By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BATTLE CREEK — Allie Havers is an overpowering presence on the softball field. But the situation called for finesse.
Mattawan’s 6-foot-5 senior was perfectly capable of switching gears.
She dropped down a perfect suicide squeeze to bring home the tying run in a two-run sixth inning that carried the Wildcats to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Bay City Western in the MHSAA Division 1 championship game Saturday at Bailey Park.
Two batters later, freshman Genny Soltesz drove in what proved to be the winning run by slapping a two-out single to center field.
Havers had a dominant performance in the pitching circle, striking out 11 batters and allowing only two hits. One of those hits was a home run to center field by Kaylynn Carpenter in the fourth inning.
Havers had five home runs and only one sacrifice all season, but she didn’t flinch when coach Alicia Smith called for a squeeze with one out and runners on first and third.
“She came up to me and was like, ‘Squeeze,’” Havers said. “I was like, ‘Let’s go.’”
Havers laid down a bunt that didn’t even draw a throw home. By the time third baseman Diondra Heading got to the ball, Sarah Johnson was almost to the plate with the tying run. Johnson began the rally with a one-out single.
“I knew she was ready,” Smith said. “I’ve got seniors on the corners and a senior at bat. We can’t ask for a better storyline.”
Mattawan (35-8) won the 2011 Division 1 championship by outscoring three final-round opponents, 27-0.
The Wildcats had to battle nearly every step of the way during this postseason run. They trailed Portage Central 4-2 in the fifth inning of the District Final before winning 5-4. They were down 2-0 to Saline in the Quarterfinal before forcing extra innings and winning 7-3. They trailed Romeo 1-0 before a three-run fifth inning in the Semifinal carried them to a 3-2 victory.
“We’ve played under pressure many times,” Havers said. “When there’s pressure on, then we’re on. It was a wake-up.”
Mattawan needed to rally once again because Western’s first hit of the game was a home run over the center-field fence by Carpenter on the first pitch of the fourth inning.
The Warriors (37-3) were in a position to win a third straight 1-0 decision. Hannah Leppek was just as dominant in the circle for Western, striking out 10 and giving up only six hits. She had thrown 40 straight shutout innings until Mattawan scored twice in the decisive sixth inning.
“Ahead 1-0, I knew we had six outs to go. But we also had to go through the top of their lineup,” Western coach Rick Garlinghouse said. “That was the third time seeing our pitcher. They have a strong top of the lineup, and they got to us.”
Singles by Johnson and Abby Stoner with one out gave Mattawan runners on first and third for Havers. After her game-tying bunt, Soltesz slapped a single to center field to score courtesy runner Sarah Hillsburg for the winning run.
“I knew the ball was moving around a lot and I knew I had to square up on it and make sure I got all of the ball,” Soltesz said. “She threw me the perfect pitch. It’s amazing. I can’t really believe it.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Mattawan players celebrate after winning their second Division 1 championship in three seasons. (Middle) Mattawan’s Allie Havers winds up on a pitch during her team’s 2-1 victory over Bay City Western. (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