Kennedy, Goble slug their way to state records in softball

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — It has been the year of the long ball in high school softball this season, with Julia Kennedy of Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard owning the career record for home runs and Lydia Goble of Schoolcraft, the single-season mark.

Kennedy, a senior corner infielder, has slugged 22 home runs this season and 55 for her career to break the old record shared by Erika Underwood of Addison (49, 2012-15) and Taylor Johnson of Belding (49, 2007-10).

Julia Kennedy

Goble, a senior shortstop headed for Grand Valley, has hit 26 homers this season and has 49 for her career. Taylor Dew of Muskegon Mona Shores and Brooke Nadolny of Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse held the former record at 22, both set last season.

Kennedy and Gabriel Richard will be playing Flat Rock in a Division 2 regional semifinal at noon Saturday at Carleton Airport, and Goble and Schoolcraft will be playing Constantine in a Division 3 regional semifinal at 10 a.m. at Buchanan, both trying to add  to their impressive numbers.

“It’s a roller coaster of emotions, not always easy, but all the work I put in is paying off,” Kennedy said before practice Tuesday. “Right now, I have the record, but at this point I’m happy with the success that I’ve had personally. It’s not really that big of a thing, but it will definitely be an added bonus.”

Kennedy, who owns a 3.3 grade-point-average, has been busy this week, practicing with her team and then attending orientation at Miami (Ohio) University — where she will play softball — in Oxford on Wednesday and Thursday.

But, then again, Kennedy always has been busy. She has worked on her game while playing summer ball for Finesse, while also getting help from former University of Michigan standout Amanda Chidester, who once hit .730 for Allen Park Cabrini in 2007.

“Amanda is actually my hitting coach; (I) go to her for hitting lessons,” Kennedy said. “She’s a reason that I am the success that I am today. I’ve also played travel ball for Finesse, play with Melina Livingston (Warren Regina, Penn State), Jenny Bressler (Plymouth, UNLV) and Grace Chelemen of Riverview, who will go to Michigan next year.”

Kennedy played soccer and softball last spring, a reason her home run numbers went from 18 her sophomore year to seven.

“Last year I dual-sported, playing soccer and softball,” Kennedy said. “It was hard academically and juggling practice and stuff. I enjoyed it, though, had a lot of friends on the team. I played last year because their goalie tore her ACL and they didn’t have anyone so I played goalie to help them be competitive. It distracted me a lot for my game for softball, so with that part I regret it a little.”

Kennedy plans to major in sports leadership and management. Her goal is to be a sports broadcaster or journalist like her role model, former Olympian Jessica Mendoza, a broadcaster for ESPN’s MLB coverage.

“I want to be like Jessica Mendoza, especially working MLB games,” Kennedy said. “She played in the last Olympics for softball before they got canceled out.”

If Gabriel Richard gets past Flat Rock, Kennedy could be facing her travel club teammate, Chelemen and Riverview in the regional title game. Riverview faces Milan at 10 a.m.

Bressler and Plymouth will be playing Ypsilanti Lincoln in a Division 1 regional semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday at Southgate, while Livingston and Regina will be facing New Baltimore Anchor Bay at noon at Macomb Dakota.

State quarterfinals for both baseball and softball is set for Tuesday, with the state finals for both sports June 14-16 at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Riker impressed with Brother Rice’s hitting attack

Baseball coach Bob Riker said this is his best hitting team at Birmingham Brother Rice, and that says a lot since it won a Division 1 state championship 10 years ago and had such players as DJ LeMahieu (won batting title for Colorado in 2016) and Nick Plummer (first-round draft pick by St. Louis in 2015) playing for the program.

Brother Rice (28-8) won the Catholic League Central Division title again this spring, but then had its string of six straight league championships come to an end when it lost to No. 4 seed Warren De La Salle in the playoffs.

Brother Rice had won the Central Division by four games, finishing 16-4, winning three of four from De La Salle heading into that playoff game.

Brother Rice knows it has been battle-tested heading into Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. regional semifinal at Lake Orion against Utica Eisenhower after defeating Birmingham Seaholm, 1-0, and Birmingham Groves, 7-3, in the district tournament.

“I feel that the Central Division is the toughest in the state,” Riker said. “It’s great to see that we have four of the six teams still playing right now.

“This is the best-hitting team I’ve ever had. My first five guys in the lineup, four of them are going D1. My big hitters are Gabe Sotres, my catcher who is going to Michigan State. Tito Flores, a junior and my No. 2 hitter in the lineup, has multiple offers, then my third hitter is junior third baseman Jack Orlowski, who committed as a sophomore to Michigan State. My fourth hitter is Reese Trahey, my center fielder who is going to Michigan State as well. Mac Menard, another all-league guy, hits fifth in the lineup and he’ll be playing football at Butler.”

Orlowski is hitting .400; Trahey .395, Flores .385, Sotres .372 and Menard .368. They have combined for 25 home runs with Sotres hitting nine, Trahey seven, Flores five and Orlowski four.

“This is a different team for me,” Riker said. “Normally we pitch and play defense. I’m not saying we’re shy pitching, but I don’t have a dominant guy. This year we go by committee, but our lineup as far as scoring runs is the best I’ve probably ever had in my career, and I’ve been coaching since 1990.”

Riker’s ace is senior left-hander Jack Brockhaus (7-1, four saves). J.D. Allen also has pitched well.

Defending Division 1 state champion Saline will be playing in the regional at Southgate against Plymouth while De La Salle, the 2016 state champ, will be competing in the regional at Dakota, playing a noon semifinal against Anchor Bay.

William English (3-1, 1.43 ERA), who was drafted in the fifth round by the Angels earlier this week, could be taking the mound for Detroit Western at noon Saturday in a Division 1 regional semifinal against U-D Jesuit at Grosse Pointe North.