Lakeshore Thrives Under Pressure Again in Title-Clinching Comeback Win

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

June 18, 2022

EAST LANSING – The Stevensville Lakeshore softball team has become accustomed to playing in close games.

Saturday’s Division 2 Final provided another tightly-contested matchup until the Lancers pulled away in the late innings.

The Lancers (40-4) rallied to defeat Trenton 6-2 at Secchia Stadium and won the program’s eighth Finals championship and first since 2014. 

Lakeshore’s previous three games all were decided by one run, and this one wasn’t decided until the Lancers scored six runs over the final three innings to erase a 2-0 deficit.

“We tried to instill in the team that pressure wasn't a hardship, it was an honor,” said Lancers senior Anna Chellman, who had two hits and two RBI.

“It was an awesome opportunity to be put in these high-pressure situations because that’s how you make it through to the state finals.”

Chellman and senior Gianna Kerschbaum were on the 2019 squad that lost to Escanaba, 7-3, in the Division 2 Final.

“I can’t fathom this,” Chellman said. “I was here as a freshman when we got second, and Gianna and I have been dreaming about this since that day we lost. Just the way we were able to work through COVID and our junior year. Everyone was on board, and we knew we could pull together and win this.”

Trenton (33-11) was in a Final for the first time since 2005 and seeking its first championship.

The Trojans grabbed the early lead with RBI singles from Annika Segedi and Aleah Tanguay in the third and fourth innings, respectively.

The Lancers, however, mounted a comeback in the top of the fifth.

A single from Gabby Solloway and an error scored two to knot the score at 2-2. Solloway advanced to third on the error and then scored the go-ahead run on a ground out.

Lakeshore/Trenton softball“We had one hit every inning early so we saw that we could hit her,” Chellman said. “If we kept attacking her then we knew it would happen, and it did. Gabby had a great hit, and it broke it open for all of us.”

Lakeshore extended its lead in the sixth inning thanks to a leadoff double by Pallas Dominion, who scored on a fielder’s choice. 

The Lancers added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh. A double by Chellman that glanced off the glove of the left fielder scored Kerschbaum, and a sacrifice fly from Eden Gray brought home Solloway. 

Lakeshore coach Denny Dock, the third-winningest in MHSAA softball history, pointed to his defense as the turning point after his team fell behind early.

“We’ve played some unbelievable teams and we’ve played unbelievable defense, especially the last half of the year,” Dock said. “From the third inning on I thought defense started to carry us again like it has been, and a huge play was Eva (Kerschbaum) throwing that girl out at second base, and then the last out Gianna makes a phenomenal running catch to get that third out.”

Junior Ava Mullen and sophomore Avery Atwood combined to allow six hits and one earned run. They struck out six and walked one.

“We pitched around the plate, and both girls did fine,” Dock said. “It’s been that way all year with them, and we just hung on and pitched a great seventh (inning).”

Trenton coach Rick Tanguay was pleased with where his team stood after four innings, but two errors proved pivotal in the Lancers’ comeback.

“We battled, and we had them, but we made a couple of mistakes and that’s what cost us,” Tanguay said. “We just made a couple bad decisions on a couple of balls, but the girls were trying their hardest.

“We came into the season with high hopes. We lost a very good player (Michigan recruit Lillian Vallimont, who missed the season with an injury) before the season started, but this team responded and went to the Finals without her. I'm proud of them.”

Segedi, a sophomore, was the only Trojan to collect multiple hits.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Stevensville Lakeshore raises its championship trophy after Saturday’s Division 2 Final win. (Middle) Lancers catcher Natalia Najera puts a tag on Trenton’s Jordyn Emery (3).

Schools Come Together to Help Coleman Trio Complete Dream Weekend

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 8, 2023

After teaming up to win a softball District title and an all-state track medal over a two-day stretch, Coleman juniors Madison Miller, Nevaeh Chaffee and Ava Gross had earned some time to relax.

Bay & Thumb“I was definitely relieved,” Chaffee said. “It felt good to be leaving the track meet with a medal, regardless of what place it was. But I definitely came home and took a fat nap.”

The trio was instrumental in leading the Comets to a Division 4 District softball title Friday, as they knocked off Farwell and Beal City.

A day later, they joined senior teammate Amber Nehrig to take fifth in the 400-meter relay at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Track & Field Finals in Hudsonville. 

