David Goricki of The Detroit News breaks down the top 10 softball teams in Metro Detroit.
Clarkston plans to make a return trip to Michigan State to play for the Division 1 state championship after failing to reach the state finals last season, despite a 39-3 record.
Coach Don Peters’ team reached MSU in 2017, losing in the state championship game, but lost to Hartland in the state quarterfinals last year.
Clarkston is loaded with talent, bringing back seven starters, including junior catcher Hannah Cady (Northwestern), senior pitcher Olivia Warrington (Detroit Mercy), junior first baseman Abbey Tolmie (Central Michigan), junior second base Sierra Kersten (Michigan) and senior outfielder Anna Skvarce.
“The strength of our team is a tossup between hitting and defense,” Peters said. “The girls can flat-out hit the ball 1-through-9, there’s no where in the lineup where teams can take it easy.”
And, Peters loves his pitching with Warrington on the mound.
“She throws hard and has great focus when the pressure is on,” Peters said of Warrington, who throws in the low 60s. “Tolmie’s defensive skills are off the charts and Kersten has a very strong arm.”
2. Howell (29-11, Division 1)
Eight starters return from a team which advanced to the state semifinals, along with Maddie Gillett who missed last season due to an ACL injury after setting a school-record with 65 RBIs along with a .515 average her sophomore season.
Howell is led by junior pitcher Molly Carney, along with senior outfielder/catcher AJ Militello (Utah) and sophomore first baseman/pitcher Avery Wolverton. Militello hit .402 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs.
Other key contributors include lead-off hitter Maddy Heilner (.392), sophomore shortstop Madi Springer (.405) and junior catcher Skye Grant, a Northern Illinois commit.
3. Allen Park Cabrini (30-10, Division 3)
Coach Debbie Norman enters her 20th year and only has a dozen players in her program — no junior varsity team — but the talent is there for another long run come June.
Cabrini returns nine starters from a state quarterfinal team, including juniors Michaleigh Vallimont (shortstop), Vivianna Gonzalez (pitcher/infield), Emma DelCotto (outfielder), Mackenzie Schick (third base) and Caleigh Muglia (first base).
Cabrini opened the season with an 11-2 record, including a 2-1 record against defending Catholic League champion Warren Regina, with freshman catcher Lillian Vallimont, a Northwestern commit, leading the team in hitting (.620, seven home runs) and her older sister, Michaleigh at .538 with four homers.
Sophomore Mackenzie Noah joins Gonzalez to handle the pitching duties.
The lone seniors are outfielder Madison Buerkle and Madelyn Kugelman.
4. Warren Regina (25-8, Division 1)
Legendary coach Diane Laffey — the state’s winningest coach — guided Regina to the Catholic League title and a run to the Division 1 state semifinals, a 1-0 loss to eventual state champion Caledonia.
Regina returns the majority of last year’s team, including starters in pitcher/first baseman Marisa Muglia, second baseman Leah Munson, catcher Sam Rhodes, catcher Megan Maiuri, outfielder/pitcher Miranda Nicholas, outfielder/pitcher Jacqueline Jozefczyk and first baseman Megan Sikora.
Muglia, who will play next year at Saginaw Valley State, hit .480 with 50 RBIs and had a 13-3 record with a sub-2.00 ERA. Munson, who will play next year at Toledo, hit .490 with 42 RBI and Nicholas, near .500.
“We got off to a 10-4 record this season,” Laffey said. “We have a significant newcomer in Abby Hornberger, a freshman shortstop.”
5. Lake Orion (32-7, Division 1)
Lake Orion returns eight seniors, including seven starters, led by center fielder and lead-off hitter Tessa Nuss (.645, 41-for-41 stolen bases), third baseman Paytin Shadaia, catcher Hailey Melchert, right fielder Abbey Maresh (Northwood) and Kim Sosnowski.
Lake Orion also has a transfer in senior pitcher Sarah Conley from Kansas who throws in the 60s and has opened the season with a 5-0 record, striking out 45 in 21 innings.
6. South Lyon (28-7, Division 1)
Junior pitcher Alexis Bonk is among eight returning starters from a team that advanced to the regional championship game, losing in extra innings to Hartland.
Bonk, a Wayne State commit, hit .452 with 43 RBIs and was 17-5 on the mound with a 1.88 ERA, striking out 199 in 137 innings last season. Junior pitcher/infielder Lena Monteith — a Central Michigan commit — hit .403 last season with six home runs and 47 RBI.
Other key contributors are junior catcher Olivia Vitale, a Saginaw Valley commit, shortstop Madalyn Keller (.438, 11 triples, 36 RBI), junior left fielder Kendra Blackie and Kinsey Mally.
7. Richmond (26-8, Division 2)
Richmond returns seven seniors from a team that lost to Dearborn Divine Child in the state quarterfinals.
Legendary coach Howard Stuart, who picked up his 1,000th career win last season, is happy to have senior pitcher/first baseman Erin Shuboy, who tore her ACL in the season opener last year.
Shuboy was the hero her freshman year (16-3, 1.05 ERA, 191 Ks) in leading Richmond to the state title in 2016 with a no-hitter in a 2-0 state title game win over Vicksburg, then was 22-3 her sophomore year (1.75 ERA) to help her team reach the state title game again, losing to Ida in extra innings. Shuboy throws 62 mph and hit two home runs in a game earlier this season.
Sophomore Shea VanScoter (shortstop/pitcher) hit a walk-off two-run homer for the difference in a season-opening 3-2 win over North Branch. She hit .426 with eight home runs and 56 RBIs last season. Ashley Teltow, who was the ace of the staff last season, also returns, as does junior center fielder/catcher Paige Tomson (.491, 31 RBI).
8. Hartland (33-6, Division 1)
Former Eastern Michigan player Taylor Wagner takes over as head coach and has five starters returning from last year’s state runner-up team.
Hartland will be led by hard-hitting third baseman Sam Nagel (.492, 48 RBI), catcher Brooke Cowan, along with sophomores Kelsey Zampa (right fielder) and shortstop Delaney Robeson (.430, 47 RBI).
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Rachel Everett also returns after pitching during the state tournament run. She was 19-5 with a 1.80 ERA, striking out 162.
9. Macomb Dakota (24-8, Division 1)
The co-Macomb Area Conference Red Division champs return four starters led by Central Michigan-bound shortstop Samantha DiCicco (.490, 34 RBI), Harvard-bound center fielder Lauren Bobowski and third baseman Katie Courneya (Lawrence Tech).
Savana Erb (11-5) and junior Emma Flattery (5-0) will share the pitching duties.
10. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Shortstop Kara Thornton and junior catcher Lauren Koenig are among the returning starters, along with sophomores Elena Schwegman, Ella Easterwood (outfielder) and Meagahn Orlowski (outfielder/pitcher). Jordan Smith handles the pitching duties with help from Koenig and Orlowski.
Notre Dame Prep is off to a 10-2 start this season with Koenig going 6-for-6 in a doubleheader sweep of Birmingham Marian last week, scoring five runs and knocking in seven runs.
Others to watch
Canton, Carleton Airport, Chippewa Valley, Dearborn Divine Child, Detroit Country Day, Farmington Hills Mercy, Flat Rock, Garden City, Lakeland, New Baltimore Anchor Bay.