Millington Run Unprecedented, Unforgettable

June 27, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

When they were younger, “they weren’t the best,” Millington softball coach Greg Hudie admitted Thursday in recalling the group that became the core of his varsity the last four seasons.

But these Cardinals made themselves into so much more. While all championship teams are memorable, this one will remain unforgettable for what it accomplished this spring.

Millington – after falling just short in finishing Division 3 runner-up a year ago – returned to Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium two weekends ago and this time left with the school’s first MHSAA championship in any sport.

The MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for June was one of two title winners during the 2018-19 school year – joining the Ypsilanti Lincoln boys basketball team – to win the first Finals championship in school history.

“Just being the first state championship in our school is pretty remarkable,” Hudie said. “No matter how many we have now, it’s pretty cool that everybody will remember it. If it’s 50 years from now, and we have 10 state championships, this was still the first one. And the group of girls we did it with was very awesome as well, very good all-around – academically, athletically, a really tight family team.”

Millington finished 38-2-1 this spring, capping a four-year run at 150-16-1 with four league, District and Regional titles, three Semifinal appearances and this first championship.

The District title won in 2016 actually was the program’s first, and that year’s postseason run to the Semifinals helped set the tone for a freshman class that would become nearly unstoppable by the end of their careers.

Pitcher Gabbie Sherman, catcher Sydney Bishop, infielders McKenna Slough and Hannah Rabideau and outfielders Elizabeth Bees, Leah Denome and Samantha Ayotte all finished as four-year varsity players. Sherman, Bishop, Slough and Denome started the entire way (Rabideau was slated to do the same but was injured that first season). Current juniors Darrien Roberts and Madi Hahn joined the varsity as freshmen in 2017 when the team’s run ended in the Quarterfinals. Shortstop Sabrina Gates earned a starting job as a freshman in 2018 and then-sophomore Neveah Hendricks moved into the outfield as the team came within a 7-6 championship game loss to Coloma from claiming a first title.

This spring, with all of those players back and freshman Trinity Fessler taking over an outfield spot, Millington blasted through the regular season losing only to eventual Division 1 semifinalist Clarkston and Division 2 semifinalist Eaton Rapids, while defeating back-to-back Division 2 champion Escanaba. The Cardinals outscored their seven postseason opponents by a combined 56-4, closing with an 11-0 shutout of Marine City in the Quarterfinal, 7-1 win over Standish-Sterling in the Semifinal and 8-0 clincher over Schoolcraft in the championship game.

The build-up began long before high school. During elementary, Sherman was the first to start playing higher-level travel ball in the surrounding area. But around the time her class was playing 10-and-under, she and her family decided to play on a team with the other Millington girls – and as the pitcher she was able to carry the load while they were learning the game.

In fact, the team jokingly recalls now how Bishop nearly didn’t make that 10U squad. But Hudie said his catcher has worked harder than anyone he’s coached during a decade leading the program – and by sophomore year she’d earned all-state honorable mention.

This team rewrote the school’s record book, and the home run category is maybe the best example of what these seniors brought to the program. Millington would hit about five home runs a year during Hudie’s first six as coach – then had 44 in 2016, followed by 28, 38 and this spring 48. Bishop broke a decades-old record with 14 homers as a freshman, and Roberts blasted 18 to break the record this spring.

Roberts, Denome, Rabideau, Bishop and Sherman made the Division 3 all-state first team this season. Hahn joined those five on the all-Tri-Valley Conference East first team, with Slough and Gates making the second.

Sherman will continue her career at Kent State, while Denome will play next at Spring Arbor, Rabideau at Mott Community College and Bees at Rochester College. Bishop, who graduated with the GPA over 4.0, had a number of softball scholarship offers and will try to walk on at Oakland University.

“It will be hard to duplicate. Hopefully we can keep it going. … Obviously these girls were paving the way,” Hudie said. “We had a couple of girls before them, had a couple scattered (over more classes), and obviously freshman year they didn’t get to the Semifinal just on their own. But this group kinda showed how to stay together, how to put work in together, and I think that helped the program out most.

