By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Two rarities happened in the first inning of the MHSAA Division 2 softball championship game Saturday at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium.
The first was Escanaba all-state pitcher Gabi Salo allowed a walk against Stevensville Lakeshore. The second was Salo gave up a run.
Salo entered the championship game with a 25-2 record, 0.24 earned run average and 337 strikeouts and just 21 walks.
If that’s not enough, she had given up only six earned runs all year.
She gave up three runs – two earned – in the championship game, but contained the Lancers enough to secure a 7-3 victory that clinched the Eskymos’ second straight Division 2 title.
“I thought I had my best stuff today,’’ said the junior pitcher. “I thought I went out strong.
“This means so much. Our school went without a state title from 1981 until last year. For us to bring home another one, I don’t have words. This one feels even better than last year.’’
The Lancers surprisingly struck early when Salo surrendered a two-out walk and Meghan Younger drove her home on a double just out of the reach of the centerfielder. It was just the seventh earned run Salo had given up this season.
She finished Saturday with 11 strikeouts while allowing seven hits. Escanaba finished the spring 34-3, while Lakeshore ended 33-11.
Salo helped her own cause in the second inning with a game-tying sacrifice fly, scoring Lexi Chaillier, who had walked, stolen second base and was sacrificed to third.
Escanaba took advantage of two walks and a bounce out to first by Chaillier to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
Younger was able to solve Salo with two singles and a double, but her teammates mostly were stifled until the sixth.
Meanwhile, Escanaba loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth inning with one out on a walk and singles by Heather Bergstrom and Carsyn Segorski. Chaillier popped out, but Nicole Kamin and the Eskymos took advantage of a fly ball dropping out of an outfielder’s mitt that allowed three runs to score and gave the reigning champ a 5-1 lead.
A four-run cushion with three innings left was all Salo needed.
Lakeshore put together a threat in the top of the sixth inning on a single by Younger and fielder’s choice and error by Salo.
Shelby Grau singled, but rightfielder Chaillier threw out a Lakeshore runner at home to negate a potential run. However, Anna Chellman came through with a two-run single to left field to make it 5-3. Salo got out of trouble with a strikeout with two runners on.
“Originally, I was going to throw it to first because I’ve gotten a few girls out at first on those kinds of hits,’’ said Chaillier. “I saw the girl running from third, and I knew I had to go home with it.’’
Said winning coach Gary Salo: “(Chaillier) better be on some all-state teams. I’m going to be upset if she isn’t. She does everything for us. That was a great throw.”
Escanaba sealed the win in the bottom of the sixth inning when a Lakeshore wild pitch allowed two runs to score.
“All week we just kept saying we’re three wins away from going to Wienerlicious (restaurant in Mackinaw City) … (then) we’re two wins away,” Gary Salo said. “We’re going to go back home and celebrate there. We haven’t been home all week.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba's Georgia Lehto connects with a pitch during Saturday's Division 2 Final. (Middle) The Eskymos' Gabi Salo fires toward the plate.
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