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Girls Softball Preseason Top 25 Teams: Clarkston is No. 1; Wolves seek their first softball state title

Softball   | Tom Markowski

Girls Softball Preseason Top 25 Teams: Clarkston is No. 1; Wolves seek their first softball state title

 

 

  1. Clarkston – The Wolves reached the Division 1 semifinals last season and they lost just one senior to graduation. Sierra Kersten (2B) plays volleyball and is a terrific athlete. She committed to Michigan. Paige Blevins (SS) signed with Central Michigan and she hit 14 home runs a season ago. Hannah Cady is a sophomore catcher and is a Total Softball Player of the Year candidate. Cady batted .489 last season with a .544 on-base percentage. She committed to Northwestern. Abbey Tolmie (1B) didn’t make an out in the tournament until the quarterfinals. Olivia Warrington was the ace of the staff last season and she’ll attend Detroit Mercy on a scholarship. The entire infield has either signed with a Division I school or been offered a scholarship by a Division I school. “If I don’t get in the way, we’ll win a couple of games,” coach Don Peters said.

 

  1.  Mount Pleasant (33-4), Div. 1: The Oilers Had a great season going until they played Midland in a district semifinal and lost, 11-6. Hannah Carson, a four-year starter who signed with Michigan, is a tremendous hitter (9 home runs, 38 RBI) and, as a catcher, is an even better defensive player. Junior Oakley Mogg was 24-3 last season and batted .505. Katie Sexton is one of six starters back and the sophomore will move from third base to shortstop. Sexton batted .451` last season. Natalie Kea is one of three seniors and she’ll move from right field to center. Lindsay Watters batted .372 and she’ll move from first base to third.  
  2. Hartland (27-11), Div. 1: The Eagles were 12-5 in league play last season and among their top returners are three seniors, Madelin Skene (P/3B), Brianna Robeson (2B/SS) and Delanie Grundman (1B/3B). All three signed to play for a university next fall. Skene led her team in RBI (56), home runs (10) and extra-base hits (35). She was 17-8 as a pitcher and struck out 157 batters. Robeson hit leadoff and batted .522 with 55 runs scored. Grundman batted .400 with 32 RBI. Anna Kemp is a senior who will also see time in the circle. Juniors Sam Nagel (3B/OF) and Miranda Millington (C) are other top returning starters.   
  3. Mattawan (32-8), Div. 1: Coach Alicia Smith lost five seniors to graduation but returns a number of talented players including pitcher Emily Koperdak who signed with Northern Kentucky. Junior Olivia Fee (1B) will split time with Koperdak in the circle. Raechel Ashmus (LF) is one of three seniors and junior catcher Maddie Dell is a three-year varsity player. Sophomore Kacey Bouche will move from first base to shortstop and sophomore Kendra Cardoza will move from the outfield to third base. Smith said she’s “been hammering fundamentals” to this group due, in part, with many of the players stationed at different positions. And for the first time, Mattawan will not field a junior varsity team.
  4. Bay City Central (19-13), Div. 1: The Wolves lost one senior to graduation and coach Bob Kukla enters his eighth season with his best team. Junior Sydney Spencer is a tall right-hander who set the school record for strikeouts last season. Another junior, Skylar Coberley (SS/3B/P/C), hit five home runs last season and she committed to Central Michigan. Kukla’s daughter, Briar, will play a variety of positions but mostly catcher. Brenna Legner, another senior, is back at first base and junior Madison Evans will play right field. “We’re a versatile team,” Kukla said. “And we have some power hitters.”
  5. Howell (38-3), Div. 1: The Highlanders lost to Mattawan, 4-2, in a region final. They lost five seniors, four of whom started. Sophomore Molly Carney was 32-3 last season and had a 1.50 ERA. Carney has returned after missing a couple of games after suffering a contusion to an ankle. Freshman Avery Wolverton is likely to start in Carney’s place. Junior A.J. Militello (OF/C/IF) committed to Kent State. Coach Ron Pezzoni’s daughter, Sydney, signed with Eastern Kentucky and she’ll play center field and she’s a Player of the Year candidate. Freshman Maddie Springer will see time as a utility player. Sophomores will handle to key positions, Skye Grant will be the catcher and the shortstop is Maddy Heilner. Junior Maddie Gillette, an outstanding infielder, suffered a knee injury during the volleyball season and Pezzoni is hoping to have her back in time for the tournament. Gillette committed to Carson-Newman.
