2018-07-11 / Sports

2018 All-County Softball Team

BY DALE BALL
SPORTS EDITOR

It has not been unusual to see the Sanilac County News’ All-County Softball Team having large, double digit numbers on the the First Team.

SCN has selected 18 players to the First Team this year, matching the number on the 2016 squad. The 2017 version had a list of 16. In another recent season – 17.

Those numbers are a testament to the quality of softball played in the county.

Leading off this past springs’ choices are a pair of three-time AC members – McKenzie Wilhelmsen of Marlette and Haley Nelson of Sandusky.

Wilhelmsen, who could play first base, plus also see time at pitching and catching, turned in a .557 BA and an on base % of .645. She finished with 16 extra base hits, walked 22 times, and drove in 18 runs this season.

“McKenzie will play for Lansing Community College (next spring). She was a threat against our opponents both in the field and at the plate. We will miss her bat next season,” commented Sarah Kady, Marlette coach.

Sandusky’s Nelson was the team’s No. 1 pitcher this spring and provided much of the work there all season long. However, she was also a gifted shortstop who also batted .458 on the season. A four-year varsity player, Nelson had a career average of .445. Defensively, in 30 games, this year, she committed just two errors.

Coach Danny Franzel talked about Nelson’s overall impact.

“When she wasn’t pitching, she was a great shortstop. Haley was a great player and teammate. She is a leader on and off the field and was a force to be reckoned in all three of her sports (basketball, volleyball, along with softball).”

The perfect complement in the line-up with Wilhelmsen at Marlette was senior Halle Reed (3B/OF). She actually led the Lady Raiders in batting (.623), slugging percentage (.981), home runs (7) and RBI (31).

Coach Kady commented: “She will play at Delta College …. and has a very bright future ahead of her. She was willing to step up and play any place we needed her, and did it effortlessly. She has a love of the game that shows every time she takes the field.”

Perhaps the most potent bat in the county this past season belonged to Sandusky’s Taylor Calkins. While batting .510 overall, the Redskin junior supplied lots of power. She had nine home runs on the season, with five coming in the districts and regionals. Calkins played shortstop when Nelson was pitching and also handled second base duties.

“Taylor plays a great middle infield and works very hard to get better in every practice and every off-season,” remarked Coach Franzel.” (Offensively), Taylor knows how to put things together in a clutch spot, and that makers her dangerous at all times.”

There are not many players in the area that have the all-around toughness as Brown City’s Zoe Matthews. The junior catcher was the Lady Devils’ leading hitter, batting 509, which included 18 extra base hits (15 2b) and driving in 45 runs. She also handled the duties behind the plate.

Coach Jeff Pitts praised her effort this spring. “Zoe was the heart and soul of our ball club. She played through pain all year at catcher after a hip injury in the off-season. She still threw out eight base runners and also really blossomed into a leader.”

Another repeat performer on the All-County squad is Deckerville’s Madisyn Guza. The versatile Lady Eagle batted .579 in the 2018 campaign, added 43 runs scored, 20 RBI, collected 15 walks and struck out just four times. While she split time playing the infield and outfield, Guza also pitched just over 33 innings this past spring and struck out 34.

Lexi Crenshaw was a starter as a sophomore for Brown City a year ago. This spring, though, she turned into one of the team’s top players. She batted .464 for the ’18 campaign and led the team with 10 home runs, 49 RBI,, 14 doubles, and two triples.

“Lexi improved tremendously,” pointed out Coach Pitts. “She has so much raw power and had some huge hits for us. And, playing centerfield, she improved as a fielder. It was a great all-around year.”

Versatility describes Peck’s Abbey Bullis. The Pirate junior did some pitching out of necessity but was stellar at shortstop this spring after making the move from catcher a year ago. The team’s lead-off batter, she finished with a .419 BA. Among her 26 hits were 10 doubles and a triple (plus walked 16 times). Bullis also scored 35 runs and batted in 12.

“Abbey is very coachable and a humble player that is never satisfied with her performance and is always looking for ways to improve,” remarked Shelley Bullis, Peck assistant coach. “She is a very dedicated athlete ….. and an all-around player, and great leader on and off the field.”

