In Play with Tom Markowski

Top 15 Preseason Softball Teams - Ladywood, a Division 2 finalist last season, ranked No. 1

Softball   | Tom Markowski

State Champs! Sports Network

 

Livonia – Scott Combs doesn’t concern himself with wins and losses in April and early May.

Combs is entering his seventh season as head coach at Livonia Ladywood and last season his team reached the Division 2 final before losing to Stevensville Lakeshore, 4-3.

Ladywood also reached the Catholic League A-B Division final before it lost to Farmington Hills Mercy.

The Blazers were 29-14 last season and lost just one senior to graduation. They have been named State Champs’ No. 1 team in the preseason.

“I don’t worry about our record,” Combs said. “Our priority is the end of May. We only play Division 1 teams. We always try to play up (in levels of competition). It’s our schedule that gets us ready.”

Combs estimates that seven or eight of his players will play at the collegiate level, either Division I or Division II.

Ladywood doesn’t have one superstar. It is a team that’s well-balanced and experienced.

Roz Price is a junior and returns as the team’s top pitcher. Michaela Warner is back behind the plate and Rachel Hendrickson returns in center field.

Other top players are outfielders Morgan Larkin and Christina Meyer, and second baseman Erika Selakowski.

2. Utica Ford (30-9), D-1: The Falcons return nine players from a team that lost to Portage Central, 1-0, in the semifinals. It was a remarkable season given the fact that five freshmen started. One of those, Nikki Sorgi, will again be the No. 1 pitcher. Sorgi doesn’t overwhelm batters. She has great location and is a tremendous competitor. Her sister Alex, is a senior outfielder who bats leadoff. The elder Sorgi is the table setter. Alex bats left-handed and places a lot of pressure on defenses with her speed. Sophomore Gabby Dobroczynski (C/SS) bats cleanup and she has shown she can hit in the clutch. Outfielders Kayla Boland and Rachel Chriss, and Leah Oldham (C/1B) are all four-year players. Sophomore Emily Karas is the No. 2 pitcher and is a tremendous defensive player at first base.    

3. Portage Central (43-4), D-1: The good news is Central returns nine players from a team that reached the state final, and it has one of the state’s top players in Brooke Wyman (SS/P). On the downside Central lost its top pitcher and four other seniors who made an impact. Wyman will likely share time on the mound with junior Hannah McQueen (3B) who pitched quite a bit last season. Senior Amber Foerster will move from left to centerfield and junior Meredith Adams (1B) was an all-state selection. Look for Madyson Cole to contribute in a variety of ways. Cole started in the outfield as a freshman and she will likely play the infield as well.   

4. Clarkston (26-13), D-1: The Wolves lost in the districts last season and lost two seniors to graduation. This team is heavy on experience and Rachel Vieira (SS) tops the list. She was named all-state the past two seasons and she’ll hit third in the lineup. Catcher Abby Skvarce is a junior and a three-year starter. Vieira signed with Central Michigan; Skvarce committed to Michigan. Mikayla Blaska (2B) led the team with a .509 batting average. She will attend and play at Princeton in the fall. Candace Kitchen hit .447 last season and she returns as the No. 1 pitcher. Maddy Scarsella (3B) hit .367 and she solidifies the infield defensively.

5. Bay City Western (41-3), D-1: The defending state champions lost four seniors to graduation plus they’ll have a new coach in Kris Popp. Popp’s daughter, Kelsie (2B), is a junior and one of the team’s top players. Senior Blair Miller will be the ace of the staff and she saw time on the mound last season. Freshman Kristie Gray (1B) is expected to be the No. 2 pitcher and senior Leah Vandervort returns behind the plate. Maddie Brewer (CF) and Melissa Wegner (3B) add punch to the lineup. This is a young team (five sophomores) but the program is rock solid.   

6. Romeo (31-8), D-1: The Bulldogs had one of the program’s best season in 2014 as they won the Macomb Area Conference Red Division and reached the state semifinals. On the downside Romeo graduated five seniors including its starting pitcher, Taylor Weaver (now at Central Michigan). Seniors Erin Barg (3B), Kayla Noch (C) and Danni Szajna (1B) are the leaders this season, on the field and off. Barg batted .379 with eight home runs and she signed with Western Michigan. Noch hit .438 with 15 doubles and she signed with Central Michigan. Szajna hit .426 and she signed with Oakland University. Four other starters are back but much of the success of this team rides on how well senior Dana Lewis and sophomore Madisyn Collins fill in for the departed Weaver.

7. Midland Bullock Creek (30-9), D-2: Nine plyers return including seven starters from a team that got bounced in the first round of the districts. Much depends on the success senior Shelby Bailey (2B) and junior Megan Robinette (3B) have on the mound. They’ll likely split time there. Bailey was the No. 2 pitcher last season. Rylie Kalina (SS) started as a freshman and has already committed to Davenport. Senior Sabrina Farrell (CF) and junior Ellie Juengel (SP??) have experience and the ability to come through in the clutch.

