'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.)

Evart Reaches Record Book 23 Times During Run Including 2022 Finals Trip

December 26, 2023

Evart was added to the MHSAA softball record book 23 times for achievements during an outstanding three-season run that has included a Division 3 runner-up finish in 2022.

Then-junior Katelyn Gostlin twice was included for hitting streaks, of 26 straight games during the 2022 season and 22 straight this past spring. She also was added for 23 doubles in 2022, and then-senior Addysen Gray was added for 16 doubles in 2023. Ally Theunick was added for 11 home runs this spring and 23 over her first three seasons with one more to play. Gostlin, Theunick and 2021 graduate Ryenn Baumgardner all were added for single-game accomplishments.

Among team record listings, Evart had 405 hits, 419 runs, 85 doubles, 35 home runs and 328 RBI over 39 games this spring. Gostlin has signed with Mid-Michigan College, and Gray is playing softball and basketball there this school year.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA softball record book:

Olivia Mikowski followed up her Maple City Glen Lake team’s Division 4 basketball championship in March with a national record this spring on the diamond. She tied the MHSAA and national records with 20 triples, over 35 games, among five record book entries she earned. She also is listed for 74 RBI this past season, while now-junior Jessie Pugh earned a listing with 66 runs scored over 37 games. Mikowski is continuing at Schoolcraft College.

Essexville Garber finished a combined 71-14 over the last two seasons and reached the Division 2 Semifinals in 2022 after winning its first Regional title since 1997, along the way achieving several record book performances for both team and individual lists. The Dukes hit 53 home runs over 41 games this past spring, tying for sixth most as senior Sarah Basket set a program record and made the individual list with 12. Basket also was added for 21 doubles in 2022, with Laney Kokaly making the doubles list that season with 16 and Ella Wagner making it was 16 this past season. Kortney Kotenko set the previous Garber home run record in 2022, making the record book list with 11. All four were seniors in 2023. Kotenko is continuing at Madonna, while Basket is playing at Lawrence Tech and Wagner at Northwood. Kokaly is playing volleyball at Northwood.

Three Rivers and now-senior Ava Forman made the single-season hits list with 75 over 41 games and the single-season doubles list for 22 last spring and also 18 over 40 games as a sophomore. Three Rivers as a team made the records for 423 hits, 101 doubles and 277 RBI over 42 games in 2023.

Armada’s Taylor Capozzo had 19 doubles in 2023 to make that single-season list, plus hit back-to-back home runs in a game against Yale, and Natalie Sauer drove in six runs in a game against Brown City. Capozzo is a sophomore this school year, and Sauer graduated in the spring and is continuing at St. Clair County Community College.

Schoolcraft’s Lauren Evans hit 31 doubles in 2023 as a junior, the second-most in MHSAA history, as the Eagles totaled 118 over 41 games – also the second-most doubles on the team list. Schoolcraft also made record lists for 436 hits and 316 RBI for the season and five home runs in a game against Battle Creek Pennfield (which included back-to-back homers by Evans). Teammate Sydney Drenth, then a sophomore, made the doubles list with 22, and senior Alayna Meade made the same list with 16. Meade is continuing at Cornerstone, and Evans has committed to sign with Saginaw Valley State.

Farmington Hills Mercy finished 29-1 in 2023, earning four record book entries along the way. The Marlins tied for second-fewest runs allowed, giving up only 16. They also made lists for 11 consecutive shutouts, 385 strikeouts and a .435 average and just missed the single-season shutouts list with 23.

Unionville-Sebewaing’s 2022 Division 4 championship season produced another series of record book-worthy accomplishments. As a team, USA set an MHSAA record with 128 doubles over 40 games and was fourth on the team RBI list with 391, while also earning entries with 44 runs scored, 485 hits and 48 home runs. Individually, then-sophomore Gabriella Crumm was added for 80 hits, 21 doubles and 11 home runs, and then-senior Laci Harris was added for 11 home runs as well plus 72 hits, 19 doubles and career totals of 31 home runs, 170 RBI, 170 runs scored and 51 doubles over 123 games despite her sophomore season of 2020 being canceled due to COVID-19. Then-junior Oliva Jubar was added for 18 doubles, and then-sophomore Ella Neumann was added for 17. Harris is continuing her career at Madonna.

Paige Ratliff finished her Battle Creek Lakeview career in the spring with 10 record book entries across a variety of categories. Most notably, she totaled 37 doubles, 30 home runs and a .520 career average over three seasons and 108 games. She’s continuing at Lake Forest College (Ill.).

Hudson then-freshman Taylor Kopin opened her high school career in the spring by scoring 65 runs to make the individual record book. In doing so, she also helped Hudson make the team record book list with 417 runs scored over 39 games.

Haslett’s Payden Whitmore earned her school’s first softball record book entry since 2007 by hitting 12 triples over 38 games in the spring. She’s a junior this school year.

Mancelona has a pair of softball players who reached career lists last season with more to play. Now-senior Ella Jones was added for 20 doubles as a sophomore in 2022 and 19 this spring, and made the career doubles list with 39 and a season to play. Now-junior Ella Schram was added for her 13 triples as a freshman and .650 average this spring, and she’s on the career triples list with 23 and will qualify for the career average list if she keeps hitting at this pace over her next seasons.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart hit the second-most triples in MHSAA history on the way to the Division 4 Semifinals in the spring. The Irish piled up 48 over 43 games, led by freshman Mairin Wheaton, who hit 12 over 42, respectively.

Reed City made the team record lists with 78 doubles and 252 RBI over 39 games in the spring, and a pair of standouts also were added. Morgan Hammond, then a freshman, and then-sophomore Paityn Enos both were added for single-game RBI, plus Enos was added for 72 hits and 20 doubles and Hammond was added for 22 doubles.  

Manton now-junior Adriana Sackett earned her first record book listings in the spring. Twice she hit back-to-back home runs in games, and she also was added for 11 homers total over 26 games.

A trio of Ravenna standouts put up a series of record book-caliber totals over the last two seasons, including some of the highest-ranking all time. Emma Gillard graduated in the spring with nine record book entries, including for 85 runs (fourth most) and 13 triples (tied for 20th) this past season, and she made career lists with 200 runs, 27 triples and a .532 average over 111 games and three years. Emma Herremans is just a junior but has 11 record book listings after two seasons including for 25 doubles (11th-most) as a freshman in 2022 and a .652 average and 73 RBI this past spring, and she’s already on career lists for doubles and triples. Kara Postema graduated this spring with six record book entries, including season and career records for times hit by pitch (23 and 49, respectively), and she also made career lists with 36 doubles and 153 RBI over 111 games and three seasons. Gillard is continuing at Ferris State and Postema at Cornerstone.

PHOTO Evart's Riley Brigham connects during her team's Division 3 Final against Millington in 2022.