High 5s - 4/24/12
April 24, 2012
Each week, Second Half gives "High 5s" to multiple athletes and a team that have performed exceptionally on the field or made a notable impact off of it.
Please offer your suggestions by e-mail to editor Geoff Kimmerly at [email protected] Below are this week's honorees:
Weber, a two-time Division 1 all-state forward, leads one of the best teams in the state. Northville is 5-0-2 and ranked No. 3, with its most significant win so far coming last week, 1-0 over reigning Division 1 champion and current No. 5 Novi. Although Weber did not score that goal, she did help open up the field by drawing two and at times three defenders. She has nine goals and five assists this season, and has signed with reigning Big Ten regular-season champion Penn State after also considering the University of Maryland and the University of Miami (Fla.). She also played basketball at Northville.
For love of the game: "I love soccer. It's so competitive. It's just fun. It's fast-moving; basketball you stop so much, but in soccer you're always continuing."
I learned the most about soccer from: "Probably my (club) coach Andy Vanover. He was my coach for probably six years, and he taught me to never give up. That work ethic is part of what makes my game so hard to defend."
I model my game after: FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi. "Just how he's so good with his foot skills. That's the biggest part of my game I try to work on."
Up next: Weber is undecided on her major at Penn State, but is considering something in food science and nutrition. "I just like the whole thing of how food affects your body, how it plays into your performance."
Track and Field
McFadden won the 110-meter hurdles (14.9 seconds), the 300 hurdles (39.3) and the 200 dash (22.3) on Saturday at the Remus Chippewa Hills Invitational as Clare scored 174 points to finish first. He's the reigning MHSAA Division 3 champion in both hurdles races and helped Clare to a third-place team finish at the 2011 Final. He also owns school and Jack Pine Conference records in the 110 (14.82) and 300 (39.28), according to a report by the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun. McFadden played football in previous falls until this school year, when he switched to cross country to help him get into better shape for track season.
Up next: McFadden has signed to run track at Michigan State University, and will study biomedical engineering. "I just like the working-with-my-hands aspect, making new things (like) replacements for hips and knees, making innovations in that kind of stuff."
Quick learner: McFadden shot put and ran on a relay in junior high, but didn't try hurdling until high school. "I just watched a lot of film on myself, just fixed stuff there."
I look up to: "I'd say my brother (Mike McFadden, a 2010 Clare grad). He's the one who really got me into track. He played baseball freshman year and ran track sophomore year, and he really liked track. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and see what I could do."
Crossing over: "I played football every year but senior year. I ran cross country this year. It was a good experience, got me in shape. I ran about what I wanted to run, time-wise."
Stevensville Lakeshore softball
In a battle of top-ranked teams, Stevensville Lakeshore -- ranked No. 1 in Division 2 -- downed Division 1 No. 1 Mattawan 4-3 in eight innings to win Saturday's Mattawan Invitational. The Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference rivals also met in last season's Mattawan championship game, with Mattawan winning in eight innings, and again in last weekend's Portage Invitational final -- a 4-2 Wildcats win. Mattawan had won 38 straight games before falling to Portage Central earlier Saturday.
Lakeshore also beat Division 1 No. 3 Grandville, 7-1, and Vicksburg 6-1. The Lancers improved to 11-2 with the tournament sweep.
This spring's previous honorees
Sarah Appold, Saginaw Valley Lutheran softball
Nick Stiles, Bath baseball
Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
May 24, 2023
Kenna Bommarito remembers how many people were in East Lansing a year ago to support her and her Algonac softball teammates at the Division 3 Semifinals.
So, she has an idea of how many people from the town would show up if both the softball and baseball teams were there this time around.
“I think everyone would be,” the junior pitcher said.
There’s a decent possibility that Bommarito’s theory could be tested. The Muskrats softball team is ranked No. 2 in Division 3, and Tuesday night clinched the first Blue Water Area Conference title in program history.
That came one night after the baseball team – ranked No. 1 in Division 3 – also won its first BWAC title. The BWAC was created in 2002, and Algonac was an original member.
“It’s amazing – this town loves it,” said senior baseball player Tyler Schultz. “We’ve got a small community, and everybody is tagging along. I remember last year, a couple of our final postseason games, that was the most people I’ve ever seen at a game. All of the sports here are starting to build up. We have athletes all around the school. I think as time goes on, I think each sport will get better and better.”
Bommarito’s imagined scenario nearly played out a year ago, as both teams made their deepest postseason run.
While the softball team was making its historic run to the Semifinal, the baseball team was making one of its own, advancing to the Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.
