St Mary's Wins Again to Cap Ace's Career

June 17, 2017

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Something had to give in Saturday’s Division 3 Final between Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central and Napoleon.

All-state pitcher Meghan Beaubien, in 33 innings at Michigan State in Semifinal and Finals action over the last three seasons before Saturday, had allowed just four hits and no runs. Her resume included a no-hitter and a perfect game in last year’s run to the championship. As a sophomore, she threw a no-hitter on the way to the team’s first of two straight titles.

The Pirates entered this championship game after scoring 16 runs in a Semifinal victory over perennial power Gladstone. No matter what happened, they would go down swinging against Beaubien, who is University of Michigan-bound.

So what would give?

Napoleon’s defense.

The Pirates threw the ball all over the place with seven errors, and Beaubien and the Kestrels were never in trouble after the third inning in a 13-1 clincher of their third straight Division 3 title.

Beaubien finished her high school career with 16 strikeouts against the Pirates.

“I didn’t really have a lot of goals when I first got here,’’ she said. “The bar has definitely been lifted. Each state title was different, and this one was definitely our largest margin of victory.’’

The Kestrels finished 27-3 and left lasting memories for coach John Morningstar.

“To have done it three times is amazing,’’ said Morningstar. “Every one is special in its own unique way.’’

Things started strangely in the bottom of the first inning. After a strikeout, senior Dylan Wiley beat out an infield single. So no no-hitter.

Rachel Griffin hit a grounder that Brooklyn Barton fielded. She tagged Griffin on the first base line, but the ball popped loose. The umpired ruled Griffin safe and the Pirates had runners at first and third with just one out.

“I thought that was important because you don’t want to fall behind early,’’ said Beaubien.

Pitching prevailed as Beaubien struck out the next two hitters to end the threat.

Taking advantage of two walks by teammates batting in front of her during the third inning, Beaubien sent a shot that got past the center fielder for a triple, giving herself a 2-0 lead.

An error led to Beaubien scoring from third, and the two-time reigning champs had a comfortable 3-0 lead for a pitcher who hadn’t given up a run in two previous championship game appearances.

Grace Mikesell’s two-run double blew the game open as the Kestrels built a commanding a 5-0 lead. Samantha Michael added a run-scoring single to make it 6-0 to end the scoring in the frame.

Napoleon’s lone run came in the bottom of the third inning when Dylan Wiley singled down the leftfield line and scored on a three-base error as senior catcher Kenna Garst was unable to track down a throw because she’d suffered a knee injury. It was the first run Beaubien had allowed in three appearances at MSU, and Brooke Angerer then replaced Garst behind the plate.

More errors by Napoleon led to a run in the fourth inning with Abbey Johnson scoring on a wild pitch to make it 7-1. Kelsey Barron’s triple brought in Beaubien from second base and made it 8-1, and another fielding error increased the lead to 9-1.

“I don’t know where all the errors came from,’’ said Napoleon coach Douglas Richardson. “Meghan’s a great pitcher. She throws hard. We had 19 hits yesterday and just two today.’’

Regardless, it was an incredible run for a large Pirates senior class that led the team to a 37-5 finish this season and played especially significant roles in last season’s run to the Quarterfinals and this first championship game appearance.

Wiley had both hits for Napoleon. Mikesell and Danielle Michael both had two hits and two RBI for St. Mary, following up Beaubien’s 3 for 3, three run, two RBI performance.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central celebrates its third straight Division 3 title at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Meghan Beaubien unloads one of her final pitches as a high schooler. 

Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 24, 2023

Kenna Bommarito remembers how many people were in East Lansing a year ago to support her and her Algonac softball teammates at the Division 3 Semifinals.

Bay & ThumbSo, she has an idea of how many people from the town would show up if both the softball and baseball teams were there this time around.

“I think everyone would be,” the junior pitcher said.

There’s a decent possibility that Bommarito’s theory could be tested. The Muskrats softball team is ranked No. 2 in Division 3, and Tuesday night clinched the first Blue Water Area Conference title in program history.

That came one night after the baseball team – ranked No. 1 in Division 3 – also won its first BWAC title. The BWAC was created in 2002, and Algonac was an original member.

“It’s amazing – this town loves it,” said senior baseball player Tyler Schultz. “We’ve got a small community, and everybody is tagging along. I remember last year, a couple of our final postseason games, that was the most people I’ve ever seen at a game. All of the sports here are starting to build up. We have athletes all around the school. I think as time goes on, I think each sport will get better and better.”

Bommarito’s imagined scenario nearly played out a year ago, as both teams made their deepest postseason run.

While the softball team was making its historic run to the Semifinal, the baseball team was making one of its own, advancing to the Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.

Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in.The baseball team’s movement toward this started with the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when the Muskrats won back-to-back District titles.

“We had a couple DI (college) players, and when you have those players come through, it generates excitement through the youth,” said Algonac baseball coach Scott Thaler, who took over the program in 2017. “It’s been a trickle-down effect from that initial first two years. That really set the bar. We’ve had some really good baseball players come through, and I have a great staff.”

Thaler had stressed back then that he wanted to build a program at Algonac and not have it be a flash in the pan. That certainly looks like it’s happening, and not just because his Muskrats are winning and sitting atop the state rankings.

Algonac – which has fewer than 500 students in the entire school – has junior varsity and freshman baseball teams. Thaler also said there are 25 eighth graders coming into the program next year.

“I think that when I was smaller in little league, we didn’t really have that where we went out on the field with the varsity players,” said junior pitcher Josh Kasner. “Now, that’s gotten a lot better. A lot of the smaller kids we see around town, they know who we are and about (the program).”

Of course, talent wasn’t enough to get there. Thaler needed to instill belief in his team in order to help the younger generation see what was possible.

“I was a (football assistant) coach under Scott Barnhart, and one of the things we preached to the kids back then is ‘To believe in the things you haven’t seen before,’” Thaler said. “That’s the mantra we brought to them last year, ‘Why not us?’ Just because it hasn’t happened before here doesn’t mean you can’t believe in that. We had to get them to believe.”

The Quarterfinal run provided proof beyond the belief for the Muskrats, and then the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association added to it all, naming Algonac the preseason No. 1 team in Division 3.

Luckily for Thaler, his team took it in stride.

The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield.“I mean, it was a great feeling, but part of me had some doubts,” Schultz said “We’ve got some younger kids on the team, and I thought that maybe they might look at that and might get complacent, but me and some of the other seniors have done a good job of keeping all of these guys looking forward. We’ve still got one goal, and that’s to finish (with a Finals title).”

While the softball team didn’t enter the season with a No. 1 ranking, the expectations were certainly there, as was a new target on its back.

But bigger than both was motivation following a walk-off loss to Millington in the Semifinal.

“I think it just shows us that in those big games with those types of teams, you can never say never,” said first-year softball coach Natalie Heim, who was an assistant on last year’s team. “You really have to bear down. That Millington team that beat us, they fought hard. But I definitely think it fuels us more to get back.”

The softball program’s rise may have seemed more sudden to those on the outside, but senior Ella Stephenson said it had been bubbling for a while.

“My sophomore year, we had some talent for sure,” she said. “We had a really good season, but not as good as junior and senior year. The class above me was really talented. But they kind of turned the program around in my eighth-grade year, and it kind of kept building from there.”

During Stephenson’s sophomore season, the Muskrats lost a tough District game against Richmond, which went on to win the Division 3 Finals title. Not only are the Blue Devils a common early postseason opponent for the Muskrats, they’re also a conference rival. As is Almont. And Croswell-Lexington. And … It’s a brutal conference.

The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo.So, much like the baseball team, even during the softball team’s historic 2022 season, winning the conference this spring proved to be tougher than making a deep postseason run.

That made Tuesday night’s sweep of North Branch to clinch the BWAC that much sweeter.

“Honestly, it’s a rush of just happiness,” Bommarito said. “We’re all so excited and just can’t believe we did it. We just played game-by-game today, and really took it one pitch, one out at a time.”

Not only has the BWAC prepared the Muskrats for the possibility of another deep postseason run, it helped keep them focused throughout the season.

“I think a lot of teams don’t have that luxury of facing the best competition during the season,” Heim said. “I think it keeps (the Muskrats) not looking too far ahead. We try to have that approach of one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. It helps with having goals that are a little tougher to achieve. Winning our league, it’s tough. It’s not an easy feat. Especially after last year’s success, it would have been easy to look ahead.”

Now, with league titles secured, both teams can focus on their ultimate goals and the postseason that is directly in front of them.

All with the hope that their similarities – on top of the league titles, both teams are 29-2 as of Wednesday, and both have a University of Michigan-bound player (Kasner and Stephenson) – continue through the third weekend of June with matching trips to East Lansing.

“That’d be unreal. That would be so cool,” Stephenson said. “We all have really good friendships on the baseball and softball teams. Our records are identical. We both won our conference. It’s just really cool. I’m really happy for their success, and ours, too.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Algonac pitcher Kenna Bommarito makes her move toward the plate during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal against Millington. (2) Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in. (3) The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield. (4) The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo. (Baseball photos and softball team photo courtesy of the Algonac athletic department.)