David Goricki of The Detroit News breaks down the top 10 softball players in Metro Detroit.
Howell — Molly Carney was happy she didn’t have to deal with any near-death experiences prior to the season the way she did a year ago when she escaped serious injury when she was involved in a car accident during spring break in Georgia.
Carney is enjoying her junior season while pitching for Howell, which advanced to the Division 1 state semifinals at Michigan State last season.
Carney had an outstanding freshman season in 2017 when she was 32-3 with a 1.50 ERA to help Howell win the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship while advancing to the regional finals.
But prior to last season, Carney was traveling back from a resort area in Georgia when she was involved in a horrific accident with her mother behind the wheel.
“We were just leaving Tybee Island and a car was rolling in the air and came at us and smashed the front of our car,” Carney said of last year’s crash, which resulted in an ankle injury that sidelined her a few weeks. “I looked up from my phone and the car was spiraling in the air coming right at us.
“My Mom was driving, thank goodness, and she reacted very quickly and pretty much made it the least damaging it could have been. It could have been so much worse. She had a few fractures to her ligaments in her spine, not paralyzed or anything, but she’s still recovering.”
Carney returned to the mound and won 20 games. She took a trip to Notre Dame last November and committed to the Irish. She has a 3.90 GPA.
“I went in November and fell in love with the coaches,” Carney said of her selection of Notre Dame. “Then, I visited the campus and it’s beautiful.”
Carney is pleased with how the team has opened the season.
“This season what we really have at the beginning, which we didn’t have last year until the end, is we’ve got the energy we need and the team camaraderie,” Carney said. “We just fell a little short in that semifinal game last year so it makes us want it even more now. We want it so bad. We have a lot of competitive players who played competitive travel schedules and we’re all in.”
Carney throws in the low 60s. So, what’s her best pitch?
“My rise ball,” Carney said. “I recently switched pitching styles about a year and a half ago so since then my rise ball has just been lethal, especially when I’m going against the best competition. I just feel super confident with it. I also throw a curveball, a change-up and a screwball.”
Carney has had the opportunity to hit this season as well.
“I have been hitting a little bit and I like it,” Carney said. “It’s interesting to see the other side of the plate because I haven’t in past seasons.”
Howell coach Ron Pezzoni has high praise for Carney.
“She had an injury last year, got involved in a car accident and got off to a slow start, then was dominant toward the end of the year,” Pezzoni said. “She throws hard. ...She was clocked at 65 a couple of times in the quarterfinals last year, but she’s usually around 62 or 63.”
2. Hannah Cady, Jr., C, Clarkston
Cady was the National Fastpitch Coaches Association third-team All-American catcher last season. She hit .577 with eight home runs and 52 RBIs while playing well defensively behind the plate.
“She hit really well,” coach Don Peters said. “She’s really smart. She’s extremely competitive and knows how to play the game. She has all the skills, had a walk-off home run against South Lyon earlier this season, just has good bat speed, an excellent arm and can run the bases.”
Cady is a Northwestern commit and is recruited as a shortstop.
3. Sierra Kersten, Jr., 2B/SS, Clarkston
A five-tool player, Kersten is expected to have a big junior year after being plagued by injuries last season, including a concussion.
“She has all the skills you want, throws hard, fields well and blasted one against the wind in right field earlier this season which shows the type of power she has,” Peters said. “She’s 5-foot-10, is extremely athletic and can slap, drag or hit with power.”
Kersten is a Michigan commit.
4. Tessa Nuss, Sr., OF, Lake Orion
Nuss has developed into one of the premier players in the state, hitting .645 from the leadoff spot last season while going 41-for-41 in stolen bases.
“She’s fast and is a great defensive player with an excellent arm,” coach Joe Woityra said. “She can now hit with power from the left side, which makes her hard to defend.”
Nuss will play at Binghamton University next year.
5. AJ Militello, Sr., OF/C, Howell
Militello had an outstanding junior season, hitting .402 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs.
“She has outstanding power and great speed,” Pezzoni said. “She hits in the middle of the order and is a versatile kid where she can play anywhere.”
Militello will play next year at Utah.
6. Lillian Vallimont, Fr., C, Allen Park Cabrini
Vallimont, a freshman phenom, has gotten off to an incredible start, hitting .620 with seven home runs to help Cabrini, which reached the Division 3 quarterfinals last season, get off to an 11-2 start. She is a Northwestern commit.
7. Maddie Gillett, Sr., Utility, Howell
Gillett returns to the lineup after missing her junior year due to an ACL injury. She hit .515 with a school-record 65 RBIs her sophomore year.
“She’s a big, strong athlete who hits with power, hits the ball as hard as anybody, but people don’t realize she runs very well, too,” Pezzoni said. “She has good instincts on the field, can play in the outfield and also at first or third.”
Gillett will play next year at Carson-Newman.
8. Erin Shuboy, Sr., P/1B, Richmond
Shuboy is healthy after suffering a torn ACL in the season opener last year. She was the hero in Richmond’s Division 2 state championship run her freshman year in 2016, throwing a no-hitter in a 2-0 title game win over Vicksburg.
She then posted a 22-3 record (1.75 ERA) her sophomore year to put Richmond back in the state championship game, an extra-innings loss to Ida.
9. Marisa Muglia, Sr., P/1B, Warren Regina
Muglia, who will play next year at Saginaw Valley, had a big junior year both on the mound and at the plate to help Regina reach the state semifinals. She hit .480 with 50 RBIs and had a 13-3 record with a sub-2.00 ERA.
T10. Samantha DiCicco, Sr., SS, Macomb Dakota
DiCicco hit .490 with 34 RBIs to help Dakota earn a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red Division title last season.
“Samantha is the entire package,” coach Dave Prestininzi said. “She has great range defensively with a good arm. She’s a consistent hitter with good power.”
DiCicco will play next year at Central Michigan.
T10. Rachel Everett, So., P/1B, Hartland
Everett enjoyed a strong freshman season, going 19-5 (1.80 ERA, 162 Ks) to lead her team to the Division 1 state championship game.
“She’s a left-hander, throws the ball consistently in the low 60s and moves the ball around the zone very well,” coach Taylor Wagner said.
Others to watch
Sarah Conley, Sr., P, Lake Orion; Skye Grant, Jr., C, Howell; Lena Monteith, Jr., P-INF, South Lyon; Leah Munson, Sr., 2B, Warren Regina; Sam Nagel, Sr., 3B, Hartland; Abbey Tolmie, Jr., 1B, Clarkston; Michaleigh Vallimont, Jr., SS, Allen Park Cabrini; Shea VanScoter, So., SS/P, Richmond; Olivia Warrington, Sr., P, Clarkston; Avery Wolverton, So., 1B/P, Howell; Maddie Zang, Sr., P, Dearborn Divine Child.