Country Day’s regional title reign fueled by sisterhood

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 23, 2023

 Country Day senior Lola Bagby controls the mound during a game against Sterling Heights Stevenson May 13 at Rochester Hills  Stoney Creek High School.

Country Day senior Lola Bagby controls the mound during a game against Sterling Heights Stevenson May 13 at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek High School.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Country Day’s Lola Bagby places the tag on a Stevenson runner breaking for home.

Country Day’s Lola Bagby places the tag on a Stevenson runner breaking for home.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

BEVERLY HILLS — Before Detroit Country Day softball was two-time regional champions and gearing up for a possible third-straight regional title this season, the program was on full reset mode after the 2020 cancellation due to COVID.

All-State senior pitcher Lola Bagby was entering her sophomore season still waiting to show what she could do on the mound, but she was already making an impact off the field with her friendships of now-juniors Storm Kentros (C), Brooke Skiba (SS) and Nevaeh Wing (2B).

Now ladies who could all be considered for a Mount Rushmore version of Country Day softball, a familiarity between the four ladies that started when  they were 10 years old playing softball would not only create an unbreakable friendship, but be a driving force to the new standard being set for the Country Day softball program.

Skiba, who previously played softball with Kentros before attending Country Day, said she was caught off guard when she noticed some familiar faces her freshman year.

“I didn’t even know they were coming here,” Skiba said. “After a practice, Storm and I came to shadow and go to an open house. It was a big domino effect. I didn’t know, and then someone else went and it just all worked out, and we all knew each other but we didn’t know.”

Two years later, Country Day is one of the top-15 teams in Division 2 according to Michigan High School Athletic Association Rankings, and they’re proving why again this season, holding a 13-12-1 record this season and a marque win over Macomb Dakota, who is currently the No. 1 ranked team in the Division 1.

Country Day’s “set the standard” and “one team, one goal” mottos this season not only reflect the team’s heightened expectations, but also embodies the culture that Country Day first-year coach Brian Skiba, Bagby, Kentros, Skiba, Wing, senior Catherine Hiemstra (1B), and juniors Megan Kenney (OF) and Josephine Imsland (OF) helped establish.

“We create a family here,” Bagby said. “We’re all about having a sound mind and sound body, but also that family culture. We’re all close. I’d do anything for my teammates, and I think they’d have my back in anything we do.”

While back-to-back regionals titles is something to tip your cap to each season, it’s been Groundhog Day  when it comes to the MHSAA quarterfinals for Country Day.

Country Day has been outscored 11-2 in both quarterfinals matchups, but it’s a new team with a new mindset this season.

“It’s tough, and it definitely feels like we didn’t put our all out there,” Kentros said. “It’s tough to have those two losses, but I’m ready to come in this year, especially with our team.”

A three-year starter and force behind the plate, Kentros’ chemistry with Bagby has made for an exciting pitcher-catcher duo this season. Sophomore Mirissa Brown has been a consistent contributor on the mound this season as well for Country Day.

Offensively, it’s been a top-to-bottom showing from the Country Day lineup. Freshman Elise Hiemstra (3B), Catherine’s younger sister, and sophomore Evangeline Greenwald (OF) became an embarrassment of riches to an already strong lineup.

But like their culture reflects, every Country Day player has their part to play in the team’s success.

“You got 13 girls on this field, and you got to give everything that you have for every single play,” Kentros said. “Every pitch for every single one of these girls, because they would do the same for you.”

The Country Day culture prides itself on everyone being leaders, but both Bagby and Catherine Hiemstra do everything and more to be expected from a senior duo.

There’s no captains, there’s no favorites, and there’s no singular person to rely on for the team’s voice, and that’s part of what makes Country Day have the bond they’ve developed.

While recognizing that, Bagby and Hiemstra may provide their leadership from a more personable standpoint.

“Lola is a big leader on this team,” Brooke Skiba said. “She’s like everybody’s mom. She’s a big leader on this team, and she keeps everybody in check. She’s super funny too. Catherine (Hiemstra) is like the nicest kid ever, and she’s really stepped up this year.”

Hiemstra, a four-year varsity player, will help lead Country Day softball in her final season as they open district play against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s June 3 at St. Mary’s High School.

Country Day defeated St. Mary’s 19-15 May 18 this season in an offensive battle that showcased a home run from Kentros and Kenney and four hits from Imsland.

With Country Day’s mix of chemistry and experience, it’s going to be a fun journey to watch as they enter the state tournament in two weeks.

“When we have really good energy and we’re cheering, it’s really hard to beat us, but we just have to stay at that level and come out strong and finish strong,” Catherine Hiemstra said. “When we keep that energy the whole game, we’re really hard to touch.”