Softball all-star games, in 33rd year, feature several local standouts

C&G Newspapers | Published July 25, 2014

 Warren Regina senior first base Amanda Blok, left, watches first as Lake Orion senior outfielder Kennedi Thomas waits to possibly take off during the 2014 MHSSCA D-1 All-Star Game July 23 at Central Michigan University.

Warren Regina senior first base Amanda Blok, left, watches first as Lake Orion senior outfielder Kennedi Thomas waits to possibly take off during the 2014 MHSSCA D-1 All-Star Game July 23 at Central Michigan University.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Stars on display

The 2014 Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association All-Star games featured a number of players from schools our coverage area.
Here is a listing of those local athletes, their school and which team they played for in the All-Star festivities.

Division 1
• Red Team: Kennedi Thomas, Lake Orion; Becky Corbett, St. Clair Shores Lakeview; Haley Knodell, Sterling Heights Stevenson; coach Steve Corbett, Lakeview.

• White Team: Gabby Schefka, Utica Ford II; Megan Keller, North Farmington High; Cori Mittelbrun, Sally Muller and Sydney Heath, Troy High; Olivia Pellgrito and Amanda Blok, Warren Regina; Brooke Wauters, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore; coach Tom Calnen, Troy High.

Division 2
• White Team: Victoria Bayliss, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep

Division 3
• Red Team: Juliana Aiuto, Madison Heights Bishop Foley; coach John Plosonka, Bishop Foley

• White Team: Lia Evangelista and Emma Nicholas, Grosse Pointe University Liggett

Division 4
• White Team: Amanda Mallino, Sterling Heights Parkway Christian

MOUNT PLEASANT — Troy High softball coach Tom Calnen has done a lot in 23 years as a coach.

He’s a member of the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Coaches Hall of Fame. He won his 500th game in 2014 and serves as president of the MHSSCA.

Calnen holds coaching in three MHSSCA Division 1 softball All-Star games in just as high regards as anything else he’s done as a coach. He coached in his third MHSSCA D-1 All-Star Game July 23 at Central Michigan University. Games featuring D-2, D-3 and D-4 players took place July 23, as well.

Contests took place at Michigan State University in previous years.

Calnen, coach of the D-1 White (visiting) Team and inducted into the MHSSCA Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009, said he gets great joy out of being a part of the festivities and being around such talented, well-rounded young people.

The D-1 game ended in a high-scoring 9-9 tie in eight innings.

“There’s a lot that goes into putting these things on and there are issues sometimes that you have to figure out, but what you get up here and get ready to practice, you see the kids are just studs. And they’re all super kids,” said Calnen, who won his 500th game this past season. “The fact that I get to coach these players and see them walk off the field one more time, it makes a day like this very special.”

Calnen had two players play in the D-1 game — Cori Mittelbrun and Sally Muller. A third, Sydney Heath, was selected to play but sustained an injury and could not compete. Calnen said seeing his players, and everyone else, celebrated is a great thing.

Mittelbrun, playing for the D-1 White team, said playing in the games was a treat after being in attendance for the exhibitions the last three years.

“It was so great,” said Mittelbrun, a four-year starter who will study film at Grand Valley State University. “It was incredible to be a part of a game with so much offense, and it was great to finish in the outfield position I started at as a freshman.”

The D-1 game was special for another reason for Red team coach Steve Corbett, who was the coach of a St. Clair Shores Lakeview team that won a third straight district title this spring.  He got one last chance to coach his daughter, Becky, a four-year starter for the Huskies who hit .585 as a senior and now moves on to Saginaw Valley State University where she will continue her softball career and study occupational therapy.

Becky said she enjoyed the experience of playing in the game and interacting with so many great players, as the all-stars were housed in CMU dorms leading up to the games. She did say, though, that it was sad knowing it would be the last time she got to play for her father.

“This has been the greatest experience. I loved (coaching in this game),” Steve Corbett said. “The players have been great. These games are awesome for the girls to play in. These are the greatest kids to be around. I enjoyed spending some time with my daughter. It was really special to be with her for all of her career through this last game.”

“I’m glad (my dad) got to be here and share the experience with me. It was cool,” Becky said.

A total of 15 local players, kids from schools in C & G Newspapers’ coverage area — 10 in the D-1 game — played in the games. That’s up from 13 in 2013.

The games, open to seniors only, feature about 30 players from each division.

Girls named All-State and All-State honorable mention are automatically invited to the games.

The rest of the rosters are filled out with players named All-Region during the state playoffs.

The games were moved to Central Michigan from Michigan State University. MSU hosted the baseball and softball state finals in June. Hosting additional games would have added wear and tear to the fields in East Lansing, Calnen said.

Warren Regina senior first base Amanda Blok was able to play her last softball game on the campus that she’ll spend the next four years of her life. Blok, playing for the White squad in the D-1 game, will study athletic training at CMU. She said playing in the games was an honor.

“It was so much fun. It was such an honor to be out there with those girls,” Blok said. “It was so much fun getting to know everyone. It was a blast. It gave me a taste of where I’ll be living the next four years.”

The games have stuck around for 33 years. Calnen gave credit to All-Star Chairman Mike Thompson, coach at Frankfort High School, for ensuring the games are played each year.

“He doesn’t really like the accolades, but Mike Thompson has absolutely resurrected this thing. For a few years, we were in trouble,” Calnen said.

“Thompson took the reins, and there’s a lot of people who help him, but for the most part, under his leadership, it’s really become a super thing. We’re playing in nice stadiums like (at Central Michigan University). These players might not have a chance to play in a stadium like this otherwise, so from that aspect, this is great.”

The game was an exhibition, but the players wanted to win.

With the game tied at eight runs apiece, Sterling Heights Stevenson senior utility player Haley Knodell hit a triple in the top of the eighth inning, then scored after a triple by Bay City Western senior shortstop Meredith Rousse to give the Red team a 9-8 lead. Knodell said after crossing home plate she thought that run would be the difference.

“It was all in fun, but I hoped that would have sealed it when I scored,” said Knodell, who will play softball at Macomb Community College next spring. “But we knew we had to go back out in the field and shut (the White team) down.

“This has been so much fun, though, being around people I’ve never met and meeting new people. It’s inspirational — meeting all these athletes from different places. Everything about these games is awesome.”