07-30-2020 Tri-City Area Sports

Comet coaches continue in the spotlight

As Coloma Press Box continues to highlight the Comet fall coaching staff, there seems to be the sudden realization that the month of August is just a sand wedge away. Everyone involved with the sporting world is holding their breath and crossing lots of fingers, hoping that our high school sports which ended so abruptly about five months ago can get back to business. And hoping that all the preparations to keep everyone as safe from the COVID-19 virus as possible, will have the desired effect; that being our high school sports will go on through the year with no interruptions.

This week two Coloma Comet coaches are featured who are both looking forward to that Friday night excitement on the Coloma home football field.

Christin Smith is the Coloma sideline cheer coach and is a homegrown product, and graduated as a Comet in 2004. Christin has plenty of experience to draw from as the Comet head coach. She cheered her way through school, starting in the seventh grade and cheering all the way through high school. Coach Smith also showed more of her athleticism, as she played softball for the Comets.

Christin’s day job is that of the Coloma high school secretary. Christin married her high school sweetheart, George Smith, and they just recently celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary. Christin and George have been blessed with a son, James, who is now 3-1/2 years old.

When asked about how they have been coping with the COVID-related lockdown, Christin says they have been staying busy swimming in their pool and riding their bikes. She says that they love the outdoors, and they try and spend as much time as possible outside.

When asked if she was looking forward to getting back to school she said, “I’m ready to start school in the fall. I miss seeing all of the kids every day.” About coaching the cheer team Christin said, “Cheer is something I’ve always enjoyed, and when the coaching position came open I knew it was something that I had to do.” She’s now been coaching since 2009. Coach Smith says the best thing about coaching is watching the girls grow in the sport, and becoming successful in reaching their goals.

Another familiar face that fans will be seeing back on the sidelines soon is Coloma varsity assistant football coach, Brian Klee. Brian is a math teacher at Coloma high school and has been coaching and teaching here since 2014.

Coach Klee has a very athletic background as he played varsity football, basketball and ran track at Ubly High School, where he graduated in 2003. The coach also says he met his future wife Ashley there during his junior year. The couple was married in 2008 and they have two beautiful daughters; Myla is 9 years old and attends 4th grade in Coloma, and Macie who is 4 years old and looking forward to also being a Comet in the very near future. Ashley works as a graphic designer at Kitchen Aid. The couple, with their kids and a couple of cats currently reside in Millburg.

Coach Klee tells that he first became interested in coaching and teaching thanks to his basketball coach, Joel Leipprandt, who gave him the opportunity to be a summer camp counselor during his high school years.

Brian attended Saginaw Valley State University with his goal to enter the educational field. He graduated in 2007 with a BA in History Education, and a minor in mathematics education. During college, Brian got his first real taste of coaching as a volunteer assistant football coach alongside his uncle Kerry Messing at Reese High School.

Next came his first teaching and coaching job at Oscoda High School where one of his favorite memories occurred. In his first year there the team broke a 28-game losing streak, and then the next year had the most wins at their school in over a decade. The coach and his young family then moved to South Bend. Brian took a job at Cassopolis, again working as a high school math teacher and assistant varsity football coach. After two years at Cass, in 2014, the Klee family moved to southwest Michigan with Brian taking the job as a high school math teacher at Coloma, and assistant varsity Comet football coach.

Brian says his biggest influences, like many people, would be his mom and dad. He says, “Mom taught me to be dedicated and giving, while dad showed me the importance of a good work ethic. Thanks to their support and many wonderful coaches that helped me develop as an individual, and that through committed effort, discipline and toughness, I could achieve goals that I could have only dreamt of, without their guidance.”

Coach Klee goes on to say that he loves seeing his student athletes develop their confidence and maturity during the time of his involvement in helping to guide them through their high school years.

Lastly Coach Klee states that, “My legacy as a teacher and coach will always be measured by the lives that I’ve been able to positively influence to be even better than they were already going to be.”

MLB off to rocky start, but Tigers show signs of improvement

Following the first weekend of major league baseball all seemed to be going well. Even the Detroit Tigers found themselves winning their first series in a National League ball park in more than three years.

Around the major leagues there were just a handful of teams reporting they had a player or team personnel member who had recently tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. But then, on Monday morning July 27 shivers were sent down the spines of all who love not only baseball but all sports. It was being reported that the Florida Marlins, who began the season by winning 2 out of 3 games in Philadelphia, had their flight home postponed along with their Monday night game because they had 14 members of the team test positive for the coronavirus. The number included 12 players and two others on the Marlins staff.

The team owners, who with the MLB commissioner met on Monday afternoon, will be awaiting more tests of the Marlins. They postponed their Monday and Tuesday games, along with the Monday night game in Philadelphia. The plan is for the Marlins to resume their schedule following further tests. Baseball fans keep your fingers crossed. This season obviously still is hanging by threads which could unravel in a big hurry if more results similar to the Marlins should happen to occur.

Coloma fans, keep the faith. GO COMETS!

