, 11 3B, 41 RBI, 12 SB); Brianna Osantowske, sr. LF (.391, 12 2B, 45 RBI, 11 SB).
Outlook: USA won an incredible 15th straight Regional title over the weekend and will play in its 12th Semifinal in 13 seasons after falling in the Quarterfinal a year ago. Engelhardt two-hit No. 8 Waterford Our Lady on Tuesday so help her team advance. She earned an all-state honorable mention last season, as did Zimmer and Osantowske. Junior Delanie Pavlichek hit the game-winning grand slam Tuesday and adds another big bat (.397), and senior Lauren Adam (.376) leads things off and had 28 steals in 31 attempts entering the week. USA also has wins this season over Division 3 No. 1 Millington and honorable mention Sanford Meridian and Division 2 honorable mention Saginaw Swan Valley.

PHOTO: Escanaba’s Taylor Gauthier (32) rounds second base on her way to third during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win over Saginaw Swan Valley. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)


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