St. Clair ShoresMay 28, 2014
South Lake softball continues success with second straight division title
By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer
ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores South Lake softball team has gone 24-0 in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division over the last two seasons, capturing division titles in both campaigns.
The Cavaliers (14-3, 12-0 MAC Silver at press time) have won four league titles since 2007, going 70-21 in league play in that span. During that run, the squad has finished below .500 in divisional play just once.
So what’s the secret to the Cavs’ sustained success?
“There’s no secret. We’ve gotten good pitching and played good defense,” South Lake coach Dave Ahearn said May 20.
Ahearn cited the play of standout senior pitcher Sarah Nelson and senior catcher Krista Nannini as vital to the team’s fortunes. Nelson is a four-year starter who shines in the circle and batter’s box, as she also leads the team in hitting. Nannini, who Ahearn said calls a great game behind the plate, bats second in the lineup and does a solid job at moving runners around the bases.
“(Nelson) keeps us in every game, no matter what the competition is,” Ahearn said. “We’ve got a good, experienced catcher in (Nannini). She calls a great game and works really well with (Nelson). With those two out there, we know we can compete with any team that’s on our level.”
The Cavs have gotten contributions from several other players, including junior shortstop Toni Ruthenberg, who is hitting close to .600 from the No. 3 spot. Ahearn said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the play of freshman second base Emily Sturgis, who bats lead-off.
“(Sturgis) has really stepped up. That can be a tough spot for a freshman to ask them to hit there, especially early in the season. She never hit there before, even in summer ball, but she’s adapted and performed really well.”
Nelson, selected as one of 13 players in the USA to play in August in Italy, attributed the team’s success to strong practices and the group being able to work toward one goal.
Ahearn knows the top of his lineup is strong — Sturgis, Nannini, Ruthenberg and Nelson hit 1-4 in the order — but he’s been just as pleased with the play of those at the bottom of the lineup. The Cavs’ coach said his 5-9 hitters have done a good job of drawing walks and advancing runners.
“That’s all it takes sometimes — just getting the bat on the ball, getting on base and setting the table for somebody else,” Ahearn said. “I’ve been really pleased with everybody because we have a lot of girls who’ve never played before they got here.
“My entire outfield had never played before. But to their credit, they’ve committed themselves to learning the game and working hard, and I’ve got some great coaches helping me out.”
Nelson said the improvement of the more inexperienced players comes in part from watching the veterans. She also said the veterans have done a good job of taking on leadership roles and taking the younger players under their wing.”
Those improvements will have to continue, as the Cavs begin the postseason with a Division 2 district semifinal against the winner of a Detroit Osborn/Warren Lincoln matchup. First pitch of the semi is set for 10 a.m. May 31 at Center Line. The district final takes place at 1:30 p.m. May 31 at Center Line.
Going into the playoffs, Ahearn said his team will work on bunting and not giving opposing teams extra outs.
Nelson is confident heading into the playoffs.
“I’m flattered the coaches and my teammates have so much confidence in me, but I need them just as much,” Nelson said. “We’re all just working together, and things have gone well for us.”