Performance: All Saints' Hannah Ducolon

May 19, 2017

Hannah Ducolon
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.)

Game May Change, But Success Continues as Wilson Nears 800 Coaching Wins

By Pam Shebest
Special for

April 16, 2024

SOUTH HAVEN — No dugouts, no outfield fences, $25 bats.

Southwest CorridorThings have come a long way since Wilma Wilson took over the coaching reins at her alma mater 35 years ago.

“When I played, we didn’t have fences, we didn’t have dugouts; we had benches,” the South Haven softball coach said. “If you hit a home run, it had to be an in-the-park home run because there were hardly any parks that had any fences.

“It’s come a long way. Now you go to fields that are turfed. I love it. I’m glad to see the change for the girls and to see more emphasis on them playing and being involved.”

With a 792-406 record over her 35 years coaching the Rams softball team, Wilson is closing in on 800 career wins. Her current record puts her 19th among MHSAA coaches and just 15 victories behind former Monroe coach Vince Rossi’s 807 victories.

The Rams are 2-2 on the young season, but started off with a bang — actually three bangs over the right field fence in a one-run squeaker against Paw Paw on March 26.

Although the team has just 11 players, it is stacked with experience. Nine players saw action last season, and the five seniors have three or four years of varsity time.

Those seniors include twins Kamryn and Taylor Holland.

Against Paw Paw, Kamryn hit her first grand slam, a walk-off homer in a 12-11 win.

The Rams enjoy watching Marlee Wilson’s Broncos this season. “I knew it was going to be close as soon as I saw it,” the third baseman said. “I just kept running and started jumping up and down when I saw it go over.”

She was one of the veterans instrumental in the team’s postseason play last year, as South Haven reached its Division 2 District Final before losing 6-2 to Hamilton.

The Rams are focused on a longer run this year.

“A lot of the girls have been on the same team, and we’ve played together the past three years,” Kamryn said. “We know enough about each other and work good together. Everything clicks.”

Her sister, a shortstop/pitcher, agrees she and her teammates already have solid connections and said Wilson is a big reason.

“I love how much she pushes me,” Taylor Holland said. “She’s always there when you need her. She’ll take you aside if you need anything and always wants us to be our best. I just love that about her, because she loves us on and off the field.”

Wilson does more than work on softball with the players.

“(Last week) I sat down with the girls and had a good heart-to-heart, working through frustrations, trying to help kids maneuver through things in life, whether at school, at home, in the game,” she said. 

“That’s a huge part of coaching and what keeps me in it, knowing I can make a difference helping these kids manage life a little bit.”

Continuing the legacy

One of Wilson’s former players who is still very involved in the sport is her daughter, Marlee Wilson, in her first season as Western Michigan University’s head softball coach.

The Broncos won their 20th game of the season Sunday, making Wilson WMU’s winningest first-year softball coach. 

Wilson, right, joins daughter Marlee to form an accomplished mother-daughter coaching tree. “I coached her when she was small, coached her through high school, coached her in travel ball,” Wilma Wilson said. “She’s a very competitive kid, plays really hard. She has that same love for the game that I do, same drive.”

Marlee Wilson said one important thing she learned from her mom was to make softball fun.

“Practices in high school were always really fun,” she remembered. “It was the best part of the day. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way. (I want to) continue that and also develop the student athletes as people.

“There’s not a huge career in softball like there is in baseball and other sports, so you’re going to play four or five years in college then hopefully be prepared for life after sports, which (Mom) did a really good job with me.”

When she has a chance to talk with high school athletes, Marlee Wilson tells them to have fun and learn the basics of the game.

“That’s huge in high school,” she said. “At the college level, we can tell players who went through really good high school programs or travel programs that have those really good fundamentals or softball IQ.

“(Mom) does a really good job of developing players as a whole so when they get to that level, they understand that part of the game.”

Wilson played softball at WMU from 2014-18 and was a three-time academic all-Mid-American Conference honoree, a 2017 MAC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete and a four-time NFCA All-American Scholar.

Sparking like Sparky

Although Wilma Wilson calls him a “co-coach,” Dave Gumpert considers himself her assistant the last 11 years.

“I respect her many years as being a coach,” he said. “We talk things over, but she makes the final decisions.

“It’s been a really good relationship. She bounces things off me, I bounce things off her. It’s been a good run so far.”

Gumpert, who had a seven-year stint as a major league pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, is the one who good-naturedly calls Wilson “Sparky” and not because of her sparkling personality.

Myraql McGee settles in under a fly ball. “She pretty much lets me run practice, and she walks around,” he said, smiling. “I played for (Tigers manager) Sparky Anderson and that’s what he did. He walked around the outfield, just talking to people and doing all the PR stuff while all the other coaches were getting the work done. So I like to tease her.”

Equipment has been another area of change during Wilson’s tenure.

“The equipment has gone crazy from the technology of bats,” she said. “A bat back in the day would be $20, $25. Now they’re $400. 

“If take my school budget and buy balls for the season for both our (varsity and JV) teams and a bat, I’ve used two-thirds of my budget.”

But South Haven is making those bats work. Senior centerfielder Myraql McGee said hitting is among the team’s most noticeable improvements from a year ago.

“Our whole lineup is good power hitters. It doesn’t matter where you are, our lineup is pretty stacked,” said McGee, who will continue her career next season at Missouri Valley College.

“Fielding-wise, we could work on a couple things, but we don’t make as many errors at routine plays as many other teams.”

Other seniors are Sam Beeney and Kayley Gorham, and juniors are Madi Dotson, Grace Strebeck and Molly Verseput. Sophomores are Addison Dekoning and Erin Bos, and they are joined by freshman Ly’Nique Cunningham.

Gumpert was with Wilson when the Rams reached but lost in the Division 2 Final in 2018 and sees some similarities between that and this year’s team.

“Offensively, we had a good team, but I would dare to say this team is as good offensively as that team was,” he said. “It’s going to boil down to how well our pitching does, how well our pitchers progress. If we have the pitching I think we can develop into, I think we’ll be competitive with anybody.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) South Haven softball coach Wilma Wilson, right, welcomes home Kamryn Holland after Holland’s grand slam March 26. (2) The Rams enjoy watching Marlee Wilson’s Western Michigan Broncos this season. (2) Wilson, right, joins daughter Marlee to form an accomplished mother-daughter coaching tree. (4) South Haven senior Myraql McGee settles in under a fly ball. (Top and WMU photos provided by Wilma Wilson, family photo by Pam Shebest, and McGee action photo provided by McGee.)