Clarkston is The Detroit News’ No. 1-ranked softball team in the Metro Detroit area and possibly the state, with multiple Division I players returning from last year’s team which reached the state semifinals at Michigan State University.
In fact, Clarkston — which owns state championships this season in football and boys basketball — has an infield made up of Division 1 commits in Central Michigan-bound shortstop Paige Blevins, sophomore second baseman Sierra Kersten (Michigan), sophomore first baseman Abbey Tolmie (Central Michigan) and senior third baseman Hannah Chadwell (Oakland), along with junior pitcher Olivia Warrington (Detroit Mercy) and sophomore catcher Hannah Cady (Northwestern).
“We have some tremendous players, great athletes on this team,” Clarkston coach Don Peters said. “We started five freshmen and two sophomores last year and reached the state semifinals so we’re looking forward to this season.”
Peters has a lineup loaded with heavy hitters from last year’s 32-10 team, including Blevins, who hit .486 with 14 home runs and 67 RBIs; Cady, who hit .489 with 29 RBIs; Tolmie, who hit .463 with 39 RBIs; and Kersten, who hit .358 with five homers and 33 RBIs.
Warrington was dominant on the mound, throwing in the low 60s and tossing a 1-0 Division I quarterfinal shutout against Walled Lake Northern before a 2-1 semifinal loss to Grandville.
2. HOWELL (38-3; DIVISION 1)
Howell returns the majority of its starters from a year ago, when it won the KLAA championship and advanced to the regional finals, losing to Mattawan.
Coach Ron Pezzoni has an elite pitcher returning in sophomore Molly Carney, who was 32-3 last season with a 1.50 ERA.
“Molly has great composure, hits her spots well and throws near 60 miles-per-hour,” Pezzoni said of Carney, who was involved in a car accident, resulting in a foot injury earlier this month. Freshman Avery Wolverton will take the mound until Carney returns.
Senior center fielder Sydney Pezzoni (Eastern Kentucky), who hit .440, and junior outfielder A.J. Militello, who is committed to Kent State, also return. Militello hit .470 last season.
3. MACOMB DAKOTA (36-2; DIVISION 1)
Dakota earned the state championship last season, working overtime to defeat Grandville in the title game, 4-3 in eight innings.
Rick Fontaine retired as head coach and moved to Georgia. Former longtime Chippewa Valley coach Dave Prestininzi takes over to lead the program.
Prestininzi’s first move is to find someone to take the mound with the graduation loss of standout pitcher Kendahl Dunford. He will be looking to juniors Savana Erb and Danielle McBride.
Dakota returns multiple outstanding players, including senior shortstop Corbin Hison (Canisius), who hit .410 from the leadoff spot; senior left fielder Jackie Popko (Saginaw Valley), who hit .462 with 31 RBIs; and senior center fielder Olivia Patton (Indiana State), who batted .488.
4. WALLED LAKE NORTHERN (33-8; DIVISION 1)
Northern returns 10 players, including six starters from its first regional-championship team.
Senior shortstop Jenna Kroll (.455, eight home runs, 43 RBIs), senior center fielder Courtney Callahan (.432, four, 36), senior catcher Samantha Harris (.378, five, 37), senior first baseman Ashley Komosinski (.388, six, 35), senior second baseman Kaycee Loehr (.413, two, 38) and junior McKenzie Knight (.351, two, 31) team up to give Northern a strong lineup.
Northern coach Kristen Woodard has to find a replacement with the graduation loss of pitcher Cassie Frankowiak, who threw a one-hitter in a 7-0 regional-final shutout victory over White Lake Lakeland.
Knight will be one of the pitchers.
5. WARREN REGINA (23-8; DIVISION 1)
Regina returns the majority of its Catholic League championship team from a year ago, including two pitchers — junior right-hander Marisa Muglia (12-7) and senior left-hander Maddie Simon (10-2).
Diane Laffey, who owns a state record 1,157 wins since becoming head coach at Regina back in 1963, has eight seniors, led by Penn State-bound Melina Livingston, a third baseman who hit .632 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs.
Meghan Berlin (Indiana Tech), a second baseman who hit .379 with 46 RBIs; shortstop Leah Munson (.390); and Muglia, a first baseman who hit .413 with 39 RBIs, are other key contributors.
6. FARMINGTON HILLS MERCY (30-12; DIVISION 1)
Longtime assistant Jerry Ashe takes over for Alec Lesko as head coach of Mercy, which won the Division 1 state championship in 2016 before losing to Lakeland in the regionals last season.
Senior catcher Anna Dixon (Hillsdale) anchors a lineup that includes junior center fielder Sarah Cassidy (.380) and freshman phenom in shortstop Grace Nieto, who already is committed to Northwestern.
Dixon hit .565 with 70 RBIs last season. She will have an experienced pitcher to work with in sophomore Olivia Iafrate, who was 21-7.
7. PLYMOUTH SALEM (24-11; DIVISION 1)
Salem returns seven starters, led by Michigan-bound shortstop Morgan Overaitis, center fielder Caroline Miller and pitcher Maddy Rosiewicz.
Overaitis hit .641 last season with 59 hits, 52 runs scored, seven home runs and 56 RBIs. Rosiewicz hit at a .455 clip and Miller batted .423.
Coach Bonnie Southerland also is expecting big things from junior first baseman Jordan Hazel (.486) and junior catcher Hailey Dechalk.
8. GARDEN CITY (28-13; DIVISION 1)
Garden City returns several starters from last year’s state-quarterfinal team, which held a 4-1 seventh inning lead against eventual state champion Macomb Dakota before falling, 6-5.
Coach Barry Peterson, who begins his 31st season, has the luxury of having pitcher April Rudolph return for her senior year.
9. WHITE LAKE LAKELAND (32-8; DIVISION 1)
Lakeland’s program was hit hard by graduation, but returns standout junior shortstop Elizabeth Langley, senior catcher Kaylee Miller and senior first baseman Madeline Langdon.
Langley hit .480 while committing just two errors. Miller hit .420 with seven home runs, and Langdon hit .380 while making the successful move from third to first.
Veteran coach Joe Alsup, who guided Waterford Township to the Class A state title 40 years ago and Waterford Kettering to the Class A state championship 20 years ago, will rely on Chelsea Weatherford to handle the pitching. Weatherford will be among four freshmen starters.
10. PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP (27-9; DIVISION 2)
Notre Dame Prep will be led by junior shortstop Kara Thornton and senior catcher Mary Yanik, along with sophomore catcher Lauren Koenig, whom coach Betty Wroubel is expected to hand the pitching duties with help from Thornton.
Wroubel also expects big things from freshman Elena Schwegman who has tremendous power. Ella Easterwood and Meagahn Orlowski are also talented freshmen outfielders.