  6. Richmond (36-8), Div. 2: Coach Howard Stuart must replace three starters from a team that lost in the Division 2 final. The Blue Devils have one of the state’s top players in Carley Barjaktarovich (SS) and they have one of the top pitchers in this division, junior Erin Shuboy. Barjaktarovich signed with Lehigh and Shuboy, who led the team in home runs last season, tops out at 63 mph with her fastball. “(Shuboy) is just so confident,” Stuart said. “You get her in the circle and she wants to win.” Catcher Evie Swantek is a senior captain and she signed with Oakland Community College. Junior Ashley Teltow will play first base and she’ll also see time in the circle. Richmond has three or four pitchers it could, and will likely, use.
  7. Macomb Dakota (36-2), Div. 1: Gone is pitcher Kendahl Dunford, a finalist for the Total Softball/State Champs Player of the Year Award, but this program, which won the school’s first state title last season, is on solid ground even with a new coach, Dave Prestininzi. Prestininzi spent 30 years with the Clinton Township Chippewa Valley program and was the junior varsity coach at Dakota the last three seasons. Six starters return led by one of the top players in the state, shortstop Corbin Hison, a four-year starter who signed with Canisius. Olivia Patton (CF) is another four-year starter who signed with Indiana State. Jackie Popko has some pop in her bat and will move from right field to left. The junior class is outstanding and the defense will be as well. Lefthander Danielle McBride will share time with Savana Erb on the mound. Two other juniors, Juliann Hammer and Katie Courneya, will share time behind the plate. Junior infielder Sam DiCicco will bat fourth.
  8. Caledonia (21-9), Div. 1: The Scots lost to Grandville in a region final and coach Tom Kaechele lost just two seniors to graduation. Samantha Gehrls is a four-year starter and she signed with Grand Valley State. She has 33 career home runs and she was the winning pitcher in the district final against Byron Center. Julia Becker is a left-handed power pitcher who will also play first base and the outfield. Sophomore Emalee Hamp (SS/P) possesses a super rise ball and junior Ashley Van Zyteld (2B) hit .489 last season with nine triples. “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Kaechele said. “This is the deepest and best team I’ve had in a while.”
  9.  Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (27-3), Div. 3: Life without Meghan Beaubien isn’t so bad if you have a program like the one John Morningstar has. He returns seven starters plus another who played significant innings. Kelsey Barron would have been the starting pitcher on 90 percent of the teams in the state last season and now she gets her shot. She signed with Wheeling (WV) Jesuit, a Division II school. Kenna Garst is back at catcher and it’s quite possible she’ll attend, and play at, Detroit Mercy next fall. Danielle Michael is back at third base and her sister, Sam, is a sophomore and she just might be a better athlete. Brooklyn Barton (SS), Abby Johnson (LF) and Brooke Angerer (C/1B) all started in the state final last season.
  10. Ida (37-7), Div. 2: Dawn Forter enters her 15th season as coach and she has six starters back from a team that won the school’s first state title in dramatic fashion (8-4 over Richmond in 9 innings). “It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had on a softball field,” Forter said. Senior Lauren Kreps was the starting pitcher in the semifinal and final, and she’ll split time with junior Autumn Brososky who pitched the final 3 1/3 innings in the final to collect the victory. Senior Hannah Tuller will play second, senior Karlee Lambert is in left, senior Sydney Janssen is back at first and senior Whitney Wegener is behind the plate, and all five seniors are four-year starters. Junior Sydney Motylinski is a three-year starter at third base. The Bluestreaks have few weaknesses and experience is in abundance.
  11. Richland Gull Lake (29-12), Div. 1: Coach Kate Smith returns six starters including two outstanding players in junior Lauren Esman (P/OF/1B) and senior Ashton Whitman (SS/C). Both are fine athletes who compete in multiple sports. Catcher Shelby Martell is a four-year player and a solid hitter. Natalie Nagel (3B) is one of five seniors on the team and junior Kaitlyn Jerke (1B) saw extensive playing time last season. Participation is up at Gull Lake, so much so that Smith had to make cuts at the varsity and junior varsity level. “We had a good team last year and we have some holes to fill,” Smith said.