One other Lady Eagle standouts this spring was senior catcher/shortstop/ outfielder Emma Morningstar. Another two-time selection for A-C honors, the Lady Eagle senior finished the ’18 campaign with a .427 batting average, including 10 extra base hits, 32 runs scored and 27 RBI. Impressive, also, was that she struck out just twice in 82 at-bats.

Christi Pavlovics, Deckerville, coach was unavailable for comment on the Guza and Morningstar prior to deadline.

A big spark on the Sandusky Redskins this spring came at third base from Danielle Franzel. The ‘Skins junior not only had an explosive bat, but she also handled the play at third base very efficiently this spring. Offensively, Franzel batted .448, including 16 extra base hits (2 HR, 14 2b).

The Sanilac County News’ choice for Coach of the Year is Sarah Kady of Marlette.

The Lady Raiders ended a stretch of losing seasons in the GTC East this spring and won the division title with a 7-3 mark

Coach Franzel, Danielle’s dad, commented: “We moved her to the 2nd position, offensively) in the postseason. In the districts had a double and single before putting a three-run homer over centerfield fence. At third base, she put it all together and showed off her arm, and her competitiveness.”

Joining the two-time All-County players on the squad this season is Brown City’s Alexis Wiltse. A junior, who plays third base, she put together a .467 BA and added two homers, 27 RBI, scored 43 runs and stole 16 bases.

“She is our two hitter and really makes our offense go,” pointed out Coach Pitts. “She can bunt, steal a base, hit it up the gap, and supplies some power, too. We’re very lucky to have her for another year.”

Paige Levitt, a senior outfielder for Sandusky, stepped up her game this past season. Batting in the lead-off spot, she turned in a batting average of .474, which was boosted when she hit. 650 in the team’s last six contests.

“Paige was a very aggressive player, but learned how to be patient at the plate when she had to, and she was aggressive early when the time called for it,” said Coach Franzel.

Stepping into the starting line-up as a junior was Maddison Winiarski of Sandusky. Defensively, she played leftfield and, offensively, she wielded a big bat. She sparked the ‘Skins at the plate with a crazy .587 BA. Along with some power (2 HR, 7 2b), she showed patience, walking 11 times this season.

Coach Franzel commented on Winiarski: “Maddison worked very hard this season to make herself a better player and teammate. She always put others before herself and is willing to help out in a pinch.”

One of the few seniors on the Brown City Green Devils roster was Erica Troia. Another repeat choice on All-County, the Green Devil infielder closed out her career by batting .436 on the season. She showed some power with two home runs while collecting 25 RBI and scoring 42 runs.

“Erica finished off a great two-year career. She had to battle a knee injury all year, but really worked to improve, offensively and defensively,” commented Coach Pitts.

Also being chosen for the All- County First Team are Croswell- Lexington’s Haley Matthews and Devyn Gordon. Overall stats were not available and the Pioneers’ head coach failed to respond.

Matthews, a junior, was All-BWAC this spring and was an All-County HM a year ago as a shortstop, but moved to the catcher position.

Meanwhile, Gordon, also a junior and another All-BWAC player, was new to the varsity this season and handled first base duties. She is also a standout athlete in volleyball and basketball.

Chosen as Coach of the Year for 2018 is Sarah Kady of Marlette.

The Lady Red Raiders had not posted a winning season in the GTC East in several years, but they did that handily this spring. Marlette finished 7-3 in the division, following only Ubly, which went 10-0.

Kady said she was stunned to be given the honor.

“I was shocked by this and feel very humbled,” she began. “I have always had a love for softball and it has been both a pleasure and a challenge to try to bring our softball program back to life. As a coaching staff and team, we have talked a lot about bringing respect back to the Marlette softball program and the girls certainly stepped up to that challenge this season. Not only did they challenge themselves individually, but also as a team as a hole.”

Coach Kady later added, “It is my goal to be able to reach all my players and build a relationship with them that will last, both on and off the field. I want this because this is the experience I had with my coaches, and it had such a big impact on my life. And, I certainly could not have done this without the help of from my coaching assistants – Dave Wilhelmsen and Nichole Hunter.”

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