By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Everyone who follows high school softball in Michigan expected another dominating Meghan Beaubien performance in Friday’s first Division 3 Semifinal.
But few expected a pitchers dual – broken up only by Beaubien the hitter as Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central earned the opportunity to play for a third straight MHSAA championship.
Beaubien allowed just two hits and struck out 15 Shepherd hitters at Secchia Stadium, and also led off the sixth inning with a triple before scoring the game’s lone run as the top-ranked Kestrels escaped the Bluejays and their pitcher Haley Peska 1-0.
Peska, who no-hit No. 4 Millington in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, allowed only five hits and struck out six in just about matching the state’s most celebrated hurler of the last three seasons.
“We’ve played a lot of really good teams on our way here this year," Beaubien said. "This is a great example of it – Shepherd’s a team that nobody thought would be in the mix at this point, and they just played a great game and almost beat us.
“(But) the experience of being here has helped us mentally and with our confidence.”
Monroe St. Mary (26-3) will next face No. 3 Napoleon in Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. Final.
Maybe not the best news for Michigan State’s softball program – Beaubien will continue her career at University of Michigan – but the St. Mary’s ace has given up four hits total in 33 innings pitched at Secchia over the last three seasons. In fact, Friday’s was the first Semifinal in three seasons that she didn’t throw a no-hitter.
Not that giving up two hits made her any less dominating. That was made plain both in the sound the ball made pounding catcher Kenna Garst’s glove on her many fastballs, but also when she ended the game with a strikeout on a floating change-up that no one in East Lansing was expecting.
She’ll finish her high school career with an ERA well south of a run per game and passed 1,300 career strikeouts a while ago.
“This whole run was like, ‘OK, any game could be your last game.’ I know that,” Beaubien said. “Now I know for sure. Tomorrow is my last game. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. It’s a little weird. I just want to go out there and make my last game of my career end with another state championship.”
The combination of two superb pitching performances made this one fly by in a mere 77 minutes. Freshman rightfielder Samantha Michael did have two hits in two at bats for St. Mary, with junior shortstop Kelsey Barron doubling in that lone run and junior third baseman Danielle Michael notching the team’s other hit.
Senior centerfielder Ryanne McKenna and junior shortstop Kianna Andrews had the hits for Shepherd (25-19), and of course Peska made the most memorable impact for a Bluejays team playing in its first Semifinal since 1997.
“They’ve got two coaches over there (Bobb Servoss and assistant Terry Lynch) that know a lot about the game … and in this game it’s all about keeping hitters off-balance,” St. Mary coach John Morningstar said. “You’re never letting anyone sit on something, and if all you’ve got is speed in this game it’s going to be a long season. Kids will catch up to that hard ball. Moving it around the way (Peska) does, she’s very effective. She had us chasing a lot of pitches that we wouldn’t normally swing at.”
Napoleon 16, Gladstone 0
Not that more proof was needed on top of a 36-4 record. But Napoleon’s seniors showed again Friday they’re ready for one last matchup with the St. Mary ace.
As freshman, they were part of a team that downed Beaubien and St. Mary in a Regional Final. But she and the Kestrels came back to eliminate the Pirates in a Quarterfinal in 2015, and Napoleon didn’t make it out of the District a year ago.
“We have been looking ahead, and saying we’re going to end up meeting Meghan, we're going to meet her,” Napoleon senior shortstop Paige Kortz said. “And just talking and scouting, hearing scouting reports. Of course they probably have with us (too), but just going ahead and figuring out what their weaknesses are, and we’re going to try to hit them tomorrow.”
They seemed to hit everything Friday, especially during the first inning. Napoleon jumped out to an 8-0 lead and finished the game with 19 hits over five innings.
Senior outfielder Kallie Pittman was 4 for 4 and scored two runs, while senior second baseman Ashton Jordan was 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and four RBI. Senior third baseman Haley Rose also was 3 for 4 and scored three runs, while Kortz, senior centerfielder Dylan Wiley, senior catcher Rachel Griffin and junior designated player Caitlin Pace all had two hits.
Senior Sydney Coe, in addition to driving in two runs, allowed only three hits in the circle and struck out six Gladstone batters. Senior centerfielder Alyssa Polley, sophomore third baseman Sydney Herioux and junior rightfielder Kaitlyn Hardwick hit safely for the Braves (34-10).
This was the fourth Napoleon team to make Quarterfinals and the first to make Semifinals, meaning of course that Saturday’s championship game also will be a first.
“Especially having eight seniors,” Kortz said, “we at the beginning of this season were determined to be Lansing bound. And determined to make school history.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary’s Samantha Michael rounds a base during Friday’s win over Shepherd. (Middle) Napoleon’s Sydney Coe takes a swing during the second Division 3 Semifinal.
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