Stevenson softball bows out in regional finals

By: Sue Teggart | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 21, 2011


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — There were few secrets in the June 11 Division 1 regional final matchup between Utica Stevenson and Fair Haven Anchor Bay.

For the Titans and Tars, who are Macomb Area Conference Red Division rivals, it marked the third meeting of the season.

The squads split games during the regular season, with Anchor Bay winning 2-1 May 6 and the Titans earning a 5-2 win in the second meeting May 27.

“The last few years, we’ve played them in the regionals, and we go back and forth on who beats who,” Stevenson coach Tony Misuraca said. “We played them twice in our league. They’re another rival. It’s good for the MAC Red that we still have one team alive, but we’d like it to be us.”

In the regional semifinal, the Tars capitalized on Stevenson’s errors in the fourth inning for two runs. They added two more runs in the seventh to claim a 4-2 win and the regional title.

“The team that makes the least amount of mistakes usually is winning this time of the year,” Misuraca said. “You just can’t give teams extra chances. We gave a couple unearned runs in the fourth inning that put them ahead 2-0.

“We tied it up in the bottom of the sixth. It was 2-2 going into the seventh inning, so we had a chance again. To their credit, they made a couple more plays then we did, and they’re playing (still) and we’re turning in our uniforms.”

“We had one bad inning that threw us off,” said senior Sarah Knodell. “They got two bunts. We made some errors. That put them ahead. Their pitcher was hitting her spots. They played good defense.”

The Titans got one run back in the fifth inning when sophomore Andrea Deneweth singled with two outs and scored on a double by freshman Haley Knodell. Stevenson then tied the game with a run in the sixth inning when senior Shelby Spano walked with one out and eventually scored off a single by sophomore Alyssa Huntley.

“It’s a sad way to end the season,” Misuraca said. “We had four seniors ... who missed their graduation to play in the regional. It was a tough decision for them to have to make, but they said they wanted to stay with the team. We battled, and we were one inning from moving on.”
“I knew from the beginning of the season it was going to be a problem,” Sarah Knodell said about graduation and regionals scheduled on the same day. “I knew I wanted to play in the game. We didn’t have to say much. (Misuraca) knew how we felt about it. I was definitely happy that we stayed.”

Stevenson defeated Grosse Pointe North 10-2 in the semifinals earlier in the day to reach the finals. The Titans scored seven runs over the final two innings to provide the difference.

Sophomore Taylor Moceri led the Titans with a double and a three-run, inside-the-park home run, driving in five runs in the game. Haley Knodell added three hits, two runs scored and an RBI, while Deneweth had two hits and two runs scored. Spano was 2-for-4 with a solo home run. In the two-game series, Huntley struckout 16 batters.

The Titans finished 24-12 overall. Misuraca said despite falling short of last year’s finish in the state quarterfinals, Stevenson’s program remains one of the strongest in the state.

“For the last couple years since I took over as the head coach, the MAC Red is still one of the top leagues in the whole state of Michigan,” Misuraca said. “When you play day after day, you have to step up and make plays every inning. There’s never a day off. Playing in the MAC Red gets you so ready for these big-game situations.

“When you’re playing in a game that every play means something, like the MAC Red season the way the teams all battle each other, it’s such a bonus,” Misuraca said. “We had just another great year. We played 20 games against teams that were ranked. That was incredible. I told the girls they have been one of the most successful groups of players that has come through Stevenson, with three district titles and our first ever regional title last year.”

The Titans bid farewell to four seniors in Spano — who set a school record for home runs with seven and RBIs with 49 — Ashley Rankin, Sarah Knodell and Kelly Lewandowski, all of whom were integral parts of the program.

“Shleby Spano ended up batting .510 for us and Sarah Knodell was .470,” Misuraca said.
“It was incredible to have that kind of hitting against the competition we played. Our catcher for the last half of the year, we threw her into that position. She’s not even a catcher but … from May 1 on, Kelly Lewandowski did an unbelievable job for us. We’re just blessed to have four good seniors. Our underclassmen have some big shoes to fill.”