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A way-too-early look at the candidates for the 2020 Michigan Softball Player of the Year contest

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY , July 1, 2019, 10:15 am

Now that we’ve given it a couple weeks for the clouds of dust to have settled on the 2019 softball season, perhaps its time to turn our eyes forward to next spring, and the players who might be candidates for the 2020 version of the Michigan High School Softball Player of the Year?

Why not? Never too early, right?

Here are 10 solid candidates to start with, along with 10 bonus candidates. And, as we said in the video announcing last year’s winner, Gabi Salo, there are plenty of others who deserve to be mentioned for this contest, too.

Gabi Salo, P, Escanaba (2020) — The champ is still the champ, until she’s not. Salo was the first player to ever win the Michigan Softball POY award with high school eligibility remaining, so she’ll be the first to ever get a chance to repeat. It won’t be easy, though. She’ll likely have to repeat (or better) her numbers from 2019 — when she went 26-2 with an ERA of 0.26 with 351 strikeouts — to do it, but that’s hardly out of the realm of possibility for the Wisconsin-bound flamethrower.

Hannah Cady, C/SS, Clarkston (2020) — The backstop and No. 3 hitter for the powerful Wolves offense, Cady finished her junior season hitting .554 and slugging .985 (.582 on-base, 1.567 OPS), scoring 60 runs and driving in 77 (a top-10 result in the MHSAA record book). Most impressive: Cady didn’t strike out once in 130 at-bats on the season. You know what would be the ultimate clincher for a Clarkston player? Drive in the winning run to get the Wolves — who are 0-6 in semifinal appearances, 0-2 in the last three years — to the finals for the first time, or better yet, over the big hump to the program’s first title.

Rachel Everett, P, Hartland (2021) — When you’ve got 49 career wins heading into your junior season, you’ve already built yourself quite a resume. The Eagles have ridden Everett’s left arm to the finals and quarterfinals in her first two seasons, and she’s got two more years to take them one step further. Everett was striking out an average of eight batters per game, good for 213 on the season, and had an ERA of 1.39 headed into the quarterfinals loss to Clarkston.

Jenna Kroll, SS, Walled Lake Northern (2020) — As a defender, Kroll might have among the quickest releases of any of the top shortstops in the state, and has exceptional range. Oh, and as a batter? All she did as a junior was hit .598 (.643 OBP, 1.205 SLG) with 73 hits, 17 doubles, 19 home runs and 71 RBI. Those last four stats will all place among the best all-time totals in the MHSAA record books.

Grace Lehto, P/1B, Eaton Rapids (2020) — Everyone was sort of anticipating a showdown of Lehto vs. Salo in the finals — a rematch of last year’s 2-0 Escanaba win — but Stevensville Lakeshore interceded in the semis, hitting the Greyhounds’ ace like nobody had all season. Heading into that game, Lehto was 31-1 (the only loss was 2-0 to North Branch, the fourth semifinalist this season) with 353 strikeouts, 31 walks allowed and an ERA of 0.328.

Molly Carney, P, Howell (2020) — Like her Livingston County counterpart down M-59, Everett, Carney’s built quite a resume so far in high school, the unquestioned ace of a Howell team that’s gone to the regional finals, semifinals and finals in her first three seasons. Through three seasons, Carney has a 79-15 career record (an average season’s worth of wins will put her in the top 25 all-time in the MHSAA record book) with a 1.69 ERA and 691 strikeouts, along with 26 shutouts, six no-hitters and a perfect game.

Sierra Kersten, SS, Clarkston (2020) — Offensively, Kersten may have been a tick behind teammate Hannah Cady in batting average (.549), on-base percentage (.570), hits (67) and RBI (74), it wasn’t far. And Kersten led the Wolves in home runs (12), slugging percentage (1.025) and OPS (on-base plus slugging, 1.594).

Alexis Bonk, P/IF, South Lyon (2020) — One of the co-aces for the Lions since their freshman season, along with Lena Montieth, Bonk carried the Lions at the end of the season with her running mate out with a sore throwing arm. The Wayne State-bound hurler was dominant at times in her junior season, passing the 500-strikeout plateau for her career during the season, and tossed a no-hitter against Northville in the district semifinals, before the Lions were ousted in the rain-delayed district title game by cross-town rival South Lyon East.

Kali Heivilin, SS, Three Rivers (2021) — Broke the MHSAA record for runs scored in a season (despite an abbreviated playoff run) with 88, and had a program-record 19 home runs as a sophomore, giving her 37 already in her in her career. She hit .596 on the season, driving in 65 runs, and struck out just four times in 147 trips to the plate.

Adeline Ziehmer, P, Bay City Western (2020) — A two-time MVP of the Saginaw Valley League, Ziehmer was 20-3 with an 0.62 ERA and 227 strikeouts through the regional finals, giving up just two postseason runs through the five games of the playoffs, before falling to eventual D1 champion Warren Regina, 4-1, in the semifinals. On the year, Ziehmer had three perfect games and 10 shutouts on the season for the Warriors, earning first-team all-state honors.


Kendall Klochack, P/1B, Grand Blanc (2021)

Abbie Tolmie, 1B/OF/P, Clarkston (2020)

Lillian Vallimont, C, Allen Park Cabrini (2022)

Darrien Roberts, OF, Millington (2020)

Avrey Wolverton, 1B/P, Howell (2021)

Taylor Keighley, P/1B, New Baltimore Anchor Bay (2020)

Kaitlynn Brannstrom, C/1B, Portage Central (2020)

Maggie Murphy, IF, Farmington Hills Mercy (2021)

Allyssa Hollo, IF, South Lyon East (2021)

Tailynn Knapp, IF, Vicksburg (2020)