“Just showing five or six awesome girls who are willing to put in the time together in the weight room, in the batting cage (what they can accomplish). That really taught our program, our younger girls, and that’s neat.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2018-19

May: Gladstone boys track & field – Read
April: Garden City baseball – Read
March: Holland West Ottawa boys swimming & diving – Read
February: Lowell wrestling – Read
January: Farmington United gymnastics – Read 
December: Warren Woods-Tower wrestling – Read
November: Rochester Adams girls swimming & diving – Read
October: Leland boys soccer – Read
September: Pickford football – Read
August: Northville girls golf – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Millington’s players raise their first MHSAA Finals championship trophy in school history June 15 at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) The Cardinals’ Leah Denome rounds first base after one of her four hits in the title game. (Below) Millington poses with its trophy and in front of the Secchia scoreboard after its championship win.

She's Back: South Lyon Ace Bradshaw Returns for Another Title Pursuit

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

April 11, 2024

SOUTH LYON — Two words likely won’t sit well with a lot of Division 1 softball teams around the state this year. 

Greater DetroitShe’s back. 

Or to play on the words of former Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger after a Sugar Bowl win in 2019, and others who before and since have added dramatics to the phrase: “She’s baaaaaaaaaaaack.”

“She” is South Lyon senior pitcher Ava Bradshaw. And if anyone who follows high school softball in the state happened to forget that name, let’s do a little refresher. 

Back in 2021, Bradshaw burst onto the scene in her first year of high school and played like a freshman …. in college. 

Bradshaw was a dominant two-way force both pitching and hitting, so much so that behind her, South Lyon won its first MHSAA Finals title, in Division 1. 

In the championship game against Allen Park, Bradshaw threw a three-hit shutout, striking out nine and walking one in a 5-0 South Lyon victory. She also had two RBI.

“I didn’t realize how crazy what we did was,” Bradshaw said. “We really did make that run.” 

Bradshaw was even better as a sophomore and seemed destined to lead South Lyon to a repeat. 

However, a first inning against Mattawan during which everything that could go wrong seemingly did started a 3-1 Quarterfinal loss that stunningly ended those 2022 aspirations. 

But hey, no problem. Bradshaw had two more years to win another championship, right? 

Bradshaw, middle, celebrates with teammates after they won the 2021 Division 1 championship at Secchia Stadium.Then came the summer prior to her junior year, when Bradshaw suffered a torn ACL during her travel ball season. She was hoping to come back at some point last year as a junior, but understandably didn’t want to push anything too hard, especially since by that point she had committed to play in college for Duke. 

This year, it would have been understandable if Bradshaw would have just wanted to sit out her senior year, enjoy the countdown to graduation and simply gear up for the next chapter. 

But Bradshaw was having none of that.

“In high school ball, every day I’m practicing and I’m playing with my friends, playing for my town and for my school,” she said. “That’s an honor, and I have so much fun. I couldn’t imagine not playing my senior year. That would be so sad. When I look back on my high school experience, some of the biggest memories I have come from softball. I couldn’t imagine not finishing what I started.” 

So Bradshaw is indeed back and not only fully healthy, but stronger and hungrier than she ever has been during her high school career. 

Bradshaw said going through rehabilitation for her injury last year has made her better physically. 

“I was forced to do certain movements and exercises that I never would have done had I not been forced to go to (physical therapy),” she said. “I became a more well-rounded athlete. I improved flexibility and mobility.” 

In her first game this season, Bradshaw struck 12 of the 15 batters she faced and went 4-for-4 at the plate. 

“We just plugged her right in,” South Lyon head coach Dave Langlois said. 

Not having Bradshaw last year actually could end up making South Lyon even better this year. 

“I think we were the only ones to score a run on the state champs, Hartland, in our Regional,” Langlois said. “We were one hit away with a young, inexperienced team for the most part. Those kids got to get experience in crucial times (without Bradshaw) when they may not have gotten (it).”

South Lyon probably still would’ve been formidable if Bradshaw decided not to play this year. But adding her back to a talented roster of underclassmen who are a year older and better?

It’s no wonder why “she’s back” might be the most terrifying two words for softball teams not named South Lyon this spring. 

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) South Lyon’s Ava Bradshaw makes her move toward the plate during a game against Flat Rock this spring. (Middle) Bradshaw, middle, celebrates with teammates after they won the 2021 Division 1 championship at Secchia Stadium. (Top photo by Conner Lipke; middle photo by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)