By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Sunglasses on whether it’s sunny or not, fastballs blazing and drop-balls dipping, Decatur senior Erika Southworth is an intimidating foe for those who dare step into the batters box.
But that’s just her on-field persona. When games are done, she talks with opposing players and has become friends with many.
And last week, she couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed under her trademark shades.
On Thursday, Southworth won the 100th game of her career, at home against Gobles. On Saturday, at Climax-Scotts, Southworth recorded her 1,000th strikeout.
“None of my teammates knew until practice the day before. I think it motivated them more,” Southworth said of the 100th win. “At the end of that game, they came over and gave me a hug, and they said, ‘That win was for you. We worked hard for you.’ I got a little emotional.
“Both were a big deal to me. … But the wins mean more, I guess. Striking out a lot of people doesn’t matter if you didn’t win any games. I guess it means I had a pretty good career.”
A three-time all-state selection likely heading for her fourth, Southworth – a Second Half High 5 recipient this week – was going to be remembered regardless of those career milestones. But both cement her name in the MHSAA record book – she’s the 26th pitcher to win 100 games and 34th to strike out 1,000 batters, according to those lists.
This season, she’s 24-3 with a 0.83 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 157 innings pitched – with only eight walks. She’s also leading No. 7-ranked Decatur with a .448 batting average and 34 RBI.
Her career so far has included a Division 4 championship game appearance as a freshman (a 4-0 loss to Unionville-Sebewaing) and two more trips to Quarterfinals. It’s included the increase of pitching distance from 40 to 43 feet, a major adjustment for some that she used to become a better pitcher.
“In the early part of her career, she pitched kind of like a machine. I called the pitch and location, and she would just throw the pitch to the location,” Decatur coach Matt McLouth said. “After the mound went back to 43 feet, the pitches that she would strike out opposing hitters from 40 feet weren’t always striking out hitters from 43 feet. She really learned the art of getting hitters out. She learned that getting her opponent to hit a weak ground ball was just as good as getting a strikeout."
Southworth will take a “refined” repertoire with her this fall to the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The drop-ball is her favorite pitch. But McLouth said her change-up also has improved significantly over the last few seasons, and she’s added a rise ball to match.
The Wolves also will get a sports lifer who understands the value of dedication. Southworth has been part of Decatur’s softball program since joining as a team manager in sixth grade. She spent the first decade of her life running around the wrestling mat at the practices of her father Brian Southworth, who has won 567 matches over 28 seasons as Decatur’s coach in that sport, and also coaches the girls track and field team.
But before Erika leaves town and starts a degree in business, there's some to finish with the Raiders.
Decatur’s 2011 season ended with an 11-0 loss to Breckenridge. The team was relatively young and learned a lot that day about playing in pressure situations. Southworth is ready to pop on the sunglasses and lead her teammates on one more run – and earn a first championship to go with those other milestone numbers.
She’s learned, both on the diamond and the mat, what it will take to make that happen.
“I learned you have to work hard for what you earn. It’s not just given to you,” Southworth said. “Never give up. If you want something, you have to go and get it.”
Click to read more about Southworth's future plans and family ties.
PHOTO: Decatur's Krista Southworth prepares to fire a pitch during last season's Division 4 Quarterfinal against Breckenridge. (Photo couresty of High School Sports Scene.)
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