The baseball team’s movement toward this started with the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when the Muskrats won back-to-back District titles.
“We had a couple DI (college) players, and when you have those players come through, it generates excitement through the youth,” said Algonac baseball coach Scott Thaler, who took over the program in 2017. “It’s been a trickle-down effect from that initial first two years. That really set the bar. We’ve had some really good baseball players come through, and I have a great staff.”
Thaler had stressed back then that he wanted to build a program at Algonac and not have it be a flash in the pan. That certainly looks like it’s happening, and not just because his Muskrats are winning and sitting atop the state rankings.
Algonac – which has fewer than 500 students in the entire school – has junior varsity and freshman baseball teams. Thaler also said there are 25 eighth graders coming into the program next year.
“I think that when I was smaller in little league, we didn’t really have that where we went out on the field with the varsity players,” said junior pitcher Josh Kasner. “Now, that’s gotten a lot better. A lot of the smaller kids we see around town, they know who we are and about (the program).”
Of course, talent wasn’t enough to get there. Thaler needed to instill belief in his team in order to help the younger generation see what was possible.
“I was a (football assistant) coach under Scott Barnhart, and one of the things we preached to the kids back then is ‘To believe in the things you haven’t seen before,’” Thaler said. “That’s the mantra we brought to them last year, ‘Why not us?’ Just because it hasn’t happened before here doesn’t mean you can’t believe in that. We had to get them to believe.”
The Quarterfinal run provided proof beyond the belief for the Muskrats, and then the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association added to it all, naming Algonac the preseason No. 1 team in Division 3.
Luckily for Thaler, his team took it in stride.
“I mean, it was a great feeling, but part of me had some doubts,” Schultz said “We’ve got some younger kids on the team, and I thought that maybe they might look at that and might get complacent, but me and some of the other seniors have done a good job of keeping all of these guys looking forward. We’ve still got one goal, and that’s to finish (with a Finals title).”
While the softball team didn’t enter the season with a No. 1 ranking, the expectations were certainly there, as was a new target on its back.
But bigger than both was motivation following a walk-off loss to Millington in the Semifinal.
“I think it just shows us that in those big games with those types of teams, you can never say never,” said first-year softball coach Natalie Heim, who was an assistant on last year’s team. “You really have to bear down. That Millington team that beat us, they fought hard. But I definitely think it fuels us more to get back.”
The softball program’s rise may have seemed more sudden to those on the outside, but senior Ella Stephenson said it had been bubbling for a while.
“My sophomore year, we had some talent for sure,” she said. “We had a really good season, but not as good as junior and senior year. The class above me was really talented. But they kind of turned the program around in my eighth-grade year, and it kind of kept building from there.”
During Stephenson’s sophomore season, the Muskrats lost a tough District game against Richmond, which went on to win the Division 3 Finals title. Not only are the Blue Devils a common early postseason opponent for the Muskrats, they’re also a conference rival. As is Almont. And Croswell-Lexington. And … It’s a brutal conference.
So, much like the baseball team, even during the softball team’s historic 2022 season, winning the conference this spring proved to be tougher than making a deep postseason run.
That made Tuesday night’s sweep of North Branch to clinch the BWAC that much sweeter.
“Honestly, it’s a rush of just happiness,” Bommarito said. “We’re all so excited and just can’t believe we did it. We just played game-by-game today, and really took it one pitch, one out at a time.”
Not only has the BWAC prepared the Muskrats for the possibility of another deep postseason run, it helped keep them focused throughout the season.
“I think a lot of teams don’t have that luxury of facing the best competition during the season,” Heim said. “I think it keeps (the Muskrats) not looking too far ahead. We try to have that approach of one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. It helps with having goals that are a little tougher to achieve. Winning our league, it’s tough. It’s not an easy feat. Especially after last year’s success, it would have been easy to look ahead.”
Now, with league titles secured, both teams can focus on their ultimate goals and the postseason that is directly in front of them.
All with the hope that their similarities – on top of the league titles, both teams are 29-2 as of Wednesday, and both have a University of Michigan-bound player (Kasner and Stephenson) – continue through the third weekend of June with matching trips to East Lansing.
“That’d be unreal. That would be so cool,” Stephenson said. “We all have really good friendships on the baseball and softball teams. Our records are identical. We both won our conference. It’s just really cool. I’m really happy for their success, and ours, too.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Algonac pitcher Kenna Bommarito makes her move toward the plate during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal against Millington. (2) Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in. (3) The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield. (4) The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo. (Baseball photos and softball team photo courtesy of the Algonac athletic department.)