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Utica, Sterling Heights

June 6, 2012

Stevenson softball reflects on successful regular season

By Jon Malavolti
C & G Sports Writer

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Stevenson’s softball team won a share of the MAC Red Division title this past regular season.

Utica Stevenson’s softball team displayed an extra flair for the dramatic this past regular season and wrapped up a title that was a long time coming.

Stevenson, which entered postseason play after press time, won a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red Division title on the final day of league play.

“We were very focused,” senior Jessica Berner said. “We knew that we had to settle down and get focused. This is our first MAC Red title in 28 years, so we were going to go hard all the way.”

The Titans clinched a share of the title with a 4-1 win at Romeo High May 22. Stevenson split the division lead with Romeo after sweeping the Bulldogs in this series but dropping a pair of other games.

“We lost our first MAC Red game of the year. The team rebounded well, and we won five or six in a row until we had another little hiccup,” Stevenson coach Tony Misuraca said. “And that meant we had to beat Romeo twice to give ourselves any chance, and fortunately, we did. We won out and beat Romeo at their place the last game of the regular season to tie them for the championship.”

After the long wait, the Titans are fine with tying for the title.

“We were very excited,” Berner said. “It would have been better to win the whole thing, but it’s still a great feeling.”

Stevenson can take solace from going 10-2 in the “tough league.”

“You never know with the MAC Red,” junior pitcher Alyssa Huntley said. “The team that finishes last can always beat you. It’s tough, because all the teams are really talented. They all have talented players.”

Misuraca was proud of the way the squad, 22-9 overall heading into the playoffs, rebounded from the regular-season losses.

“The team played well,” he said. “They stayed together; they jelled together. I couldn’t ask for more out of them. It’s been a wonderful group to coach.”

The coach noted that the squad excelled this season despite losing a pair of key four-year varsity members from last year.

“I told the girls, everyone needs to pick it up 10-15 percent extra to offset the loss of two super seniors, and everyone did step up that, or more,” he said. “It’s been a total team effort. A few surprises — players that we thought would be good were better than we thought. So everyone just stepped it up a notch and picked up their part of the deal a little bit, and it really was just fun watching them all improve as the season kept going.”

Huntley emphasized her team’s hard-work ethic in ending the title drought.

“We’re really hard workers. I think that got us really far,” she said. “We’re always doing extra practice, always working. It was time. It was a long time. This is one of the best teams that Stevenson has ever had.”

Berner noted the squad’s balance as a major key.

“Not only are our bats strong, but our defense is pretty solid,” she said.

Finally, Misuraca said the tough non-league and league opponents set Stevenson up for success.

“We play one of the hardest schedules around,” the coach said. “We played in three really good tournaments, and out of our 31 games, 17 have been against teams in the state rankings. You get better playing better teams. It just puts you in tough situations you might not see if you were mercying somebody.

“It just makes the team that much better.”

Falcons win, bow out
Utica Ford II’s softball team also won a regular-season division title, taking home the MAC White crown with a 9-3 league record. But the Falcons’ year came to an end when they fell 7-3 May 29 in a district playoff opener against Chippewa Valley.

Check back on our website for playoff updates and photos, and visit www.mhsaa.com for regional pairings and schedules.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jon Malavolti at jmalavolti@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040. Twitter Follow Jon on Twitter.