By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Runner-up a year ago – and seeking the first team championship in any sport in school history – Millington made sure it would be heading home with a softball title Saturday.
The Cardinals dominated Schoolcraft from the start of an 8-0 victory in the MHSAA Division 3 Final at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium, a year after missing out on that milestone victory by just a run.
Last year, Millington led Coloma 5-4 before eventually losing 7-6. Coach Greg Hudie said his team watched film of that game the first day of practice this spring, and then the issue of last season was put to rest.
“I know some of the players and parents probably didn’t want to watch it, but after that we didn’t talk about last year at all,” he said. “That was in the past. This group loves each other, and we have team chemistry. They put a lot of work and sacrifice into doing this. They are like my daughters.”
Millington, which also won its first Regional title and made the Semifinals when these seniors were freshmen in 2016, finished this season 38-2-1.
“To win the first championship in school history is something special,’’ said senior Gabbie Sherman. “This is the first in school history to win in anything. We worked so hard for this. For it to come true is amazing. We’re like family, and watching us play you can see that.’’
After Sherman set Schoolcraft down in order in the top of the first inning, Millington outfielder Darrien Roberts got the Cardinals’ offense rolling with a blast on the first pitch she saw to deep center field that climbed up the light pole and over the fence to give her team a 1-0 lead.
“It was definitely a starter; it got my team going,’’ said Roberts, who hit her 18th home run of the season. “Anytime I go up as the leadoff hitter, my coaches tell me I set the mood and I have to set the tone and get on base. They told me I have to be the explosive player. Hitting that home run right away, I knew it was gone. I knew it was going to be a good finish for my team. I knew this was our year. No more of that Coloma stuff. This was our year.’’
Before the Eagles could get an out, Leah Denome singled, Sherman singled, Madi Hahn had a two-run double and Sydney Bishop had an RBI single to make it 4-0.
Sabrina Gates had an RBI single, forcing a pitching change with the Eagles down 5-0. After the switch, Elizabeth Bees singled. Roberts, who started the fireworks, lined a shot to center which was hauled in by Allie Goldschmeding to end the rally.
On the mound, Sherman struck out the first five batters she faced before giving up a single to Jordan Watts. Sherman quickly struck out the next batter to end the inning.
She helped her cause again in the fourth inning with an RBI single to make the score 6-0.
Hahn added an RBI single to make it 7-0 and a fielder’s choice throw to home was late as the lead swelled to 8-0.
Millington had 17 hits total, and for the second straight season Denome tied the Finals record with four. Sherman had three hits and struck out 13 batters in her final high school start.
Mikayla Meade was solid in relief for Schoolcraft (32-5), giving up just three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
Of course, there was no better way to finish for seven Millington seniors who have helped the program achieve so much. The Cardinals upped their record over the last four seasons to a combined 150-16-1.
“This was hard because a lot of the media talked about last year,’’ said Roberts. “Parents and fans would mention it. So we told them ‘no more.’ We didn’t want to talk about it.”
PHOTOS: Millington players welcome home Darrien Roberts after her home run Saturday. (Middle) Sydney Bishop calls for timeout after beating a Schoolcraft tag.
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