By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BATTLE CREEK — Hannah Leppek pitched a one-hit shutout Friday, not an easy achievement against a hot-hitting softball team playing on the opposite side in an MHSAA Semifinal.
Yet the Bay City Western junior wasn't thrilled with her performance, which just reaffirms that the great ones all have a bit of a perfectionist streak in them.
Leppek struck out eight but walked five and hit a batter, as Western beat Garden City 1-0 in Division 1 at Bailey Park.
The Warriors won on a walk-off sacrifice fly by senior Hannah Batschke.
"Actually, I didn't feel that my pitching was on, but it was good enough to obviously get the win," Leppek said. "Tomorrow I can tell you it will be on. It's going to be a big game.
"I have higher standards for myself. I just felt like my pitches weren't moving as much as they usually were, and I wasn't as accurate as I usually am. In my opinion, it wasn't a perfect shutout."
Her 19th shutout of the season put Western in the MHSAA Final for the first time and against Mattawan, which beat Romeo 3-2 in the other Semifinal.
"It's surreal," Leppek said. "I feel like it hasn't hit me yet, the immensity of it. I feel like next week I'll wake up and it will hit me: 'Oh, I was in the state championship game.'"
Western coach Rick Garlinghouse concurred that it wasn't a vintage performance by Leppek.
"She normally doesn't walk five, and she gets a few more strikeouts than that," he said. "What I'm proud of is she kept her focus, and she was still able to give us a chance to win the game."
Leppek pitched out of a bases-loaded two-out jam in the sixth when she got Julene Pummill to strike out swinging at a high pitch.
Western's best chance to score before the seventh came in the second inning when Pummill ran down a fly ball heading for the gap in right-center off the bat of Batschke with two outs and a runner on second.
The winning rally began when Kelsie Popp led off the seventh with a double. Ashtyn Decatur reached on an error on a bunt attempt and advanced to second. With the outfield drawn in, Batschke hit it deep enough to force left fielder Allie Lynn to backpedal to make the catch, giving her no chance of throwing out Popp at the plate.
"I just want to go out and make my team proud, no matter what we do," Batschke said. "I just go out every at bat like it's an average game, not any big game or anything. I'm relaxed. It sounds bad, but I really do bad under pressure. So I just go out and have fun."
The title game will be a rematch of a 2011 Semifinal that Mattawan won, 3-0.
Mattawan 3, Romeo 2
The Wildcats reached the championship game for the third straight year on the strength of a three-run fifth inning.
Romeo took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth before Mattawan erupted for the winning rally.
Emma Toner started the inning by reaching base on an error, then scored the tying run on an error. A single by Kyla Nickrent broke the tie, and a double by Abby Stoner made it a 3-1 game.
"Sometimes it's just the second or third time through the lineup that it will happen," Mattawan coach Alicia Smith said. "I knew it was going to happen, because we put base runners on in every inning but the fourth. They were there in scoring position. We were just one hit away from breaking it open. It was just a matter of time."
Romeo scored a run in the sixth, but was set down 1-2-3 in the seventh by Allie Havers. Havers allowed only three hits, struck out 10 and didn't issue a walk.
Mattawan won the Division 1 title two years ago, outscoring three opponents by a combined 27-0 in the final round, before losing 2-1 to Hudsonville in last year's title game.
"In 2011, it was fairly easy for that group," Smith said. "They breezed right through the tournament and never had any close games. These kids have to battle every game, every inning, every pitch. It makes it very special."
PHOTOS: (Top) Bay City Western rightfielder Madison Brewer holds up the ball as evidence off a catch in the Warriors' 1-0 win over Garden City. (Middle) A Mattawan hitter makes contact during the Wildcats' Semifinal win over Romeo. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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