By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Even reigning champions get a little nervous returning to the diamond of their greatest accomplishment.
But it took Richmond only a couple innings to get comfortable again at Secchia Stadium while kicking off Thursday’s Division 2 Semifinals.
The Blue Devils, ranked No. 2 at the end of the regular season and expected to reach this point all season after emerging to win their first title a year ago, will get a chance to play for another thanks to a 4-2 win over No. 3 Escanaba – last year’s Semifinal opponent as well.
Richmond had won its last three games all in extra innings, but put up four runs during the third Thursday. Escanaba rallied for two runs in the fifth inning before sophomore pitcher Erin Shuboy – the star of last season’s championship run – finished locking down the Eskymos for the second year in a row.
“Making it here once is something special. And now to be here twice … I think the returners got rid of the jitters a little bit, (and) all of the other people are starting to settle in,” Richmond senior shortstop Carley Barjaktarovich said. “They score a couple of runs (and you tell yourself) relax, you’ve got a little bit of cushion. You’ve got another at bat. I wasn’t nervous at all. I know Erin; she’s going to bear down and she’s going to get it done. And we go back in and we have our bats.”
Richmond (33-4) will face Ida (36-7) in Saturday’s first championship game, at 10 a.m.
A year ago, the Blue Devils entered the tournament as honorable mentions in the final state rankings, but reached MSU and downed Escanaba 6-2 in a Semifinal.
The teams should have recognized a number of faces in the opposing dugout. Longtime Richmond coach Howard Stuart also caught up with Saginaw Swan Valley’s Tom Kennelly, whose top-ranked Vikings were downed by Escanaba in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, and felt as prepared as possible heading into the rematch.
Richmond got to Eskymos senior starting pitcher Katie Ross only in the third inning, and freshman Gabbi Salo threw three scoreless to finish the game. But that one frame was enough. A walk, infield single by Barjaktarovich and error loaded the bases, and after a fielder’s choice knocked in the first run junior catcher Evelyn Swantek doubled in the next three.
Escanaba scored its two runs in the fifth inning and loaded the bases again with two outs. But Shuboy got a pop out to end that rally and allowed only one hit in each of the final two innings.
“I felt sorry for (Escanaba), because I thought that was a great team,” Stuart said. “We just had one good inning. We had one key hit, and that’s all it took.”
Barjaktarovich finished 2 for 3, and junior leftfielder Emma Caperton also had a double. Shuboy struck out seven and gave up four hits.
Sophomore rightfielder Lexi Chaillier and senior centerfielder Emily Bruntjens drove in runs for Escanaba (33-5). Junior Maddie Griffin walked twice and scored.
Ida 3, Stevensville Lakeshore 2
How did it feel for unranked Ida to down No. 6 Lakeshore in its first Semifinal since 2006, to make its first MHSAA Final in softball since that spring more than a decade ago?
“This is what you play for. This is what they started out wanting when they were kids. Look at their parents – they wanted the same thing, and here we are,” Ida coach Dawn Forter said, pointing out an enthusiastic bunch waiting to greet the team. “I’m numb. I’m proud of every one of those kids, all 15.”
The Bluestreaks came back after Lakeshore jumped in with a run in the first inning, scoring one in the fourth and two in the fifth, and then withstood a last-inning Lancers rally to close out the victory.
Lakeshore scored that run when junior leftfielder Karlee Lambert misplayed a single by senior Olivia Freehling. But Lambert certainly made up for the brief miscue with a pair of triples, the second setting up her score on junior Hannah Tuller’s triple. Tuller kept going and scored on a throwing error to take the advantage up to 3-1.
“That’s a hard-hit ball and the field plays fast, and it got to (Lambert) a little quicker than she thought it was going to. She stuck with it though – she knocked it down,” Forter said of Freehling’s hit. “That’s the way every kid wearing a Bluestreak shirt has been all year. If they make a mistake on one side, they pick it up on the other.”
Ida’s first run came when senior Mallorie Duvall drove in senior Brooklyn Woelmer in the fourth inning. Woelmer, Lambert and Duvall all were 2 for 3 at the plate, and junior Lauren Kreps gave up only one earned run throwing all seven innings.
Junior third baseman Cassidy Zavoral and freshman designated player Sierra Ciesielski were 1 for 3 and scored for the Lancers (33-7-1). Junior Taylor Simon struck out four allowing only two earned runs while tossing a complete game.
PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond pitcher Erin Shuboy prepares to fire during Thursday's Division 2 Semifinal win over Escanaba. (Middle) Ida's Karlee Lambert gets to third base ahead of a tag after hitting one of her two triples Thursday.
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