Performance: All Saints' Hannah Ducolon
May 19, 2017
Bay City All Saints senior – Softball
Ducolon will finish her high school career this spring among the most successful hitters in MHSAA history; her career batting average of .638 if she ended her final season today would rank third all-time. And it certainly got a boost May 11 during a sweep of Tawas when Ducolon was 10 for 10 from the plate in earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Her team’s shortstop and a four-year varsity player, Ducolon is hitting .720 this spring – which would rank fourth in MHSAA history for one season – with 24 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .758. She’s a slap-hitter – she takes a shortened swing to place the ball away from fielders so she can use her speed to outrun their throws to first base, often with a bunt down the third-base line or a “slap” past an infielder playing in close. Ducolon also plays an important role off the field; All Saints was a softball power only a decade ago, winning the Division 4 championship in 2008, but the Cougars have struggled to find players of late and are 5-20-1 this spring with 11 on the team. Ducolon is one of two seniors and has worked to stoke interest in the program, teaming as well with her mother Beth, who took over the program before the 2016 season and was a standout on All Saints teams that made the MHSAA Semifinals in 1986 and 1987 (the latter team finished Class D runner-up).
Hannah Ducolon also was a key contributor on the basketball team that went 17-5 this past winter, but her main stage is in the theater – she’s been active in All Saints’ drama program, her favorite role being Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” and hopes to continue in theater at Saginaw Valley State University. She’ll graduate 10th in her class and carries a 3.82 grade-point average, and she’ll study secondary education at SVSU. It wouldn't be a surprise if she ended up leading from a sideline someday as well; Ducolon has been coaching 4th-5th grade soccer the last three falls after playing volleyball as a freshman.
Coach (and mom) Beth Ducolon said: “Hannah has been the lead-off hitter at All Saints since her freshman year. Through her high school years and subsequent travel team games, Hannah has worked hard to perfect the art of slapping. She has really become good at reading the defense and putting the ball where they aren't. Hannah is an excellent bunter, but is very capable of slapping the ball through the hole or hitting a ball to the outfield. Her ability to place the ball, coupled with her speed has been the key to her successes. Hannah is an excellent leader and is a great example for the underclassmen on the team to learn what 100-percent effort means.”
Performance Point: “That was the day when our baseball team also was on the bus with us to Tawas," Hannah Ducolon said of her perfect hitting performance. "There’s a player on the baseball team with really long hair, and I made a deal that if I went 100 percent with getting on base, with no errors on the other team, I could braid his hair – and that’s what I did. I always try to go 100 percent, and it worked out that day. ... I don’t think that much ahead of a game. I show up when they tell me to and get the job done whatever we need. He didn’t believe me (that I went 10 for 10); I had to show him the book.”
Like mother, like daughter: “I was born into a softball family. It always was on TV, we were always going to games and such, and it just became second nature. I kinda adopted her game, and I have the same number (17) as her. She brought me up as a mini her, and I kinda joke that I’m a mini her but better. I’m blessed just to have a close relationship with my mom and softball."
Leader … and recruiter: “We try to explain (to interested players) how much fun it is, how much time we spend together as a team and how close we get. We always have cookouts between games, and there are so many family-oriented things we do as a team. Our school is so small, so sometimes they are scared of that because they think they know everything about everyone already, but softball is a chance to get closer. … We try to have as much fun as possible. It’s hard to see the younger girls struggling, who are new to it; they get flustered. But my role is to remind them it’s all about the journey: just have fun, try your hardest, and you can’t ask for anything more. Let the word spread, get a culture going. I think that has the ability to work; we’ve got some girls coming up who are passionate about the sport, but it can only go so far (unless) other people are passionate too.”
Lessons in coaching: “It’s a lot of patience; patience is probably the biggest virtue you could ever have. It’s really hard to begin as a coach. You’re so invested in it, and you know some people are not as invested, and that’s frustrating. You also have to learn to be a leader, appeal to other people’s personalities, talk to other people differently, motivate them differently. I find that to be really interesting and fun. I love finding out how people work and how you can persuade them so we’re on the same team, working together for a common goal.”
Theater takes center stage: “What’s not to like about it? There’s so much history, so many layers to it. I’m very family-oriented; I like team sports, I enjoy close-knit groups. And theater is another one of those. On top of that, you get to express yourself and interact with the crowd in a way that isn’t you. You portray someone who isn’t you, but you get to put your own spin on it.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
May 11: Mason Phillips, Salem track & field – Read
May 4: Lillian Albaugh, Farwell track & field – Read
April 27: Amber Gall, Shepherd track & field – Read
April 20: Sloane Teske, East Grand Rapids tennis – Read
March 30: Romeo Weems, New Haven basketball – Read
March 23: Jaycie Burger and Maddie Clark, Pittsford basketball – Read
March 16: Camden Murphy, Novi swimming & diving – Read
March 9: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central wrestling – Read
March 2: Joey Mangner, Chelsea swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 23: Isabelle Nguyen, Grosse Pointe North gymnastics – Read
Feb. 16: Dakota Hurbis, Saline swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 2: Foster Loyer, Clarkston basketball – Read
Jan. 26: Nick Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling – Read
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball – Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball – Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football – Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball – Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTO: (Top) Bay City All Saints' Hannah Ducolon charges toward first base during a game May 8 against AuGres-Sims. (Middle) Ducolon makes a throw from her spot in the infield. (Photos by Brady Kenniston Photography.)
Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
May 24, 2023
Kenna Bommarito remembers how many people were in East Lansing a year ago to support her and her Algonac softball teammates at the Division 3 Semifinals.