Two Hartford players among Michigan BPA World Series 12U Champions

The sports world has changed both locally and nationally, since the coronavirus pandemic roared into our lives last March. It has been a difficult time to be a sports writer, as there have been very few events to report on since then. However, as summer has arrived, travel baseball has been going on – and we have some great news to report about one local team that can call themselves champions.

The South Coast Blues 12U National team, which features Hartford youth Brody Johnson and Lennon Ellis, recently took championship honors in the 2020 Michigan BPA World Series 12U, held from July 15 through 19 in Sturgis. The team outlasted 13 other teams to take home the championship trophy.

To gain entry into the Michigan BPA World Series, the team had to compete in a qualifier and finish in first or second place. A team must also compete in their home-state tournament to validate their berth.

The team earned their entry into the Michigan BPA World Series by competing in the BPA Junefest 12U, held on June 20 and 21, also in Sturgis, where they finished in first place. That weekend, in a field of nine teams, they went a perfect 5-0, outscoring their opponents 52-6. That Saturday, they defeated the Kalamazoo Maroons 2007 squad, 13-2, before downing Barracudas Blue, 15-1.

On Championship Sunday, the team posted back-to-back shutouts, taking out Shamrock Baseball, 12-0 in the quarterfinals and West Michigan Wild, 8-0 in the semifinals to earn their place in the championship game. In a thrilling finals matchup with GR Diamonds Force, the team saw a 3-0 lead melt away before scoring a run in the top of the 6th inning to capture the 4-3 victory.

In between their victory in the BPA Junefest 12U and the Michigan BPA World Series 12U, the team also competed in the Michigan BPA State Tournament 12U, finishing in a tie-for-fifth place with a 2-2 record, and finished in a tie-for-third with a 3-1 record at the BPA Tri-State Showdown 12U.

In the Michigan BPA World Series 12U, the team met some hardship after the first day of the tournament. In their first game on Thursday, they soundly defeated Shamrock Baseball, 16-2, before facing off later in the day against GR Flames (Smith). The team battled all game, putting up a pair of runs in both the second and fourth innings, but a five-run third inning from their opponent spelled doom, and they lost a tough one, 5-4.

To keep their championship hopes alive, the team had to just win games, and that is what they did on Friday, taking all four games they played. They shut out their first two opponents handily, winning 10-0 over Broncos 12U and 16-0 over Michiana Scrappers 12U. They faced their two toughest opponents to end the day, holding off a vicious sixth-inning rally by Michigan Rebels 12U to win 7-5, before defeating B45 Academy (Navy), 11-7, scoring seven of their eleven runs in the final two innings.

As the final day dawned on Saturday, they still needed two victories to reach the championship round but were coming off a high after the success from the previous day. In their first game of the day, they defeated Indiana Land Sharks Black 12U, 9-5, scoring a run each in the first and second innings, three runs in the third inning and four runs in the fourth inning. That victory propelled them into a matchup with the Kalamazoo Flying Squirrels for a place in the championship series. The team would go on to win, 8-4, thanks to an offensive explosion in the fourth inning, where they scored six runs.

The championship series would pit the good guys against the GR Flames (Smith) team, the group that had defeated them by one run just two days prior. It was the perfect time to get their revenge, and in the process, take home that coveted championship trophy.

Needing to win this game to force the “if needed” game, the team was down to their final six outs when they stepped up to the plate down 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning. But, as for most of the tournament, their bats came to life in earnest, as they put up a 5-spot in the frame, to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 7-3 lead. The pitching staff did a great job of getting the last three outs, with the 7-3 score holding as the final margin of victory.

This meant that the “if needed” title needed to be changed to “championship game”. After a short break, the teams met one more time with bragging rights on the line. Despite the break, the bats did not cool off for the Blues, as the team posted two runs in the first inning and four runs in the second inning to jump out to a 6-0 lead. The GR Flames did not go down quietly, putting together a three-run bottom of the third inning to trim the lead to 6-3. However, two more runs in the top of the fifth by the good guys sealed the deal, extending the lead to 8-3, which would be the final score.

With their 9-1 performance on that weekend, the team moved to 21-4 on the season. Since that tournament, they have played an additional five games, going 4-1 in that stretch to be 25-5 on the season.

The Hartford Press Box congratulates Brody, Lennon, and the South Coast Blues 12U National team and coaching staff for their championship performances this summer! This is something special that you can carry with you for a long time.

As always, GO INDIANS!

Press Box Player of the Week!

By Jerrod Birmele

Hartford Council for Recreation board, staff and volunteers

The Hartford Council for Recreation Interlocal Board of Directors, staff and its many volunteers are a fantastic team that works together to bring educational sports to the youth of Hartford. And, in these uncertain times, this group of people deserves to earn this week’s Tri-City Record Press Box Player of the Week.

