Coleman's Page All Softball Stories


Coleman meets Ottawa Lake Whiteford in D4 state semifinals battle between programs full of underclassmen

Can not load XML: XML document must have a top level element. No results

Age is only a number.

When Coleman meets Ottawa Late Whiteford Friday at 12:30 p.m. in the Division 4 state semifinals at Michigan State University's Secchia Softball Stadium, the two rosters will share a common theme: underclassmen.

The Comets (35-6) have a valuable core of one senior and four juniors, but the rest of the roster is a group of five sophomores and three freshmen who are playing beyond their years in helping carve a path to East Lansing. They were instrumental in Tuesday's 5-0 quarterfinals win over Holton, the program which had knocked Coleman out of the postseason in that round the previous two seasons.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats (32-6) start seven sophomores who were at the heart of Tuesday's 1-0 victory over defending D4 state champion Unionville-Sebawaing.

Comets head coach Chad Klopf is not surprised two teams without a large contingent of seniors have been able to advance to the state semifinals.

“Especially in this sport it doesn't really matter,” Klopf said. “They're playing so much travel ball, so much competitive softball with girls their age or older. If you can play this sport and handle yourself at-bat and in the field, it doesn't really matter what age you're at.”

The offense in the Comets' win over Coleman came in large part from sophomore third baseman Jaden Berthume, who was a perfect 4-for-4 with a double and a triple. She drove in a run and scored another.

It has all clicked this year for Berthume, who was key as a freshman last year but now has taken her game to an entirely new level. She is hitting a team-best .531 with 15 doubles, two triples, one home run, 54 RBIs and 58 runs scored.

“It was hard to get used to having such a young team at first,” Berthume said. “But we're all doing such a good job stepping up into new spots. Everyone is more of a leader this year instead of just the seniors. All the underclassmen have done great. Our one senior [catcher Liz Dana] has been a big factor in leadership, but everyone plays a role.”

Berthume is at the heart of a goofy, easygoing quality that encompasses the Comets. In the post-game celebrations following districts and regionals plus the quarterfinals, she has been in a one-upmanship battle with assistant coach Nick Katzinger to douse each other with the Gatorade bucket or any other water-filled container they can find.

“We have a lot of fun,” Berthume added. “We added the rally caps Saturday just so we could stay loose and not feel under pressure.”

It is those sort of moments that has brought the Coleman roster even closer, a team that has dealt with heartbreaking losses the last couple years and is now reaping the rewards for waiting its turn.

“It's been that way the last few years,” Klopf said. “It's been really loose and fun around each other, although if you listen to them up close you wouldn't think they like each other the way they talk. But it's like having a bunch of little sisters around picking on each other and having a good time. The sarcasm is thick, but they all understand the jokes.”

The 2016 Coleman squad was ranked No. 1 and finished the year 40-3 after a second straight loss to Holton in the quarterfinals. Lost to graduation were five big-time contributors in Laken Berthume (older sister of Jaden), Cassidy Tucker, Grace Staley, Carley Starnes and Kaylie Scott.

But even if the expectations were lowered by outsiders, the Comets did not listen to that noise and now are two wins away from the program's first state title since 2005.

“It's pretty awesome we were able to pull this off,” Comets sophomore second baseman MacKenzie Miller said of advancing to the state finals. “We fell short the last couple of years and that was difficult for everyone. Now we're the younger team and maybe people didn't expect this out of us, so it's neat to see.”

But it will not be easy as an Ottawa Lake Whiteford team awaits that is also hungry for a state championship, which would be its first since a run of three straight state titles through 1987 under Kris Hubbard who is now in her 39th year as Bobcats' head coach.

Sophomore Lindsey Walker threw seven shutout innings for Ottawa Lake versus USA, needing only a first-inning run for support.

“The first inning will be key,” Klopf said. “We jumped on Morrice early in the regional title game and have done that to a lot of teams this year. If we can take control early, it would be huge.”

Coleman received a gem of its own from junior ace Faith Barden against Holton as she threw seven shutout frames, allowing two hits while walking one and striking out eight. She enters the state semifinals with a 17-3 record with a 1.33 earned-run average in 121 1/3 innings, giving up 67 hits while striking out 180 and walking 42. Barden has also helped her cause at the plate with a .431 average, accounting for 15 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs.

Dana has provided excellent play all season as the lone Comets senior, hitting .471 out of the leadoff spot with a team-best 61 runs plus 45 RBIs and 15 extra-base hits. She also has 23 stolen bases.

Sophomore center fielder Makailyn Monson is hitting .430 with 43 runs and a team-high 25 stolen bases, while Miller is batting .391 with 54 runs scored. Freshman shortstop Autumn Tubbs sports a .360 batting average with nine extra-base hits and 47 RBIs.

The winner will play either Indian River Inland Lakes or Kalamazoo Christian in the D4 state title game Saturday at 3 p.m.

Last Updated: 6/15/2017 4:11:53 PM EST