• Michigan

Pitching duo dominant for No. 2 Howell, as Carney and Wolverton blank competition to win Fred Pieper tournament

By: Matthew B. Mowery, May 12, 2019, 1:00 am

ROYAL OAK — Usually, it’s a jibe reserved for an umpire who seems to be calling every pitch a strike, looking like he or she wants to get out of town. 

“You got someplace to be, Blue? Dinner reservations?”

Saturday afternoon, that was more applicable to one of the pitchers, mowing through lineups, then bolting for the exit of Royal Oak’s Memorial Park as soon as the last out was in the books. 

Howell ace Molly Carney combined with Avrey Wolverton to allow just five hits over four shutout performances — including a combined four-inning no-hitter — pitching the No. 2-ranked Highlanders to the championship of the 41st annual Fred Pieper Tournament, before zipping off to make it to prom. 

“She goes ‘Is it OK if I leave at 6?’ I go, ‘No, you already had one prom. The second one, you don’t get the free pass,’” joked Howell coach Ron Pezzoni of his star pitcher’s hasty exit. 

“The pitching was great. It was just dominant the whole way through. We really never felt threatened on defense. We felt like we were in total control. That makes it easy. Never lost a game giving up zero.”

After combining with Wolverton to blank Utica Ford (14-0 in four innings) and no-hit St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (12-0 in four innings), Carney tossed a one-hitter against Rochester in a 9-0, five-inning win in the semifinals, then threw a two-hit shutout, striking out 15 in six innings in the championship game win over L’Anse Creuse. 

How dominant was the pitching for the Highlanders?

The twosome allowed just five hits in 19 innings pitched — good for a batting average against of .077 — and just four runners reached second base against the Highlanders all day.

Carney struck out 36 in 14 innings of work, while Wolverton struck out 11 in five innings. 

It’s not exactly an out-of-the-blue occurrence for the Highlander pitching staff, though. 

Through 20 games, they’ve given up more than two runs in a game three times — in the season-opening, 4-2 loss to Hartland on April 3, in a 9-5 win over Walled Lake Northern on May 2, and in a 9-3 win over Novi on May 8. 

In total, they’ve shut out 13 of 20 opponents, and yielded just 18 runs in 20 games.

Carney got a late start to last season, healing up from minor injuries from an offseason car accident, and never really got into “midseason” form until late in the campaign — “Probably the regionals and quarters, she was dominant,” Pezzoni said — so to have her at the very top of her game in mid-May is a huge plus for the Highlanders.

“It’s great, and the fact that she’s fresh. She didn’t throw a lot of pitches today,” Pezzoni said. “This was actually one of her longest outings of the year, and we’re just trying to move her up slowly, so when we get to districts and regionals, if she has to go two games, she can do it, but we have a ton of confidence in Avrey, too, though.”

The Howell offense wasn’t bad, either, with A.J. Militello going 7-for-10 on the day, with eight runs scored and eight driven in, four triples and a pair of home runs against Lake Shore, including a grand slam. Maddie Gillett was 6-for-12 with a triple, five RBI and four runs scored, while Maddie Springer was 6-for-12 with five runs scored and four RBI. Skye Grant drove in seven, while Wolverton was 5-for-9 with a pair of doubles and a homer, and five RBI.

White Lake Lakeland beat L’Anse Creuse North (16-4, 4 inn.) and Oxford (5-0, 5 inn.) to win Pool B, and advance to the semifinals against L’Anse Creuse (19-2), which won Pool A with wins over Novi (12-1) and Regina (8-6). The Lancers beat Lakeland 8-4 in five innings in the semifinal game to advance to the championship contest. 

Rochester (15-7) beat Grosse Pointe North (9-2) and Mt. Clemens Chippewa Valley (6-3) to win Pool C.