EAST LANSING – Gabbie Sherman never flinched Friday.
The Millington junior pitched her way out of three tight spots, including a tense bottom of the seventh inning, to lead the Cardinals to a 5-3 win against Sanford Meridian in an MHSAA Division 3 Softball Semifinal at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.
“Everyone has enough confidence in each other,” said Sherman, who struck out 11 while walking one and allowing seven hits and one earned run over seven innings. “If I make a bad pitch, I have enough confidence that one of my teammates is going to be there to pick me up. So, in a jam, that’s kind of nice. In a jam, I know that I have to buckle down and I can’t miss a pitch.”
The Cardinals (39-2) advanced to the Division 3 title game against Coloma at 3 p.m. Saturday, which will be their first trip to an MHSAA Final in this sport.
“It is such a great feeling to know that we are the first team in school history to ever get this far,” Sherman said. “That is huge, and I wouldn’t want to do it with any other girls.”
Sanford Meridian (27-15) had a chance to prevent that first title game trip, however, scoring a pair of runs on an error and bringing the winning run to the plate twice in the bottom of the seventh inning. A strikeout and a pop out ended the game, however.
“We didn’t give up,” Sanford Meridian coach Jamie Smith said. “Unfortunately we had a few innings where we had some poor at-bats, but they didn’t give up at all. They battled, and I think we even had a little fear in that team at the end. My kids don’t quit. They never have, and they’re not going to start now.”
The Cardinals showed veteran mettle when they had to, however, despite not having a single senior on the roster.
“Not having a senior – you wouldn’t be able to tell if you came into a practice or watched one of our games,” Millington coach Greg Hudie said. “There’s leadership throughout, not just one or two people leading the team. This team does everything together, and they lead together. That’s what makes them special.”
Millington built an early lead, getting an RBI single from Sydney Bishop in the first inning and an RBI double from Elizabeth Bees in the second.
Sanford Meridian was able to get one run back in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI bloop single from Audrey Kielpinski. But Sherman mitigated the damage from what could have been a huge inning for the Mustangs, who had the bases loaded with no outs following the run. She struck out two and forced a pop out to end the threat and preserve the lead.
From there, Sherman was dominant, retiring 10 straight Sanford Meridian batters. After facing another bases-loaded jam, this one with one out in the sixth inning, Sherman again left three Mustangs stranded, this time with a groundout to first and a strikeout.
As Sherman was keeping Sanford Meridian hitters at bay, the Cardinals were slowly building their lead. A Sabrina Gates sacrifice fly scored a run in the top of the fifth inning, and a throwing error allowed Hannah Rabideau to score from third to give her team a 4-1 lead.
Bishop struck again in the top of the sixth inning with an RBI single that put her team up 5-1. She finished the game with three hits, while Rabideau, Darrien Roberts and Gates each had two.
Peyton Grice led Sanford Meridian with three hits, while Baleigh Hill had an RBI. Grice took the loss, allowing four earned runs and striking out one over seven innings.
Coloma 5, Clinton 1
Coloma also will be making its first appearance in an MHSAA Softball Final after controlling its Semifinal against third-ranked Clinton.
The No. 2 Comets (37-3) jumped out to an early lead and rode a strong pitching performance from Jaidyn Hutsell and stellar defense to claim the victory.
“It’s exciting; these girls have worked hard,” Coloma coach Wendy Goodline said. “I have seven seniors, four of them were my managers as eighth graders and they so deserve it. They just deserve it.”
Megan Koeningshof set the tone early for Coloma, drawing a walk on 12 pitches in the game’s first at-bat, then scoring the opening run on a sacrifice bunt from Morgan Wagner. Koeningshof would score the second run of the game in the third inning on an RBI single from Wagner.
In the top of the sixth, Clinton attempted to pitch around Koeningshof, intentionally walking her to load the bases. Kayla Yore responded with a bases-clearing double to put Coloma up 5-0.
“They walked Megan, which I thought was a great strategy,” Goodline said. “I just told Kayla, ‘Hey, you can hit this,’ and she came through. I’m excited for her.”
Clinton (37-2) would get one run back in the bottom of the sixth inning on an RBI single from Peyton Rodriguez, but that was all the Redskins could muster against Hutsell, who allowed four hits and one walk while striking out four to pick up the win.
PHOTOS: (Top) Millington’s Gabbie Sherman makes her move toward the plate during the Cardinals’ Division 3 Semifinal win. (Middle) Coloma leftfielder Megan Neubecker pulls in a fly ball during her team’s victory.
The MHSAA and Holly school communities are grieving this week after the sudden loss of Tony Coggins, a shining light in his educational community and an enthusiastic supporter of school sports as a public address announcer for several of our largest championship events.
But while that cheerful tone has been quieted, it surely will not be forgotten by the many fortunate to enjoy an event in the presence of that voice and the joyfulness he brought into every arena, press box and classroom.
Coggins, 51, died Saturday. He is survived by his wife Kristy and children Emma and Bradlee, among several family and friends from his local and greater sports communities.
His career as a PA announcer began during his freshman year of high school in 1985, when his father Dale Coggins – Flushing’s athletic director at the time – couldn’t find anyone else to announce middle school football games. That was 39 years ago, and this fall Tony Coggins was in his 24th announcing at Holly, where he taught and served as an administrator in addition to his role as “Voice of the Holly Bronchos” for football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, competitive cheer and swimming & diving over the years.
Coggins has been a mainstay among MHSAA Finals PA announcers over the last decade in football, basketball, softball and most recently volleyball. He lent his voice to college sports at University of Michigan as well. “Tony was a huge part of our Finals events. It’s hard to imagine it being the same without him,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said.
As part of the run-up to the MHSAA public address announcers clinic in 2018, Coggins said this about what drew him to the microphone:
“I have zero athletic ability whatsoever, which is interesting because my father was an all-state running back. But I enjoy being involved, and I've always been the one for history and statistics and knowing what's going on,” Coggins said. “This is a way for me to be involved. It's a way for me to use a talent I've been given; public speaking has always come pretty naturally for me.
“So I worked at my craft to get better. I got better from watching the people around me, from studying the people I like, and the people – if I saw someone I didn’t care for – I'd make a note and say to myself, ‘Don't do that.’ I take feedback from people very personally, and I mean that in a good way. If somebody takes the time to come up and say, ‘You did this well; I think you should change this,’ that means they care about the program also. We all have the same goal in mind, and that's to make the experience good for the high school student and the parents, the fans, that come there.”
Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at St. John Vianney, 2415 Bagley Street in Flint. There will be visitation from 2-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at the Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 West Hill Road, and at the church from 10 a.m. Saturday until the time of the Mass.
The Holly volleyball team played for something bigger tonight
Beloved PA announcer Anthony Coggins died on Friday night from a heart attack
— Brandon Green🍀 (@BGreenReports) October 24, 2023