Aces Shine for Monroe St. Mary, Bronson

June 12, 2015

By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – It may not have been a perfect game.

But the no-hitter tossed by Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central sophomore Meghan Beaubien on Friday was impressive enough.

She entered the Division 3 Semifinal against Pinconning with nine no-hitters this season, including five perfect games, and reaching double digits by silencing the Spartans’ bats to lead St. Mary to a 6-0 win and berth in Saturday’s championship game.

Beaubien, who also averages 16 strikeouts per game, hit her average as she fanned 16 batters without allowing a walk.

Only a pair of third-inning errors prevented Beaubien from notching a perfect game. Those errors came at the start of the inning and gave Pinconning (30-14) a shot of momentum by putting runners on the corners with no outs. Beaubien, however, took the air out of that momentum by striking out the next two batters and inducing the third out on a fly ball to center field.

“That was a big situation to get out of,” said Beaubien, when asked about the jam she was in during the third inning. “They had runners on first and third with no out. They had their number nine hitter coming up, then it was back to the top of the order. So it was a big deal to get out of.”

Beaubien had a little wiggle room to work with thanks to a four-run first inning that staked St. Mary to a 4-0 lead.

With two outs and one runner on base, St. Mary (36-5) strung together four straight hits. Julianne Venier doubled in the first run, and Keeley Taft followed with an RBI single to give the Kestrels a 2-0 lead. Danielle Michael followed with a run-scoring double, and Michaela Rogers laced an RBI single to close out the scoring.

“The early runs help a lot,” said Monroe St. Mary coach John Morningstar. “We feel that if we get three or four runs, Meghan is pretty much automatic. Obviously it made it a lot easier with the early runs. It gave everyone some breathing room.”

Having Beaubien in the circle firing strikes also made it easier for the St. Mary players and coaches to take a breath. Beaubien entered the game with a Monroe County record 430 strikeouts to her credit. 

“This is what she does,” Morningstar said. “She averages 16 strikeouts a game. This was her 10th no-hitter, and she has five perfect games. At the level of which she is pitching, what she does out there does not surprise me. Obviously you don’t expect a no hitter or a perfect game, and it’s unfair to her to expect one.”

For Beaubien, who has already given a verbal commitment to the University of Michigan, no-hitter number 10 was more than special – even if it wasn’t a perfect game. 

“This is definitely up there,” Beaubien said. “To get a no-hitter in the state semifinals and get us into the state championship game is a pretty big deal. I never try to go out and throw a no-hitter and don’t expect it, but I do expect a lot out of myself when I go out there.”   

The shutout also gave the Kestrels plenty of momentum heading into Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. title game against Bronson. 

“To have a no-hitter in the state semifinals, it gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” Beaubien said.

Click for the box score.

Bronson 5, Montague 0

With more than half its roster freshmen, including four starters, the future looked promising for the Vikings (37-7) at the start of the season. 

That future arrived early, as halfway through the season Bronson coach Becky Gray knew she had a team capable of accomplishing special things.

Bronson accomplished something very special during Friday’s Semifinal – earn its first MHSAA softball championship game berth. 

“At the beginning of the year, I honestly didn’t know how good we would be,” Gray said. “We graduated five seniors from last year, and I did not know how the freshmen would do. As the season went on, I knew it was a possibility.”

It also was during midseason that senior pitcher Skyler Sobeski took her game to the next level. Already an accomplished pitcher, Sobeski began a run in mid-May that saw her allow only one earned run through the end of the regular season and up through Friday’s win. 

Sobeski scattered two hits and struck out 12 Montague batters en route to the shutout.

“It was definitely exciting pitching in front of all these people here,” Sobeski said. “I never pitched in front of a crowd this big before.” 

Sobeski relied on her normal pitches to get the job done.

“I was throwing my curves and rises,” Sobeski said. “That is what I usually throw.” 

Sobeski also pitched with the lead after the first inning. Bronson took a 1-0 advantage as Kelsey Robinson led off with a walk and then came in to score on an error after a sacrifice bunt by Hannah Hoover.

Bronson added four insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Freshman Payton Robinson started the rally with a single. Fellow freshmen Kiana Mayer then reached on an error, and freshman Kaitlyn Czajkowski added another single. Robinson then delivered a two-run single, breaking the game open, and Sobeski later helped her own cause with a two-run single to close out the scoring. 

The win was the 18th in a row for Bronson, and the Vikings have outscored their six playoff foes by a 49-1 margin. Montague, making its first Semifinal appearance, finished 22-13.

Click for the box score.       

PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary’s Meghan Beaubien prepares to unleash a pitch during Friday’s Semifinal win. (Middle) A Bronson runner crosses the plate safely as the Vikings also earned a shutout in their Semifinal.

Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

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.

Bay & ThumbSo, 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.

Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in.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.

The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield.“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.

The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo.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 CostanzoPaul 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.)