When discussing the possibility of winning a league or district championship earlier this season, Center Line coach Ron Thomas said his team was “knocking on the door.”
Those proved to be more than just idle words, as indeed the Panthers (19-10) did capture a district title by defeating Warren Lincoln 1-0 in the championship game June 2. Earlier in the day, Center Line beat St. Clair Shores South Lake 10-0 in a semifinal.
According to Thomas, it is the program’s first district title in approximately 20 years. He has been Center Line’s coach for 12 years, and for Thomas, the opportunity to lay claim to a district championship was well worth the wait.
“We finally got through the door,” he said. “It was a long time in coming. You put your priorities straight, and good things will always happen for you. I think what really motivated them is the fact that we were playing at home. We finally got a chance to host a district this year.
“To get to what we got to, we had to play two of the best teams, and to me that’s a huge accomplishment. With the Lincoln game, being so close to Center Line, it was a big rivalry — there were a lot of people there. The parents, the fans, the student body and just everybody (are) extremely excited over all this.”
Although 22 strikeouts and a couple of shutouts from pitcher Kayla Wilson certainly didn’t hurt the Panthers’ cause, according to Thomas, it was a team effort that allowed Center Line to be the last team standing June 2.
“I want to compliment my whole team,” he said. “Every one of them deserves a lot of credit. It was a very dedicated group of girls. Seven seniors (Stephanie Johnson, Chelsea Dib, Ashlee Nickels, Jenna Mowinski, Chelsea Beres, Lindsay Dial and Amanda Cavanaugh) on the team, and they know what it takes to get there. “
A district championship can go a long way toward helping to sustain or build a strong program, and Thomas is pleased that the Panthers’ accomplishment should help to set the bar high when it comes to the future of the Center Line softball program.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s a major shot in the arm for our program, that’s how I look at it. There’s 15 eighth-graders coming over next year, plus I got three coming back. We got a lot of talent coming up, so hopefully, we should be able to maintain what we’re doing. This is something they want to repeat every year as often as they can.”
Center Line was set to play Melvindale in the opening round game of regionals after press time. Keep up with regional and quarterfinal action on our website at www.candgnews.com.