Richmond Finds Stride, Brings Championship End to 2021

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

June 19, 2021

EAST LANSING — Richmond senior Makayla Revord did what she’s been taught since first lacing up the cleats as a young ball player.

Keep your head down and run hard. 

So when she blooped a double down the right field line during the sixth inning of her team’s Division 3 Final against Buchanan on Saturday, she missed all the exciting action.

“I saw the ball land, and I kept going. I didn’t look at anybody else running. I just wanted to keep going to get more runs,” said Revord, whose hit drove in what turned out to be the game-winning run in her team’s 2-1 victory over the Bucks. “When I popped up (at second base), I had no worries anymore. I knew that we had this.”

Indeed they did. The Blue Devils scored twice in that sixth inning to rally from a run down and capture the second Finals championship in school history. The first came back in 2016 — also under current head coach Howard Stuart.

Richmond struggled against Buchanan starting pitcher Sophia Lozmack for the better part of six innings. The senior allowed just four hits while striking out six through five innings.

“She’s a great pitcher. You can’t take that away from her,” said Revord, speaking of Lozmack. “She’s got a great rise ball. She hits outside corners like nobody’s business. We don’t see a lot of that, so it took us a minute to catch up to that.”

Eventually, the Blue Devils did catch up in the sixth. Sophomore Piper Clark started things off with a one-out double and moved over to third on a single by junior Lauren Creon. Senior Jaelyn Amhdar then singled down the left field line, scoring Clark and tying the game up at 1-1. One out later, Revord came up with the eventual game-winner.

“The first half of the game, we were scared to death, which is not like us at all,” Stuart said. “(Revord) was shaking, she made two errors. It just wasn’t us. Finally, we got our act together and said, ‘Hey, we’re Richmond. Let’s do something.’”

Richmond softballBuchanan scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Freshman first baseman Hailee Kara took a 1-2 pitch deep to right, clearing the fence while hitting the fair pole to give her team an early 1-0 lead. But from that point on, hits were hard to come by for the Bucks.

Richmond senior Shea VanScoter locked things down, retiring eight of the next nine Buchanan batters and 10 of the last 11 she faced. She had a complete game, allowing just one run on three hits while collecting nine strikeouts.

“She stymied us for seven innings, and that hasn’t really happened all year,” said Buchanan head coach Rachel Carlson, whose team finished with a 36-5 record. “So congratulations to her. She pitched great.”

Offensively, Clark led Richmond with three hits, including a double. She also had a stolen base.

“She’s a star. She’s a great sophomore who can run like the wind,” Stuart said. “And she’s a great pitcher too. She’s just a great kid.”

Stuart said Saturday’s win was a great way to cap off a season that may not have started off exactly the way he had hoped. It took a few weeks for the Blue Devils to get things going.

“The first week, I was like, ‘We’re terrible.’ We were making six errors a game. We were pathetic,” Stuart said. “All of a sudden we went from a fielding percentage of .700 to a fielding percentage of .900, which is just huge. I felt like in the middle of the season we had a really good team. We didn’t show it that first week, but we started getting better, and better and better.” 

Buchanan was making its first appearance in an MHSAA Final game. The Bucks were coming off a 9-4 win over Standish-Sterling in Friday’s Semifinal. Carlson said she couldn’t be any more proud of the way her team competed this season.

“They made a commitment to play as a team and as a unit. That’s what I’m most proud of today,” said the fourth-year head coach. “They cheered each other on all day. They never stopped. That is a success in itself.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond's Olivia Theut pulls in a fly ball during the Division 3 championship game Saturday evening. (Middle) The Blue Devils’ Piper Clark (10) shows some excitement after reaching second base.

Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

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.

Bay & ThumbSo, 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.

Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in.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.

The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield.“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.

The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo.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 CostanzoPaul 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.)