‘It was fun just to be able to do both,” Gross said. “We worked so hard to play in both.”

All that hard work was almost for naught, and not because of anything any of the athletes had done. It took a lot of work behind the scenes from participating athletic departments and school districts to move the District softball tournament. And that wasn’t confirmed until eight days before it was played.

The tournament was originally scheduled for Saturday, and Coleman softball coach Chad Kopf had alerted his athletic director early that he would like it to be moved to avoid a conflict with the track Finals.

However, host Beal City had to work through multiple issues to make it work. Friday was the final day of exam prep for Beal City students, so administrators did not want to have them miss any of the school day. It was also field day for the elementary school, which was going to make parking at the school even more chaotic. On top of that, Beal City softball coach Jason Johnston is the elementary principal, meaning he would have to be present at the field day.

Athletic directors and superintendents were all involved to make it work, and eventually, a compromise was found. Coleman had offered to bus in all its fans to cut down on parking, and to swap the order of games, so Beal City and Marion – which also had a Finals-bound track athlete – could play the later game. 

It all added up to Miller, Chaffee and Gross – Coleman’s 1, 2 and 3 hitters, as well as its pitcher, shortstop and centerfielder – not having to choose between major events.

From left, Chaffee, Gross, Amber Nehrig and Miller take a relay photo together Saturday at the LP Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville’s Baldwin Middle School. “It makes you feel good,” Kopf said. “Coming off of COVID a couple years ago, you’re still in that mindset of, ‘Is everything that’s done right for the kids?’ (The collaborative effort to move the District) made it feel like we’re in it for the right reasons. Knowing that they made these exceptions, almost solely for us, that’s a lot of selflessness on the part of Beal City. It was great sportsmanship.”

The effort that went into moving the District wasn’t lost on the athletes, either.

“I was happy to know that people were actually trying to get us to do both, because obviously it’s an amazing experience,” Gross said. “Knowing they were putting in the work, that was really nice and thoughtful of them.”

There was, unfortunately, one more bump in the road – getting Gross and Chaffee healthy enough to compete.

Right before the decision to move the District was made, and just 10 days before it was contested, Chaffee took a thrown ball off the kneecap. A day later, Gross injured her ankle and foot long jumping. Neither was cleared until the day before the District tournament.

“We’ve been nursing injuries, nursing arms for about the last month,” said Kopf, who has just 11 players on his roster. “Once we knew we were out of the conference race, we had to save some bodies and be smart with how we practiced. Coming into Thursday, we were still waiting to hear if Nevaeh and Ava were going to be able to play. Both got cleared Thursday, and when (we) got on the bus Friday, that was probably the most focused group I’ve seen.”

Miller pitched a pair of complete games for the Comets in the District, getting a shutout against Farwell and striking out a total of 17 batters over the two games. She also had five hits. Gross had four hits on the day.

“It was very, very special,” Miller said. “Going into it, I wasn’t able to pitch more than one game. My arm had kind of let go, and I didn’t have anything left. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get us to where we needed to be. In the past couple years, I’ve noticed I throw a lot better in the heat, and we hadn’t really had many hot-weather games.”

The next day, the trio was on the track in Hudsonville. In addition to their relay, Miller competed in the long jump and the pole vault, while Chafee ran the 100 meters. She had qualified for the 200, but scratched to save herself for the relay.

They teamed with Nehrig to run a season-best time of 52.62 seconds in the second-to-last heat. They had to watch the final heat to see if they’d place.

“That heat was insane,” Miller said. “It was very insane. They had live timing and live results, so as soon as that heat was done we knew. It was almost immediate.”

Now, the girls can focus solely on softball as the Comets prepare for a Regional Semifinal on Saturday against Alcona at Carson City-Crystal.

But they hope that this weekend’s experience wasn’t once-in-a-lifetime, and they can repeat it a year from now. Without all the nervous moments beforehand, of course.

“I look forward to it, actually,” Chaffee said.

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) From left, Coleman’s Nevaeh Chaffee, Madison Miller and Ava Gross show their team’s District softball trophy won Friday at Beal City. (Middle) From left, Chaffee, Gross, Amber Nehrig and Miller take a relay photo together Saturday at the LP Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville’s Baldwin Middle School. (Photos courtesy of the Coleman athletic department.)