It's likely that few gave the Dansville softball team a shot to win the Division 4 championship last weekend, given the two-time reigning champion sitting on the opposite side of the bracket.
But the Aggies thought they had a chance. And that’s what longtime coach Mick Ream thinks made the difference in his team’s winning its first MHSAA title.
Dansville was making its third trip to Bailey Park in four seasons. The second trip, in 2010, ended with a nine-error performance and 10-1 loss to Petersburg-Summerfield – which went on to win the championship that season and again in 2011.
Those Bulldogs had been ranked No. 1 in every coaches poll this spring. But after surviving a late Rapid River to win Friday’s Semifinal 4-3, Dansville did the unexpected in Saturday’s championship game, winning 3-2.
“We were hoping to get back to the Semis, and I thought we were good enough,” said Ream, who finished his 31st season as coach. “Things always just have to fall into place. Once we got to the Semis, I really liked Rapid River. But we were just hanging in, and we did the same thing in the final game.
“With our success the last four years, and more than that, we leant ourselves to expectations. They’ve risen, not only by me, but by people in the community.”
The Aggies are recipients of the final team Second Half High 5 of the 2011-12 school year.
The championship was the first for a Dansville girls team and the third MHSAA team title for the Aggies in any sport, joining the wrestling teams that won MHSAA Class D Finals in 1980 and 1981 when Ream’s brother Dan was an assistant coach.
Although Dansville also draws from the rural area surrounding it, roughly 500 people live within the village limits. Families have known each other for years, and Ream retired from teaching in 2010 after 34. He also has coached in the football, baseball, volleyball and girls basketball programs and watched two sons become coaches – Aggies girls basketball coach Eric Ream and his brother Greg, who coaches the boys basketball team at Desert Ridge High in Mesa, Ariz.
Mick Ream's softball team was led by some who knew well how he runs the show. Seniors Rebekah Guy, Alison Schlicker and Addie Price all played four years of varsity. Junior Evy Lobdell has been a mainstay in the lineup since her first year of high school as well.
Lobdell and Guy have eight school records between them, and Price and sophomore outfielder Hailey Mays each posted one of the seven total set by this season’s team. Guy returned to the all-state team as a catcher after hitting .422 and five home runs with an 8-1 record and 1.38 ERA pitching. Lobdel also was selected after hitting .500 with 54 RBI, as was sophomore pitcher Meagan Kelley, who went 23-4 with a 1.56 ERA and 204 strikeouts. Mays and senior outfielder Paige Galbreath both earned honorable mentions.
The high school itself has just shy of 300 students. But on top of having strong crowds all season, 200 supporters showed up for Thursday’s victory parade that included three fire engines, the band and player introductions.
The parade was just the start. The village proclaimed that every July 20 will now be known as Dansville Varsity Softball Day. Calls and letters have been coming in from people Ream hadn’t had contact with for years.
Former Bath coach Marc Kibby – who led the Bees to the Division 4 championship in 2002 and now coaches at Lansing Community College – called to say “welcome to the club” and remind Ream that the Aggies will always be listed among champions on the flag pole near the Bailey Park softball complex entrance.
“One thing I got loud and clear from everybody: there’s just a certain way we did things, and we didn’t waiver from it, and I think it paid off,” Ream said. “It paid off with how the kids represent the school, how they act when they go on the field and when they go off the field. I think that’s the starting point. And I always felt that if you get to know and care about them more as people than players, my philosophy is that they respond to that.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Dansville players celebrate after Friday's 4-3 Semifinal win over Rapid River that earned them the school's first softball Final appearance. (Middle) Junior Evy Lobdell hits a drive during the Semifinal win. (Click to see more photos from High School Sports Scene.)
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