The Hartford Council for Recreation Interlocal Board of Directors is a seven-member board that is made up of normal, everyday people from across the Hartford community. These people include members from the Hartford City Council, Hartford Public Schools Board of Education and Hartford Township Board. Also, there are two representative positions that are made up from residents in the City of Hartford and Hartford Township, a representative that represents the organization, and an at-large representative that can be any individual in the community, whether they have a child, or children, in our organization or not.

These people all serve on a yearly-basis, with the best interest of the organization, its activities and the participants and families they serve at the forefront of everything they do. Members of the Interlocal Board of Directors currently are Jerrod Birmele (Chairman), Joseph Morsaw (Vice Chairman), Marilyn Mead (Secretary), Richard Hall (Treasurer), Andy Bachman (Trustee), Ginny Rice (Trustee) and Julie Sweet (Trustee).

The Hartford Council for Recreation’s staff members include the Concession Manager, Head Umpire and Park Director as paid positions. It also includes the Director of Operations, Deputy Director of Operations, Deputy Treasurer, and Hartford League of Miracles Director. All these positions are hired on a yearly-basis. Many of the people in these positions have been members of the organization for the better part of many years, and in some cases, decades.

Staff members currently include Marilyn Mead (Concession Manager), Jerrod Birmele (Co-Head Umpire and Director of Operations), Kellan Nichols (Co-Head Umpire), Jeff Christner (Park Director), Joseph Morsaw (Deputy Director of Operations), Janell Parker (Deputy Treasurer) and Sandy Burtchett (Hartford League of Miracles Director).

Of course, nothing would be possible without people giving their hard-earned downtime so the youth can participate in educational athletics. So, to our coaches that coach the game correctly and educate our youth on skills and sportsmanship, to our umpires that teach the players the rules and keep the games going smooth, we thank you. If you just volunteer your time as an assistant coach, a worker in the concession stand, help with field preparations after a night of heavy rain or just give back in another way, you are appreciated, too.

It has been a very rough year for the organization, as they have had to weather the storm that is the coronavirus. Having to cancel Baseball, Softball, T-Ball and the League of Miracles was a tough decision, and they face another tough call with fall sports soon. Just know this group works tirelessly for the youth of Hartford. If you see one of them, give them a pat on the back and say thank you. It’s a tough job at times, but it is rewarding all the same.

Panther girls’ summer softball

Despite the cancellation of school sports this spring as well as the local recreational programs there has been a bit of play on the ball fields in the area. Several youth travel ball teams have had abbreviated seasons since they were allowed to play games.

The South Haven Waves 14 and under team scraped together a 17-game schedule this summer. The team won three of their last four games to finish with a respectable 8-9 record. Panther athletes Natalie Hart and Grace Chisek played for the Waves this season. Grace led a potent offense, batting an astounding .625 with 25 hits, 17 RBI, and 20 runs scored. She also led the team in slugging with an impressive 1.050 by way of 12 extra base hits, including two home runs. In 48 plate appearances she had seven walks and was perfect in the best stat of them all, zero strikeouts.

Grace will be a freshman this fall and is one of several rising stars among a big group of young Panthers making their way into the high school program.

The St. Joseph-based South Coast Blues 15 and under team also features several Panther athletes, including Jaylie Querfurth, Abby Whorton, Ellie Golden, and Essie Zuniga. The team recently closed their season, finishing at 11-10. Abby was in the top group of hitters while batting .417 with 54 plate appearances. She has 12 RBI and 11 runs scored, with three doubles and two triples. Ellie batted a solid .316 on 49 plate appearances, scoring nine runs and collecting eight RBI.

Essie batted .250 with 43 plate appearances and led the team in free passes, being hit by three pitches and getting walked 11 times for a .500 on-base percentage. Jaylie wasn’t far behind, batting .233 on 29 appearances. Both of the girls had several pitching opportunities, as well.

Graduating athletes

Watervliet finally held its graduation ceremony last Friday, July 24. Several seniors typically speak during the event and this year there were three, all of whom are at the top of their class academically and are chosen to speak for various reasons. What puts this on the sports page is the fact that all three graduate speakers have been selected as Press Box Players of the Week. Trever Pelton (wrestling) and Gus Hinch (cross-country) spoke at the beginning of the ceremony and Cole Pline (basketball) gave a response just before they threw their caps. The highlight of the evening was that both of the outstanding senior award winners have been repeatedly mentioned in this column over the last few years. Congratulations to Panther graduate athletes Susanna Van Lente and Cole Pline for earning these special honors.

Ladies Monday Night Happy Hour Golf League

July 27 Golf Report from the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club: Weekly Event, Most Bogeys – Cheryl Hutchins with 4; Low Gross – Cheryl Hutchins with 48; Low Net – Colleen McKeown with 36; Low Putts – Judy Lynch, Cheryl Hutchins, Michelle Metz and Kathy Osborne with 16; Pars – Kathy Osborne on #12 and #18, Colleen McKeown on #13 and #14, Cheryl Hutchins on #11 and #18, Michelle Metz on #12 and #14, Maureen Pavletic on #15, and Stephanie Guse on #10; Birdies – Cheryl Hutchins on #13

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