8. Lake Orion (31-9), D-1: Eleven players return from a team that lost to Romeo in a regional final. Senior Alex Carpenter (CF/3B) batted .495 last season with 57 runs scored. Junior Sierra Gonzalez returns as the team’s ace and Rachel Dolland (SS) has a terrific arm defensively and she can hit with power. Megan Hall (1B) is one of the team leaders and she can hit (.404 last year). Carly McGee (3B) hit .458 last year and bats leadoff. Look for sophomore Shelby Misiak to get her reps on the mound.

9. Caledonia (36-3), D-1: The Fighting Scots lost to Hudsonville, 1-0, in the regionals and they return five seniors. Two of their top players are juniors. Taylor Van Zytveld was 42-0 at the junior varsity level and she’ll be the ace of the staff. Ashley Cross (CF) hit .490 last season. The top seniors are McKenzie Butgereit (3B), Hannah Horvath () and left-hand hitting Ashley Miller (SS). Butgereit signed with Muskegon Community College and Horvath hit .440 last season. Catcher Lexi Lieske is a junior and she’s familiar with Van Zytveld having played on the junior varsity with her. Look for freshman Sammie Gehrls to contributed significantly in the field (OF/IF) and on the mound.        

10. Utica Eisenhower (31-9), D-1: The Eagles return 14 players including eight starters. Kayla Laquiere (SS/3B) and Sydni Culps are the top two players and coach Bob Hall will count on these two to be his leaders. Both batted over .500 last season. Laquiere signed with Dayton; Culps with Northwood. Culps will switch from first base to catcher. Junior Natalie O’Reilly return as the ace of the staff and Sarah Wojcik is back in center. Rachel Sauber will move to first base after starting at third. Madison Ten Hopen will play third and Brianna Jodzis returns at second. Hall’s daughter, Victoria, is a utility player who missed much of last season due to a back injury. 

11. Farmington Hills Mercy (), D-1: Alec Lesko takes over as head coach and has the luxury of coaching the state’s top player, Alex Sobczak (3B/C), in her senior season. Junior Abby Krzywiecki (1B) was the No. 1 pitcher last season and she committed to South Alabama. Outfielder Molly Murphy is the team captain and she’ll attend Emory (GA) University and play there. The Marlins lost four position players from a team that won the Catholic League title. Much will depend on how well Keri Padula, who started at third base last season, handles the catching duties. The sophomore class is strong and one, Shannon Gibbons, will start at shortstop. 

12. Southgate Anderson (23-15), D-1: The Titans won their second consecutive district and they lost four seniors to graduation but only one was a starter. This group is laden with a strong group of upperclassmen. Junior Mikayla Alexandrou returns as the ace of the staff and she committed to Saginaw Valley State.  Katelyn Shivel (1B) is the all-important vocal leader of this group. Fellow senior Allison Ortman (C) provides the punch in the lineup at cleanup. Ortman batted .505 last season and has led the team in home runs the past two seasons. Junior Haley Pitcher covers a lot of ground in centerfield and freshman Raechel Carroll will find a spot in the lineup, whether at third base or giving Alexandrou a rest on the mound.

13. St. Clair (26-9), D-2: Nine players return including six seniors from a team that won a district title. How far the Saints go in the tournament and how well they fair in the highly competitive Macomb Area Conference Red Division depends on the play of four seniors – Chelsea Schweiger (CF), Avery Humes (3B), Miranda Greig (1B/P) and Hannah Gomola (P/DP). All have committed or signed with a college or university. Taylor Westrick returns behind the plate and Maddie Gapshies is a superb utility player. “These kids are easy to coach,” said coach Kevin Mahn. “They are knowledgeable about the game, and they can hit.”  

14. St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (22-12), D-1: The Shorians lost to Utica Ford in the regionals in extra innings and lost three starters to graduation. Sophomore Sarah Ratledge will be the ace of the staff and the best player is Mackenzie Nemitz. Nemitz is a four-year starter at shortstop. She hit .566 last season before signing with Michigan. Andrea Rico (1B) is another four-year varsity player who will likely see some time on the mound. Juniors Jordan Miler (C) and Natalie Van Der Haegen (CF) are three-year varsity players.

15. Warren Regina (17-14), D-1: The Saddlelites, like Lake Shore, lost to Utica Ford in the regionals in extra innings and they return their top two pitchers and five position players. Marissa Tiano, who signed with Northwood, will share time on the mound with junior Nicole Roeske. Catcher Gina Munson signed with Central Michigan after batting .385 last season. Riley Hison returns at shortstop and Lauren Bukowski (CF) is one of three outfielders returning. Regina will absorb some losses playing a difficult schedule but it’ll be ready when the tournament starts.