EAST LANSING – Before Rudyard senior Morgan Bickel stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tied Semifinal against Holton on Friday, she got some advice from her coaches in the dugout that seemed a bit perplexing.
“My coaches were like, ‘Just hit a home run and we win,’” said Bickel, who entered that at-bat with just two home runs on the year. “I just kind of laughed it off. I was just looking for solid contact. Something off of the barrel.”
Seconds later, Bickel indeed made contact off of the barrel and went from laughing off the advice of her coaches to walking it off for Rudyard, blasting the game-winning home run over the fence in right to give Rudyard a stunning 9-8 win.
Holton held a 7-1 lead with two outs in the fifth and before the Bulldogs improbably rallied to advance to their first Final on Saturday.
“We haven’t been down 7-1 and come back (this year), but we know we are a team that can score runs,” Rudyard head coach Stephen Davis said. “We never once panicked.”
Rudyard (28-5) started its rally in the fifth inning when No. 7 hitter Tori Tremblay and No. 9 hitter Chesney Molina each walked to set the stage for leadoff hitter Paige Postma, who injected some life into her team by hitting a three-run home run with two outs to left-center to cut Holton’s lead to 7-4.
Each team scored a run in the sixth inning, and then Rudyard scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 8-8.
Molina walked to start the inning to turn the lineup over, and then with two outs, Bickel and Meagan Postma each hit RBI singles to cut Holton’s lead to 8-7.
Karlee Mayer then hit an RBI double to right-center just out of the reach of Holton’s diving right fielder to tie the game at 8-8.
In the top of the eighth, Holton loaded the bases with one out, but Bickel got out of the jam with a groundout and subsequent force at home, and then a strikeout.
After a scoreless eighth, Bickel retired Holton in order in the top of the ninth to set up her heroics.
“It was just funny at that moment that the coaches said to hit a home run, and I ended up doing it,” Bickel said.
Holton (35-7) seemed to be in cruise control after building a 7-1 lead, scoring a single run in the first, four runs in the second and single runs in the third and fourth.
But ultimately, some untimely walks and not producing enough offense in the late innings proved too costly.
Abigail Fowler and Madison Bosset each went 3-for-5, Gianna Reed went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI and Ryann Robins had three RBI to lead Holton.
“Hats off to them,” Holton head coach Kirk Younts said. “They hit the ball. It was a tight game, and they are a good team. They battled, and so did we. We had some chances to score, and we didn’t.”
Unionville-Sebewaing 9, Bridgman 2
Reigning champion Unionville-Sebewaing left no doubt from the beginning, jumping out to a 4-0 lead during the first inning and adding three more runs in the second to take a 7-0 lead en route to a 9-2 win.
USA advanced to meet Rudyard in what will be the fourth Finals appearance for the Patriots since 2015.
“Putting four in the first inning kind of allows the girls to relax a little bit and slow the game down,” USA head coach Isaiah Gainforth said. “Coming back in the second inning and getting three maybe was even bigger.”
Laci Harris went 4-for-4 with two RBI and three runs and Gabriella Crumm went 3-for-3 with four RBI to lead a 10-hit attack for USA.
The offense was more than enough for USA starter Brynn Polega, who struck out 10 and didn’t give up an earned run in tossing a three-hitter.
Hannah Johnson had the lone RBI for Bridgman (39-3), which made its first appearance in the Semifinals.
“They knew what to expect,” Bridgman head coach Elaine Starbuck said of USA’s experience playing in later rounds of the playoffs. “Nerves I’m sure got the best of us. We gave up a few passed balls that allowed them to score, and their hitters are solid.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Rudyard’s Chesney Molina (12) slides safely into second base during her team’s victory Friday at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Unionville-Sebewaing’s Macy Reinhardt (5) keeps her eyes on a drive during her team’s Semifinal win.
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