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South Lyon freshman Ava Bradshaw wins 2021 Total Softball Player of the Year honors

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, June 26, 2021, 2:40 pm

There was no doubt in Ava Bradshaw’s mind, from Day One of her freshman year, that she and the South Lyon Lions were going to win a state title. 

But there are a few things she’s not quite as prescient about.

For instance, she was gobsmacked when she made the final four cutdown in the Total Softball Player of the Year contest. 

And when she picked up her trophy Saturday, as the first-ever freshman to win the award? Absolutely floored. 

“I really can’t believe it, honestly. We won the state championship, so I was still just living in that. I just can’t believe it really,” she said, when presented the award at the STATE CHAMPS! studio on the campus of Lawrence Technological University on Saturday. [Watch the full replay of the announcement by CLICKING HERE.]

“I mean, I followed (the race), and everything, but I was just more focusing on our team at that point. We had a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to get better on. That was just our focus throughout the whole season. And then I got in the final four, and I was just like ‘What?’ I was just so confused. It was like ‘It’s OK. They’re all really good, so I probably won’t win.’ I was just really shocked, honestly.”

Farmington Hills Mercy senior second baseman Maggie Murphy (Miami University), Owosso junior pitcher Macy Irelan (Kent State) and Three Rivers shortstop Kali Heivilin (Alabama) were the other three finalists. 

Heivilin won honors as the state’s Gatorade Softball Player of the Year recently, after setting the new MHSAA single-season home run record at 29. She hit 66 in her three seasons, the second-highest career total in state history. 

Irelan led Owosso to its first-ever regional and state title, finishing with a 37-3 record, an ERA of 0.787, 487 strikeouts and 42 walks. 

Murphy led the semifinal-bound Marlins in five different offensive categories, finishing her senior season hitting .467 with 34 extra-base hits, 50 runs scored and 70 RBI. 

But it was Bradshaw who dominated the postseason, posting five shutouts in eight games — including the title contest against Allen Park — an ERA of 0.625, a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 94 to 16, and an opponent’s batting average of .147.

For the season, she was 24-4, with an ERA of 1.127, 329 strikeouts and 51 walks, allowing opponents to hit just .140. At the plate, she hit .410 with 17 extra-base hits on the season, with 30 RBI and 14 runs scored (when she ran for herself). 

“Well, it’s pretty easy to coach her. Obviously you start with she’s got a ton of talent. Then, you’ve got the work ethic behind that. She’s a phenomenal teammate. Her parents did a great job of raising her. She really fit right in, and the girls really rallied around her. I think that was the biggest thing,” South Lyon coach Dan DePaulis said. “There’s a lot of teams out there with talent, but we had group of girls that all bought into ‘Let’s play for each other.’ So, when we do that, and you’ve got a phenomenal pitcher like her, someone who is a team-first kind of kid, then you really can do special things.”

The Lions played relatively air-tight defense behind Bradshaw in the postseason, committing just five errors in eight games, three of those in the regional semifinal win over Hartland. As a team, they hit .364 in the postseason, and staked Bradshaw to early leads in every game but two. 

Bradshaw put high expectations on herself and her team, but her team expected a ton back, too.

“I’m always expecting myself to be better. You can never be satisfied. You have to be proud of yourself, but also take what you did great and then be better than that. The seniors were really instrumental in being proud of me, as well, but then also expecting more of me, as well,” she said. “That whole combination just helped me grow and be better, because if you look at me in the beginning of the season and the end of the season, I grew a lot. It wasn’t just because of my own individual work ethic, it was because of how much everybody was supporting my desire to be better.”

And the Lions fed off Bradshaw’s energy in the circle. 

“I think we just let Ava be Ava. That kind of passion and emotion is something you just kinda gotta let a player do. It’s not disrespectful, or anything like that. She’s competitive, she’s in the game, she wants to win. And, honestly, I think her teammates fed off of that,” DePaulis said. “So, as a coaching staff, too, we kind of get hyped up a little bit when Ava gets hyped up. That energy just kind of fed the team, so we just let Ava be Ava.”

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Previous winners:

2020 — [no season]

2019 — Gabi Salo, Escanaba

2018 — Sammie Gehrls, Caledonia

2017 — Meghan Beaubien, Monroe St. Mary CC

2016 — Abby Krzywiecki, Farmington Hills Mercy

2015 — Alex Sobczak, Farmington Hills Mercy