This could be considered the year of the elite freshman in Michigan high school sports with Emoni Bates leading Ypsilanti Lincoln to the Division 1 boys basketball state championship last month as the nation’s top player in the 2022 class.
The spring season also showcases multiple freshmen phenoms, including Orchard Lake St. Mary’s outfielder and first baseman Nolan Schubart and Allen Park Cabrini catcher Lillian Vallimont.
Schubart (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) is big and strong at age 14, hitting three home runs in the first 12 games.
“Things have been going great,” Schubart said of playing his freshman year on OLSM’s varsity team. “I love this team, love the atmosphere. The guys have been great and we’re playing well. I feel my big strength is hitting.”
OLSM’s spring break was this past week and longtime head coach Matt Petry took advantage by putting together a road trip through Ohio. It started with Monday’s 12-0, 5-1 sweep of Toledo Catholic Central, followed by a 2-0 win Tuesday over Cleveland St. Ignatius and a 1-1, 11-inning tie Wednesday at Cleveland St. Edwards.
Schubart was hitting a team-high .421 with 10 extra-base hits (three homers, seven doubles) and 19 RBIs following Monday’s sweep of Toledo Catholic Central.
“It’s a good bonding experience for us and gives us a chance to see some different teams, teams we don’t usually play,” Schubart said.
Schubart had a huge growth spurt this past year, going from 6-1, 175 to his current 6-5 frame, growing four inches and putting on 25 pounds.
Schubart mostly plays first base during summer ball while competing for the Louisiana Knights’ 15-16U team and the Motor City Hit Dogs’ 18U.
Schubart has high praise for Petry, who is also his coach with the Hit Dogs.
“He’s taught me a lot, how to be a better man and a better player,” Schubart said. “He’s a really good coach all around.”
And, on his decision to commit to Michigan?
“I committed to Michigan back in November,” Schubart said. “I’ve been a Michigan fan all my life growing up and my older brother goes there too, studying to become a doctor. Michigan has a great coaching staff and I love them.”
OLSM also has a standout freshman pitcher in Brock Porter, who throws 87 mph and has an outstanding change-up. He threw a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in the 12-0, six-inning (mercy-rule) win over Toledo Catholic Central.
“He’s getting various interest from ACC, SEC programs, has an offer from Miami of Florida and Duke’s assistant came and watched him pitch,” Petry said.
OLSM junior left-hander Logan Wood will also play next year at Michigan. Wood is 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA, giving up 11 hits, walking 11 and striking out 60 in 33 innings.
“He’s been outstanding, really his last three or four starts have been outstanding,” Petry said. “He throws 86-89 and has two different types of breaking balls he can throw at any point in the count, which keeps hitters off balance.”
OLSM junior left-hander Anthony Fett threw a one-hitter and struck out six in the 2-0 win over St. Ignatius. The OLSM’s staff gave up just two runs in 31 innings on the Ohio road trip.
Cabrini’s Vallimont bashing
Vallimont is also off to an impressive start, slugging nine homers while hitting a team-leading .690 to help Cabrini to a 14-3 record.
Cabrini coach Debbie Norman knows how fortunate she is to have had two ‘once in a lifetime-type catchers’ with Vallimont joining Amanda Chidester, who played more than a decade ago.
“She’s very dedicated to the game and has an outstanding approach,” Norman said of Vallimont. “A lot of times coaches only come across a player like her once in your coaching career and I’ve been fortunate to see right now two come through."
Chidester hit .730 with 16 homers and 90 RBIs in 2007 when Cabrini won its second straight Division 4 state championship with unbeaten records (39-0 in 2006, 35-0 in 2007), setting a national record when it limited opponents to a single run during the 2007 season.
Norman declined to compare Vallimont to Chidester, who went on to play at Michigan.
“I’m not going to do comparisons,” she said. "There’s a lot of similarities and a little bit of a difference, but they are both on the same page.”
Vallimont has already committed to Northwestern.
Cabrini will host Catholic League rival Dearborn Divine Child on Tuesday.
Saline junior shortstop Noah Nelson has helped Saline get off to a 15-3 start by making things happen from the leadoff spot.
Nelson was hitting .465 with 23 stolen bases and 23 runs scored prior to Saturday’s 3-0 win over Ypsilanti Lincoln and 15-0 rout of Ypsilanti.
“This is my second year starting, just got off to a hot start and my confidence is up on the base paths,” Nelson said. “I just feel I’ve got the timing down with pitchers. I’m timing pitchers really well, kind of clicked with me and that helps.
“My goal is to break the school record, which is 36. (I) feel I have a good chance to do it.”
Saline will play at Ann Arbor Skyline on Monday and then a doubleheader at Detroit Country Day on Saturday.