  12. Escanaba (37-5), Div. 2: Jamie Segorski enters his fourth season as head coach and he has six starters returning from a team that reached the state semifinals. Gabi Salo is a sophomore who committed to Wisconsin and she’s coming off of a fabulous freshman season. She was 18-3 and struck 118 in 115 2/3 innings. Last season she shared time with Katie Ross in the circle. Segorski returns all four infielders including seniors Taylor Gauthier (SS), a three-year starter who hit 12 home runs as a junior, and Claire McInerney (2B) another three-year starter. Dakota Clouthier is a sophomore who will start behind the plate after playing on the junior varsity. Lexie Chaillier, a junior, is the top returning outfielder and she batted second last season.  “This is a solid team that will be led by the leadership of the seniors,” Segorski said.
  13. Walled Lake Northern (33-8), Div. 1: The Knight lost to Clarkston, 1-0, in a quarterfinal. Ten players return including six starters. Two seniors, in particular, will lead coach Kristen Woodard’s team. Courtney Callahan (CF) batted .432 with 36 RBI last season and catcher Samantha Harris hit .378 with 37 RBIs, and she signed with Central Michigan. Junior McKenzie Knight will be in the circle and will see time as an infielder. She hit .351 with 31 RBI. Two players had outstanding freshmen seasons starting with Jenna Kroll (SS/3B) who hit eight home runs to go with a .455 batting average and 43 RBI. Kroll committed to Hillsdale. Kaycee Loehr (2B/C) hit .413 with 38 RBI and she committed to Davenport.
  14. St. Clair (26-8), Div. 2: The Saints lost to Detroit Country Day in the regionals and they return six starters including lefthander Alexis Churchill (P/IF) who signed with Canisius. A right-hander, senior Olivia Young, will play first base and will split time in the circle. Molly Likins signed with Wooster (OH) and she’ll play shortstop and catcher. Her cousin, Kara Likins, a senior, will play third base. Molly Likins has tremendous power and the majority of the starters are .300-type of hitter. There are eight seniors and coach Kevin Mahn said, so far, senioritis has not been a problem. Other starters include Kayle Cole (RF) and catcher Alexa Rutledge.
  15. Oxford (29-9), Div. 1: Ken Allen enters his second season as coach and he returns eight starters from a team that lost to Clarkston in a district final. Kaitlyn Bean and Hannah Vachon are four-year starters who will share time, again, in the circle and at first base. The other senior, Lauren Donaldson, is back behind the plate and is the team’s No. 2 hitter. The Wildcats’ top hitter is Allen’s daughter, Chloe (2B), a junior who batted .498 last season. McKenzie Miller (3B) is a three-year starter and sophomore Sarah Tyrrell returns at shortstop. The bad news is the Wildcats again have Clarkston in their district.
  16. Plymouth (29-7), Div. 1: The Wildcats won a district title and return seven starters including three sophomores and one of the state’s top players in Jenny Bressler. Bressler was 20-3 last season and she signed with Nevada-Las Vegas. Plymouth is led by three seniors who are four-year varsity players. Whitney Holden (OF) will see some time at first base. She’s the type of player who can motivate her teammates. Jess Tucci (CF) will also see time in the infield. Arie Bartholomew is a utility player who’ll mostly play catcher. Haley Gagnon, another junior, will play third base. This team has depth and experience.
  17. Portage Central (33-6), Div. 1: Lisa Kiino takes over the program after spending 12 seasons as the head coach at Comstock. Josie Muffley, who signed with Tulsa, will move to shortstop after playing second base last season. She’s one of five returning starters, a list that includes sophomore Kaitlyn Brannstrom (C/1B) and senior Trinity Cumo (IF/OF), both of whom batted over .500 last season. Junior Rebecca Cottrell batted .364 last season and she’s a versatile player who’ll play the outfield, first base, and catcher. Kylee Taylor and MacKenzie Ruthven will pitch and play in the outfield.  “This team has been very open towards me,” Kiino said. “Just their culture and being a part of their community has been a plus. They have game experience and they have that competitiveness that you want to see.”
