EAST LANSING — Something had to give Thursday morning.
And if Macy Irelan had anything to do about it, it wasn’t going to be her and her Owosso teammates.
Irelan threw seven stellar innings, striking out eight while allowing just a single run in the Trojans’ 2-1 victory over Gaylord in a Division 2 Semifinal at Secchia Field in East Lansing.
Prior to this season, the Trojans had never made it past a Regional. Now head coach JoEllen Smith’s team is a win away from the program’s first-ever Finals championship.
“Everything beyond Regionals is a first, first, first for us, and the girls are handling it unreal,” said Smith, who’s in her 38th year leading the program. “The girls are coming in upbeat, not nervous. Today we came in and knew we were facing a younger team, and we had to show them that we’re not nervous.”
In fact, it was Smith’s game plan to put all the pressure on the Blue Devils, who were also attempting to reach their first trip to the Final. Owosso did just that, scoring a pair of runs in the second inning.
Sophomore Jamie Maier and senior Karley Kincaid opened the inning with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice bunt from junior Kendall Anderson moved the runners to second and third base, Maier scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0. Sophomore Sydney Somers then had an RBI single, scoring sophomore Brielle Sovis who was on as a courtesy runner.
“We don’t usually score early. It usually takes us two, three times through the lineup,” Smith said. “That was huge for us to get those two runs.”
They proved to be more than enough for Irelan, who didn’t allow a base runner until the fourth inning and a hit until the fifth. The junior, who has committed to Kent State University, allowed just three hits while improving to 35-3 on the season.
The only run she allowed came in the seventh inning, when the Blue Devils had the game-tying runs on base with just one out. Kincaid, the Trojans’ catcher, threw out a runner at second base for the second out. Freshman Braleigh Miller scored on the play to make it a 2-1 game.
“The run didn’t mean anything,” Smith said. “We throw through, get the out and there’s two outs with nobody on. We don’t run that play too often. Karley doesn’t throw much, so that (play) is bigger than you think.”
Gaylord had also put two runners on in the sixth inning, but Irelan pitched her way out of trouble. Blue Devils freshman Avery Parker’s one-out bloop single got things going for her team. A two-out fielder’s choice error gave Gaylord runners on first and second base. But the threat came to an end when Owosso’s Reese Thayer pulled in a deep fly to left field.
“When I get a runner on, I get up. I’m more focused,” Irelan said. “I want to get the batter out. And I know the girls behind me will make the play. In pressure situations, I work hard for my team because I know they’re working hard for me. I don’t want to let them down.”
Somers finished with a pair of hits to lead Owosso (36-3), who will now face Marysville (30-6) in Saturday’s Division 2 Final. Senior Reyn Tuttle and freshman Lexi Hemker also had two hits each in their team’s win.
The future looks bright for Gaylord, which had six freshmen in its starting lineup. That group includes the pitching duo of Avery Parker and Jayden Jones, who each had earned-run averages under one and combined for a 28-2 record this season. The pair allowed just two runs while scattering nine Owosso hits. Parker and fellow freshmen Addison Wangler and Taylor Moeggenberg collected Gaylord’s hits in the loss.
“It was a great performance for seven innings, but the jitters showed up in the second inning,” Gaylord head coach Abe Cruz said. “We fought, we fought and we fought but we just couldn’t manufacture that run until the last inning. They were there for us, we just came up one short.”
The Blue Devils have no seniors on the roster and 11 of the 15 players are just freshmen and sophomores.
“We’re looking forward to coming back already,” said Cruz, whose team finished the season 41-2. “There’s going to be more years to come, where this stage isn’t as big as it was today. We’ll get used to it. They’ll grow with maturity and be ready to come back next year.”
Marysville 7, Chelsea 1
Marysville entered the Division 2 Semifinals as the only unranked team left in the MHSAA Tournament. But the Vikings put forth a brilliant display in all three phases of the game against eighth-ranked Chelsea and earned a spot in the Final.
Aided by a five-run third inning, senior pitcher Kirsten Smith pitched a complete game, three-hitter to help her team reach its first title game since 1991. Smith struck out 11 while walking just a single batter.
“She’s got the heart of a champion inside her,” Marysville head coach Ryan Rathje said. “She’s not afraid of challenging hitters. She works nice and fast, and our defense is ready behind her. When they did put the ball in play, our defense did a great job backing her up.”
The Vikings scored one run in both the first and fourth innings, but it was a five-run outburst in the third that broke the game wide open. They had six hits in the inning, including RBI singles by senior Calle Perrin, juniors Kaitlyn Cain and Anna Oles and an RBI double by freshman Avery Wolters. Marysville stretched its lead to 6-1 and never looked back.
“The difference was that five-run inning,” Chelsea head coach Jeff Connelly said. “They did a great job. They put the ball in play, and their pitcher did a fabulous job of keeping us off balance all day. The shots we did hit, they were always right at people.”
Junior Kate Westmiller had three hits and Wolters and Perrin each had two to lead Marysville (31-6), which will face Owosso at 10 a.m. Rathje said he’s excited to have an opportunity to face the Trojans, but knows it’ll be a challenge for his team to face Owosso’s Irelan in the circle.
“Their pitcher is terrific,” Rathje said. “From everything I saw, they’re a really solid team at the plate, with a dominant pitcher and a great defense. We’re definitely looking forward to that matchup. You’ve got to be able to play all three phases of the game. We’re definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
Chelsea finished with a 37-5 record. Junior Margaret Olaveson collected a pair of hits to lead the offense.
“Our kids didn’t quit. We had one rough inning, or it’s a different game,” Connelly said. “We came in with the attitude that the girls have done as much in our community as we’ve done in 15 years. It was kind of our goal to get the program back, and the kids did it.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Owosso’s Macy Irelan winds up during her team’s Division 2 Semifinal win over Gaylord on Thursday. (Middle) Marysville’s Emma Curtis enjoys a moment during her team’s Semifinal victory.
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