Local softball standouts relish opportunity to play in all-star games

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published July 23, 2015

MOUNT PLEASANT — On a picturesque summer day July 22 — with the sun shining, blue skies and light wind — the best softball players in the state all took the field at the same time for the 34th annual Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association All Star Softball Games.

The games, in Division 1-4, took place at Margo Jonker Stadium on the campus of Central Michigan University.

Graduating seniors are selected to play, and teams in each game are dubbed “Red” and “White.” Each game, regardless of score, goes eight innings. Girls named All-State and All-State honorable mention are automatically invited. The rest of the rosters are filled out with players named All-Region during the state playoffs.

In total, 15 players from teams in the C & G News coverage area were selected to play.

Longtime Troy High coach Tom Calnen has become a bit of a staple at the event. The 2015 Division 1 game marked the fourth time Calnen, a 24-year coaching vet who was inducted into the MHSSCA Hall of Fame in 2009, has been in the dugout for an all-star game.

“To me, this is tremendous. There’s a lot that goes into this, but when you get here and see the payoff and what it means to the kids, that makes it something really special to be a part of,” Calnen said.

Players arrived in Mount Pleasant July 21, had a meet-and-greet before a practice, and had a chance to interact the rest of the night.

Sterling Heights Stevenson graduate Kara Vitale, a four-year starter at second base and catcher who hit .505 with 47 hits and 34 RBIs in 2015, played for the Red team and relished the experience.

“It’s awesome,” said Vitale, who will play at the University of Detroit-Mercy. “It’s really nice to have a last hurrah with everyone and play the best of the best.”

‘We’re not losing’
Vitale said playing in the game was all in fun, but she admitted that winning would make things sweeter. The Stevenson grad was a part of the victorious team, as the Red team won the D-1 game 6-3.

In the D-1 game, the Red team struck first, as Hudsonville’s Lexi Agers (Siena Heights University) hit a sacrifice fly that scored Farmington Hills Mercy’s Alex Sobczak (University of Michigan) to give the Red team a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. The Red team went up 2-0 in the second on a run scored by Saline’s Katie Alexander (Michigan) on a fielder’s choice.

The White team got on the board in the bottom of the third, as Romeo High’s Erin Barg (Western Michigan University) scored on a wild pitch.

The Red team plated three runs in the top of the fourth to go up 5-1. A throwing error allowed Grosse Pointe South’s Katie Kish (Hillsdale College) to score. The very next at-bat saw Hudsonville’s Kelly Zackrison (Michigan State University) score on a wild pitch. Holt’s Lindsey Reed (Davenport University) later scored on a fielder’s choice.

In the bottom of the fourth, Clarkston High’s Rachel Vieira (Central Michigan) hit a bomb over the left field wall for the White team to cut the lead to 5-2.

The Red team went up 6-2 in the top of the sixth when Brandon High’s Katie Hendershott (Lake Superior State University) hit a single to right field that scored Plymouth High’s Mikayela Marciniak (Oakland University).

The White team again cut the lead in half at 6-3 in the top of the seventh when Troy High’s Ashley Messina (Wayne State University) scored on a wild pitch.

Kish agreed with Vitale that the game was a bit of a last hurrah. She said the experience allowed her to meet a lot of new people and make new friends.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Kish said. “It’s been fun, but before the game, we just told each other, ‘we’re not losing.’ We were just confident and had a good time.”

Lasting memory
Warren Regina grad Riley Hison, who will play at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, called it an unforgettable experience — that’s coming from someone who won a state championship last month.

“It’s something I never imagined doing, and it’s been really exciting,” Hison said. “We’re all about to separate, so playing with everybody and reuniting with people I’ve played against has been awesome.”

Calnen called it a “neat opportunity” for the athletes.

“I’m really proud to be a part of the association that puts this on,” said Calnen, president of the MHSSCA. “I love it.

“You get here and there’s several kids here who you’ve competed against for years and you’re racking your brain trying to get them out. Then you get to this game and you get to have some fun with them because they’re on your side, so it’s fun to get to know them. I can’t say enough about how enjoyable this is.”