So, she has an idea of how many people from the town would show up if both the softball and baseball teams were there this time around.
“I think everyone would be,” the junior pitcher said.
There’s a decent possibility that Bommarito’s theory could be tested. The Muskrats softball team is ranked No. 2 in Division 3, and Tuesday night clinched the first Blue Water Area Conference title in program history.
That came one night after the baseball team – ranked No. 1 in Division 3 – also won its first BWAC title. The BWAC was created in 2002, and Algonac was an original member.
“It’s amazing – this town loves it,” said senior baseball player Tyler Schultz. “We’ve got a small community, and everybody is tagging along. I remember last year, a couple of our final postseason games, that was the most people I’ve ever seen at a game. All of the sports here are starting to build up. We have athletes all around the school. I think as time goes on, I think each sport will get better and better.”
Bommarito’s imagined scenario nearly played out a year ago, as both teams made their deepest postseason run.
While the softball team was making its historic run to the Semifinal, the baseball team was making one of its own, advancing to the Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.
The baseball team’s movement toward this started with the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when the Muskrats won back-to-back District titles.
“We had a couple DI (college) players, and when you have those players come through, it generates excitement through the youth,” said Algonac baseball coach Scott Thaler, who took over the program in 2017. “It’s been a trickle-down effect from that initial first two years. That really set the bar. We’ve had some really good baseball players come through, and I have a great staff.”
Thaler had stressed back then that he wanted to build a program at Algonac and not have it be a flash in the pan. That certainly looks like it’s happening, and not just because his Muskrats are winning and sitting atop the state rankings.
Algonac – which has fewer than 500 students in the entire school – has junior varsity and freshman baseball teams. Thaler also said there are 25 eighth graders coming into the program next year.
“I think that when I was smaller in little league, we didn’t really have that where we went out on the field with the varsity players,” said junior pitcher Josh Kasner. “Now, that’s gotten a lot better. A lot of the smaller kids we see around town, they know who we are and about (the program).”
Of course, talent wasn’t enough to get there. Thaler needed to instill belief in his team in order to help the younger generation see what was possible.
“I was a (football assistant) coach under Scott Barnhart, and one of the things we preached to the kids back then is ‘To believe in the things you haven’t seen before,’” Thaler said. “That’s the mantra we brought to them last year, ‘Why not us?’ Just because it hasn’t happened before here doesn’t mean you can’t believe in that. We had to get them to believe.”
The Quarterfinal run provided proof beyond the belief for the Muskrats, and then the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association added to it all, naming Algonac the preseason No. 1 team in Division 3.
Luckily for Thaler, his team took it in stride.
“I mean, it was a great feeling, but part of me had some doubts,” Schultz said “We’ve got some younger kids on the team, and I thought that maybe they might look at that and might get complacent, but me and some of the other seniors have done a good job of keeping all of these guys looking forward. We’ve still got one goal, and that’s to finish (with a Finals title).”
While the softball team didn’t enter the season with a No. 1 ranking, the expectations were certainly there, as was a new target on its back.
But bigger than both was motivation following a walk-off loss to Millington in the Semifinal.
“I think it just shows us that in those big games with those types of teams, you can never say never,” said first-year softball coach Natalie Heim, who was an assistant on last year’s team. “You really have to bear down. That Millington team that beat us, they fought hard. But I definitely think it fuels us more to get back.”
The softball program’s rise may have seemed more sudden to those on the outside, but senior Ella Stephenson said it had been bubbling for a while.
“My sophomore year, we had some talent for sure,” she said. “We had a really good season, but not as good as junior and senior year. The class above me was really talented. But they kind of turned the program around in my eighth-grade year, and it kind of kept building from there.”
During Stephenson’s sophomore season, the Muskrats lost a tough District game against Richmond, which went on to win the Division 3 Finals title. Not only are the Blue Devils a common early postseason opponent for the Muskrats, they’re also a conference rival. As is Almont. And Croswell-Lexington. And … It’s a brutal conference.
So, much like the baseball team, even during the softball team’s historic 2022 season, winning the conference this spring proved to be tougher than making a deep postseason run.
That made Tuesday night’s sweep of North Branch to clinch the BWAC that much sweeter.
“Honestly, it’s a rush of just happiness,” Bommarito said. “We’re all so excited and just can’t believe we did it. We just played game-by-game today, and really took it one pitch, one out at a time.”
Not only has the BWAC prepared the Muskrats for the possibility of another deep postseason run, it helped keep them focused throughout the season.
“I think a lot of teams don’t have that luxury of facing the best competition during the season,” Heim said. “I think it keeps (the Muskrats) not looking too far ahead. We try to have that approach of one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. It helps with having goals that are a little tougher to achieve. Winning our league, it’s tough. It’s not an easy feat. Especially after last year’s success, it would have been easy to look ahead.”
Now, with league titles secured, both teams can focus on their ultimate goals and the postseason that is directly in front of them.
All with the hope that their similarities – on top of the league titles, both teams are 29-2 as of Wednesday, and both have a University of Michigan-bound player (Kasner and Stephenson) – continue through the third weekend of June with matching trips to East Lansing.
“That’d be unreal. That would be so cool,” Stephenson said. “We all have really good friendships on the baseball and softball teams. Our records are identical. We both won our conference. It’s just really cool. I’m really happy for their success, and ours, too.”
Paul 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) Algonac pitcher Kenna Bommarito makes her move toward the plate during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal against Millington. (2) Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in. (3) The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield. (4) The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo. (Baseball photos and softball team photo courtesy of the Algonac athletic department.)