South Lake softball team goes 12-0 in claiming MAC Silver crown
St. Clair Shores South Lake softball coach Dave Ahearn and his players set a “lofty” goal of going 12-0 in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division, and met that goal to win the league title.
The division title is the first for the Cavaliers since they went back-to-back in 2007 and 2008.
“I knew it was a very lofty goal to set, but the girls never flinched,” said Ahearn, who led South Lake to a 17-1 overall regular-season record in his 19th year with the program. “We took each game as a must-win situation, and even after beating our rival (Clinton Township) Clintondale twice, the team wasn’t satisfied until they finished what they had set out to achieve — an undefeated league season.”
The title comes one season after South Lake came within one game of winning a league championship. The Cavs lost a 2-1 late-season game to eventual MAC Silver champ Warren Fitzgerald.
“After that, we were forced to watch the papers and hope that another team would help us by beating (Fitzgerald),” Ahearn said. “When that didn’t happen, we entered this season with the goal of taking care of our own business, and by that we meant finishing the MAC (Silver) season 12-0 and winning the title outright.”
Ahearn said winning the league title can only help what he called a young, inexperienced team. He said those players now understand what it takes to be a solid team.
The South Lake coach said pitching and defense have been keys in its success. He said last year’s near-miss has helped, as well, and that experience has led to more consistent performances on defense and better approaches at the plate.
Ahearn said several players have stepped up this season and contributed to the Cavs’ success in various ways.
Junior pitcher Sarah Nelson averaged 10 strikeouts per game in the regular season, while also leading South Lake in hits, home runs, stolen bases and RBI. She also forms a solid battery with junior catcher Krista Nannini.
Senior center fielder Nyshah Brown is the fastest player on the team, according to Ahearn, and uses that speed to make some great plays in the field. Senior second baseman Devin Wehrwein and sophomore shortstop Toni Ruthenberg anchor the defense, Ahearn said.
Sophomore first baseman Jessica Duncan makes the rest of the Cavs’ infield better and more confident, according to Ahearn.
“We work very hard to prepare all of our athletes,” Ahearn said. “We talk about giving your best effort — not just for yourself but for your teammates — about respecting the tradition of the program, respecting the game itself and playing in a way that will display that respect.”
Ahearn said the team will miss the production of Brown and Wehrwein, who graduate this month. The South Lake coach said those two are excellent defensive players who also hit in the heart of the order.
“The coaches are already talking to our young players about having to step up and fill those rather big shoes,” Ahearn said.
Ahearn said South Lake should return a talented core in Nelson, Nannini, Ruthenberg and Duncan. He added coaches have seen consistent improvement from rookies who should contribute next year, as well.
“Several years ago, an umpire told me our team was always very professional about they way it approached the game,” Ahearn said. “I’ve shared that compliment with my teams ever since as a way to illustrate the tradition of South Lake softball. We’re a small school with a small program, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think big.”
South Lake’s 2013 Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 district semifinal took place after press time. The Cavs met the winner of a Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy/Warren Lincoln matchup June 1 at Lincoln.