By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING — Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central softball fans had to wait 41 years for a glimpse of the MHSAA championship trophy, so what was a few more minutes?
The trophy was in the possession of sophomore pitcher Meghan Beaubien, who was being interviewed while the rest of her teammates were celebrating on the other side of the fence with family, friends and supporters.
No one deserved to carry the trophy off the field more than Beaubien, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning and hit a two-run homer for the game's only runs, as St. Mary won its first MHSAA title in the 41-year history of the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Bronson in the Division 3 Final on Saturday at Michigan State University.
She finished with a two-hitter, striking out 14. The Kestrels did not allow a run in seven postseason games, outscoring their opposition 29-0.
"I felt really good and focused in the postseason, which is really important," said Beaubien, who ran off the field toward St. Mary's fans with the trophy tucked under her left arm after her postgame obligations. "If there's any time to be really zoned in, it's now. It felt really good to be able to give my team the confidence that if we put up a couple runs, we had a good chance to win the game."
Beaubien was coming off her 10th no-hitter of the season in the Semifinal against Pinconning, with the only two runners reaching on errors in the third inning. She retired the final 14 batters of that game, then stretched that string to 33 batters in a row before Bronson's Kelsey Robinson reached base with one out in the seventh. The ball was bobbled at shortstop, and a single was awarded. Two batters later, Kinslea Blouin hit a clean single up the middle to give Bronson runners on first and second with two outs.
Beaubien, who verbally committed to NCAA runner-up University of Michigan before her freshman year, ended the Vikings' only threat of the game by striking out the final batter.
"I wasn't that worried about it," Beaubien said of the potential for only the second perfect game in MHSAA Finals history. "I just wanted to win, but I knew it was there."
In the final round of the tournament, Beaubien allowed only five hits and didn't allow a walk in 21 innings of work. She had 45 strikeouts against some of the best teams in the state.
"She did a fantastic job," first-year St. Mary coach John Morningstar said. "We knew that definitely she's going to go out and strike out quite a few hitters."
Beaubien's performance overshadowed a championship-caliber effort by Bronson senior pitcher Skyler Sobeski. Sobeski allowed only three hits, striking out five while not allowing a walk.
It came down to one swing of the bat — Beaubien's two-run homer in the first inning.
"I hope that (Sobeski) can let it go," Bronson coach Becky Gray said. "She'll feel like she lost the game, but that's not the case. It's unfortunate what happened today, but look what we did; it's spectacular. I cannot be disappointed, but I know there's tears."
Two of St. Mary's three hits came in the first inning, resulting in the game's only runs.
Kelsey Barron, who was 2 for 3, had a one-out single to set the stage for Beaubien. Beaubien slammed a 2-1 pitch over the fence in left-center field to give herself the only support she would need — plus an insurance run.
"I didn't know it was gone," Beaubien said. "I knew it was hit hard, but this is a pretty big field. I thought it was going to drop somewhere in the outfield. When I knew it was out, I don't know how to describe it. That was fantastic to give my team a lead in the game."
It was the second time in the playoffs that Beaubien threw a shutout and delivered her team's only runs. In a Regional championship victory over Allen Park Cabrini, her double produced the lone run in a 1-0 victory.
Sobeski responded to the long ball by retiring 13 straight batters and keeping the Kestrels off the scoreboard the rest of the game, but Bronson couldn't get anyone on base until there was one out in the seventh.
"(Beaubien) is a great pitcher," Gray said. "I thought we made some adjustments, but I think we made them a little too late. But my kids didn't give up. We didn't quit. We fought to the very last out. You can't ask for more than that."
St. Mary (37-5) reached MHSAA Finals in 1989, 1992 and 2007, but lost each time.
"Everybody here knew that was the case," Morningstar said. "They've been here a few times before. We just tried to keep it very, very simple. We told them to play the game one pitch at a time. If it works out for you, it's going to be a very special thing. I don't think it's hit me just yet as far as the history for the school. It's not an easy thing to do."
PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central players celebrate their first MHSAA softball championship. (Middle) Meghan Beaubien prepares to launch a pitch during her two-hit performance.
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