  18. New Baltimore Anchor Bay (24-16), Div. 1: Talent is not a problem for the Tars. What needs to take place is unity and a tendency to make the big play in close games. Aleah (SS) Marra is one of the state’s top players and she signed with Toledo. Skye Norris is back in the circle and she signed with Macomb College. Norris will switch to the infield when freshman Mia Konycka gets her shot pitching. Catcher Avieri Ludwig signed with Grand Valley State and she’ll share time behind the plate with freshman Amanda Schick who committed to Bowling Green. Three junior outfielders have also made verbal commitments and they are Jenna Cantalupo (Hillsdale), Jenna Cassey (U-M Dearborn) and Kellie Tatum (Lawrence Tech). Look for sophomore Taylor Keighley (3B) to provide some punch. She hit 13 home runs on the junior varsity last season.
  19. Riverview (30-11), Div. 2: The Pirates lost to Ida in a regional semifinal and return all nine starters, and their junior varsity was undefeated. Grace Chelemen (SS/OF) is one of a handful of college prospects for coach Scott Steward and she signed with Michigan. Allison Ross (3B/OF) led the team in home runs (11) last season and she has 21 over the last two seasons. She signed with St. Francis (PA.). Makenna Millhorn (P/1B) signed with U-M Dearborn and she led the team with 58 base hits and was 14-9 in the circle. Junior Gabrielle Rolak hit .504 and is being recruited by Division II schools. The sophomore class is loaded; six are on varsity. Millhorn’s sister, Kylie, will play a number of positions and she’s being recruited by a number of Division I schools. Shannon McAlinden (SS/OF) made the varsity basketball team and is perhaps the team’s top athlete.   
  20. Midland (32-8), Div. 1: The Chemics have been on quite a run recently. They reached the quarterfinals in 2015 and 2017 and reached the semifinal in 2016. Catcher Nicole Miiller and Allison Gray (CF) are four-year starters. Gillian Schloop (P/1B) is in her second season with the program and she’ll share time in the circle with junior Emily Corbat (3B/1B). Juniors Maggie Ganola and Logan Haring will likely play in the infield, and sophomore Jillian Krawczak (OF) could see time in the circle as well.
  21. Salem (24-11), Div. 1: The Rocks return seven starters plus two others who should see playing time. Leading the way are three senior captains: Morgan Overaitis, Maddy Rosiewicz, and Caroline Miller.  These three have started since they were freshmen and all have a grade-point average of 3.8 or better. Overaitis, an infielder, hit .641 with 19 doubles and 56 RBI. Rosiewicz will be the starting pitcher in most of the game and last season she batted .455 with a .507 on-base percentage. Miller hit .423 with a .524 on-base percentage. Miller will play centerfield and fill in at third base when needed. Two other returners are junior Jordan Hazel (3B) who hit .486 last season. She bats left-handed and has power. Another junior is Hailey Dechalk, the starting catcher. Dechalk has committed to improving her game. Watch for her to have a big season at the plate.
  22. Jackson County Western (36-6), Div. 2: Six starters return, five of whom are seniors, from a team that reached a regional final. Taylor Nichols is an outstanding pitcher who signed with Appalachian State. Hadlie Hinojosa (CF) and Olivia Rodriguez (SS) are other top seniors. Rodriguez bats left-handed and will leadoff. House also played volleyball, as did sophomore Abi Wilcoxson (3B) who hit seven home runs last season. Coach Tonya Bassett enters her 16th season and she’s optimistic about her team’s chances this season.
  23. Grandville (32-8), Div. 1: The Bulldogs reached a state final for the first time last season (lost to Dakota, 4-3, in eight innings) and they return just three starters, nevertheless look for Grandville to challenge Caledonia, Hudsonville, and Rockford for the O-K Red Division title. Kaitlyn Orme (1B) is a three-year starter and Chloe Deckrow is back behind the plate. Maggie Bentley started in left field in that state final and she’ll move to center. Lexi Dukesherer, the starting centerfielder last season, will be the ace of the staff after seeing some time in the circle as a junior. Coach Troy Ungrey will start three sophomores, one is his daughter, Madison, who will play a number of positions.
  24. Muskegon Mona Shores (24-16), Div. 1: The Sailors have depth at pitching but look for sophomore Madison Van Etten and junior Lauryn Patterson to carry much of the load. Taylor Dew (IF) hit a state-record 22 home runs last season and she’s a four-year starter. Veronica Kastelic (SS) set school records for base hits (70) and batting average (.543) last season and she’ll attend Muskegon Community College, and could play basketball and softball. Eric Bakin (3B) is a junior who was a utility player last season. Ryleigh Wehler batted .459 last season and she’ll play basketball at Aquinas next season.