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Livonia Stevenson and Churchill softball squads raise nearly $3,000 for Gift of Life with pair of fundraiser games

By: Scott Burnstein, April 17, 2019, 11:20 pm

LIVONIA — There was an added sense of urgency in this year’s annual charity softball series between Livonia Stevenson and Livonia Churchill, as Churchill skipper Abe Vinitski is battling a serious kidney disorder and in need of a transplant.

With the stakes being significantly heightened, both teams came through.

The two games are estimated to have raised roughly $3,000 for the Gift of Life charity foundation run out of Ann Arbor. Gift of Life is the only federally-funded organ donation program in the state of Michigan. There are currently upwards of 3,000 people in Michigan on the kidney donor list.

“I’m really just overwhelmed by all the love and support,” Vinitski said. “This is a special day in my life. … We’re rival teams, but to see how this brought everyone together shows what true friendship is all about. Livonia is a great community filled with people who care. I feel fortunate to be a part of it.”

Vinitski, 47, is in his second season on the job at Churchill. All three of his daughters have attended Livonia Public Schools. Every year, the two teams at Churchill and Stevenson choose a different charity for which play their crosstown season series, and give the proceeds of the fundraiser.

The action on the diamond this week was decidedly in Stevenson’s favor. The Spartans’ sticks were singing a splendid tune, their offense booming with base.

Stevenson swept the series, taking Game 1 by a score of 13-3 Monday and then Game 2 on the road 22-4 Wednesday night in front of a packed crowd at Churchill filled with Vinitski fans and well-wishers. On Wednesday, Stevenson plated 14 runs in the fifth inning to blow the game open.

Junior shortstop Autumn Reed keyed the Stevenson onslaught with her third double of the game bringing in a pair of runs to make it 10-4. Reed ended her monster day 6-for-6 with eight RBI.

“I was making good contact early and it was smooth sailing for me at the dish the rest of the way,” Reed said. “But this game and the game before was more about the community coming together for Coach Abe than anything else. We did this for him and we did it together. That’s why for me, this was a perfect effort."

Stevenson (10-3, 6-0) remains undefeated in league play out of the KLAA East. Churchill dropped to 5-6 (4-2) with Wednesday’s loss.

Stevenson spinner Allisyn Collins lifted her season record to 3-1 from the pitching circle, picking up the win Wednesday with a complete-game four-hitter. Eight of Stevenson’s nine starters managed at least a base hit.

“We seized momentum (in the first few innings) and kept it going,” Stevenson coach Kevin Hannigan said. “Our bats were popping in the fifth, we built a steady groove at the plate and rode it as far as we could. We played hard because we knew how much these (charity) games mean. Abe is a driving force. We might be in opposite dugouts, but we’re all rooting for him like he’s family.”