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Softball Top 25 Team Preview: Mattawan, Dakota and Midland own top 3 spots

Softball   | Tom Markowski

Softball Top 25 Team Preview: Mattawan, Dakota and Midland own top 3 spots

1.Mattawan (32-9), Division 1: The Wildcats always seem to be at or near the top. They lost in a state semifinal last season and they return seven starters. Coach Alicia Smith begins her 20th season and she has five seniors on what is a team with fine depth. Joanna Bartz (3B) and Alexis Taube (SS) are the mainstays, the best of friends and unquestionable leaders. Bartz signed with Michigan State, Taube with Kent State. Emily Koperdak is one of the top pitchers in the class of 2018. A starter since her freshman season, Koperdak is a good base runner and when not on the mound she’ll play second base. Meaghan Markus, a four-year starter, will play center field and could see time on the mound. Smith will rely on her underclassmen quite a bit. Two freshmen are on varsity and sophomore Maddie Duell will start at catcher.

2.Macomb Dakota (38-3), Div. 1: Coach Rick Fontaine returns 10 of his 14 varsity players from a team that reach their first state final. Kendahl Dunford was 35-3 and is one of the state’s top three or four pitchers. Four-year player Kattie Popko will move to second base after playing in the outfield. Corbin Hison (SS) is a three-year starter who batted .426 as a sophomore. Julia Salisbury (1B) will bat cleanup and junior Arieanna Grannatico will start behind the plate. “We’re shaping up,” Fontaine said. “We’re younger but our hitting should be the same as we were last season.”

3.Midland (36-8), Div. 1: Coach Kevin Allen returns all but two players from last season’s state semifinalist team. There’s balance but Maya Kipfmiller is a special player. A four-year starter, Kipfmiller is again the ace of the staff. She batted .664 and has good velocity on her rise ball. Kipfmiller has a 4.5 grade-point average and she signed with Boston University. Twins Julie (SS) and Tara (2B) are a tremendous double play combination, and both signed with Northwood. Junior catcher Nicole Miller committed to Northwood. Julian Elmer (3B) will back up Kipfmiller on the mound and junior Allison Gray (CF) is a three-year varsity player. A number of role players will contribute including the speedy Sydney Coppens (OF). “We’re a deeper team,” Allen said.  “One weakness last year was our speed. We’re faster this year.”

4.Escanaba (37-3), Div. 2: The Eskymos lost in a state semifinal and return six quality starters. Katie Ross (1B) is the ace of the staff and she’ll play at Ferris State next season. Freshman Gabi Salo will also see time on the mound. Emily Bruntjens (CF) is a three-year player and she’s a left-handed who puts the ball in play. She’ll play at Olivet Nazarene (IL) next season. Coach Jamie Segorski’s daughter, Taylor (C), is a three-year starter who has a quick release. Jerrika McAlpine (LF), like Bruntjens, is a left-handed slap hitter who puts pressure on the defense. She’ll attend Lakeland (WI) College in the fall. Junior Taylor Gauthier (SS) is the team’s best all-around athlete. She plays tennis, basketball and is a state champion figure skater.  

5.Allen Park (32-6), Div. 1: The Jaguars lost to Mattawan in a quarterfinal and return seven starters, six of whom are seniors. Sammi Howell is a three-year starter on the mound and she signed with Central Michigan. Howell was 22-4 last season and is probably Allen Park’s best player but there’s an abundance of talent. Carlie Magier (SS) will bat leadoff and Hailey Genaw (1B) is a power hitter and will bat third. Sophomore Allysa Lake (C) is coming off of a solid season. Other top seniors include outfielders Izzy Slate and Olivia Labut. “We’re hungry,” coach Patsy Curnell said. “We’ve had a taste of success. I’m excited.”

6.Caledonia (27-9), Div. 1: The Fighting Scots could be a year away from reaching the state semifinals and seriously challenging for a state title. Youth could be a drawback but there is experience. Sammie Gehrls experienced a bit of the sophomore jinx last season after breaking onto the scene as a freshman. Look for Gehrls to be again one of the top pitchers in the state. Senior Maddie Wise will also see time on the mound. Four sophomores will contribute significantly. Shortstop Brooklyne Siewertsen hit 13 home runs on the junior varsity last season. Jaden Huyser (3B) and Ashleigh Zytveld (2B) both started last season, and catcher Taylor Cross will see her first varsity action. Junior Lauren Kimes (1B-C-OF) is versatile. 

7.Saginaw Sawn Valley (39-3), Div. 2: After losing to Escanaba in a quarterfinal Swan Valley returns eight starters including one of the top catchers in the class of 2017 Becca Curtis. Curtis hit. 500 last season and she signed with Lansing Community College. Juniors Callie Burgess (23-1) and Kalynn Gulliver will share time on the mound. Gulliver hit eight home runs last season and she committed to Ferris State. Lauren Addy (SS) is an all-around athlete. She started at point guard on the basketball team and she hit .570 with 89 stolen bases. Grace Dutoy (OF) hit eight home runs last season and she signed with Northwood. Maddy McLeod, who signed with Ferris State, will move to first base after playing third and the outfield, and Ashley Danilowicz (CF) is perhaps the fastest player on the team. “Offensively and defensively this is the best team I’ve had in 38 years,” coach Tom Kennelly said. “Most are three- and two-sport athletes.” 

8.Grandville (28-9), Div. 1: The Bulldogs won a district title and ran away with the O-K Red Division title by finishing 14-1. Grandville has seven qualities players left over from last year’s squad and of the 14 players, six are seniors. Ellie Muilenburg was 17-3 as a junior and she should be good to go following knee surgery. She signed with Davenport. The entire infield is back led by all-state shortstop Nikoma Holmen. Kai Pommer was third on the team in runs scored and will pitch until Muilenburg is 100 percent. Kaitlyn Orme (1B/OF) is a junior who hits left-handed and Calli Gibson (3B) is a power hitter who will bat cleanup.  

9.Farmington Hills Mercy (43-2), Div. 1: The defending state champs have plenty of pop to warrant a return trip to