By Kelsey Pence
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Nikki Radke and Morgan Hall couldn’t have dreamed up a better senior season.
Rogers City has been out for revenge ever since Kalamazoo Christian eliminated the Hurons in last year’s Division 4 Semifinal.
Radke and Hall played a big part in making that dream come true Saturday as the Hurons beat the Comets 3-2 in to earn Rogers City its first MHSAA softball title.
“It’s my senior year, and I couldn’t have ended it any better way,” Hall said.
Kalamazoo Christian (28-17) scored first, in the first inning, but Rogers City responded in the third.
Logan Fleming and Courtney Streich both reached on Comets errors, and Sarah Meredith brought Fleming home with a single to left field. The Hurons (34-6) left three on base – but took the lead in the fifth inning.
Hall reached base and Alexa Quaine doubled down the third-base line to score her for the go-ahead run.
The Comets had a chance to put up another run in the sixth inning, but left two stranded.
“We have a fantastic infield, and the defense was there again today,” Hurons coach Karl Grambau said. “We knew they were going to put it in play and we were ready for it, and Nikki was just incredible.”
Radke pitched a complete game, striking out three, walking none and giving up five hits.
“Nikki is a great pitcher and a really underrated pitcher,” Grambau said. “She doesn’t strike out a lot of girls because the girls put a lot of balls in play.”
Meredith walked to start the seventh inning and Hall brought her home with a double to left field to give the Hurons a 2-run lead.
“It turned out the be a game-winning hit, and I could never have expected that and I am honored to have that opportunity now,” Hall said. “I am just glad Sarah ran her butt off to get in.”
Hall’s hit was indeed a big one as Kalamazoo Christian found some magic with two outs left in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After Radke struck out the first two batters, Cara Knasel double to deep right field. Erica Block then singled to left, which put up another run for the Comets and pulled them within one of the lead.
“I really wasn’t nervous at all,” Radke said. “I lived in the moment and realized it was my last softball game ever. It got a little nerve-racking once they scored that run.”
Madison Locker connected on the next pitch, but it was caught in left field to end the ballgame.
“Our motto was to believe and achieve, and we definitely went in believing and we ended up achieving,” Radke said.
Hall praised her senior classmate.
“Nikki has been four years in the making,” Hall said of Radke. “She has dedicated her summers and her winter to pitching. She got us here last year and took us farther this year. We can never thank her enough.”
Rebekah VanDam took the loss for the 2013 champs, striking out four, walking three and giving up eight hits in seven innings of work.
“We knocked them out of the tournament last year, so it was kind of a revenge factor for them,” Kalamazoo Christian coach Terry Reynolds said. “They played hard against us earlier this year, and they repeated that again today. They played great defense, just wonderful defense.
“The pitcher kept us off-paced. She really didn’t surprise us with anything; we just couldn’t touch her. We couldn’t get that key hit when we needed it.”
Grambau said the win is one for the community.
“It’s unbelievable for us and northern Michigan to get this victory,” he said. “Last year we got shut out and then we beat them earlier this year in a tournament. We knew it was anybody’s game, and we are just happy to get this win. It means so much for our program and for our girls.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Rogers City players are cheered on by their fans after winning the Division 4 championship at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Hurons centerfielder Cassie Brege throws the ball in during Saturday’s Final.
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