'Impactful' Improvements Generating Quick Success for Rebuilding Jefferson

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

April 25, 2023

MONROE – It’s less than a full month into the prep softball season, and the Monroe Jefferson Bears are still in the Huron League title hunt. 

Southeast & BorderWhat’s so unusual about that? 

Anyone who has studied the history of Jefferson softball knows that’s not always been the case. Chad Liptow, however, came to Jefferson with a blueprint in hand to turn the Bears program into a winner. 

“I’m trying to do what I did in 17 years at Gibraltar Carlson in 17 months,” he said. “It was a matter of getting people to buy in, to get the community behind us. I said, ‘Let’s do it and do it faster.’” 

Liptow is resurrecting a program that made a trip to the 1994 Class B championship game but, outside of that, has few highlights. He took over a program that had endured 12 straight losing seasons, and won 26 games last year. The Bears are off to a 12-2 start this season, defeated perennial state powerhouse Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central and captured the first of four home softball tournaments by winning three games Saturday. 

Playing at home is something the Bears want to do as much as they can. 

“We spent all of this time and effort to upgrade our field and stadium – we are going to play there,” Liptow said. 

The Bears are starting to turn heads. They lost 2-1 to Milan on Monday. 

Catcher Emmi Liptow is among Marauders setting the pace this spring. “They mercy ruled us twice last year,” said Emmi Liptow, a senior and daughter of the head coach. “Things are definitely clicking for us this year.” 

Chad Liptow can take a little more pride in engineering the turnaround, especially since he is a Jefferson graduate. He played prep baseball for the Bears and head coach Dave Sontag and probably would have played college baseball if not for an injury suffered while sliding into third base. With his playing days over, he picked up coaching almost right out of high school, coaching the Jefferson freshman.  

Eventually he got a job at Gibraltar Carlson and became the head coach. He finished just shy of 300 victories in 16 seasons. Throughout his time there, he helped oversee upgrades to the Marauders’ facilities, researched a complete history for Carlson softball and posted it online and created a buzz around the program. 

He stepped down because he wanted to be more involved in his daughters’ softball careers at Jefferson. 

“I got a text from a buddy that said, ‘Hey, your daughter just made a great play,’ and I knew what I needed to do,” he said. 

In 2021, he sat on the sidelines, keeping the scorebook for the Bears softball team, watching two daughters play. 

“I was a fan,” he said. “I kept score on Game Changer. That was my role.” 

As luck would have it, the Bears’ head coach stepped down. Liptow came home and had a family discussion about coaching the Jefferson softball team.  

“I had been coaching some summer softball, but I didn’t know if I was going to dive back in. Then, the opportunity presented itself,” he said. “I received a lot of support from people in the community all the way around.” 

Once hired, Liptow immediately went to work, calling on area businesses, other parents and friends to begin upgrading the fields, building new dugouts and installing stadium seating. He commissioned a record book and made plans to honor former players with a new Ring of Honor. 

Jefferson’s softball stadium has become a point of pride for the resurgent program. “We wanted to immediately do some impactful things,” he said. “You want the community to buy in and be involved. We want them to be a part of it. That’s what it’s been about.” 

He overhauled the Bears’ schedule, which already was loaded with a tough Huron League slate. 

“You have to be smart,” he said. “You must put your kids in position to be successful. Winning 20-0 or losing 20-0 is no fun. You want a competitive schedule. You have to find the right mix where you can see improvement. Then you can get to the point where you are in those close games. You have to build some confidence.” 

After going 26-13 last season – an improvement from nine wins in 2021 – the Bears are off to a solid start this year. They welcomed back 12 players from 2022 and added three freshmen.  

Emmi Liptow, the leadoff hitter who batted .438 last season, is rising up the career record charts in several offensive categories, and pitcher Julia Perry has 26 career wins and 265 strikeouts to date. Emmi calls all the pitches from her catcher’s position, something her father has had her do for two years. 

“If I’m struggling, I ask for help or suggestions,” Emmi said. “It’s a lot easier with Julia in the circle. I’ve played with her forever, since we were 11 or 12. I know what pitches are working.” 

The team chemistry is clicking. Lindsey Gennoe, Rylee Dunn and Cameran Carter also are having sold seasons.  

Coach Liptow said he hopes Jefferson’s softball program is earning respect. 

“We know we are not on top yet,” he said. “The kids know that. We just have to keep working and get more kids involved. Hopefully, people respect you. When you see an opponent have respect for you, that’s when you will feel like you are there. We believe we are opening some eyes now. We have some people’s attention.” 

Emmi Liptow said the atmosphere around Jefferson softball has changed since her freshman year. 

“It’s changed so much in the last two years,” she said. “Our whole field has been re-done, and the energy is different. It’s a different vibe. Everybody wants to see us be successful. Even the crowd is bigger. People want to see us play.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Monroe Jefferson celebrates its invitational championship Saturday. (Middle) Catcher Emmi Liptow is among Marauders setting the pace this spring. (Below) Jefferson’s softball stadium has become a point of pride for the resurgent program. (Photos courtesy of Drew Grassley.)