CHESANING — Taylor Gross was a model of consistency.
The junior right-hander pitched all but three innings for the Chesaning softball squad this season, compiling a 26-4 record and six no-hitters.
The first-team Division 3 All-Stater was still a bit surprised when she found out that she had been chosen The Argus-Press Softball Player of the Year for 2019. She was at a travel ball tournament when Indians coach Ron Poyer called to deliver the news.
“I know we have some really good girls on our team and there are some other really good area girls,” Gross said. “It was a big surprise for me.”
Gross struck out 244 batters against just 40 walks. She helped the Indians win the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference, their first league championship in 19 years, and led the team to a second straight district title.
Against No. 1-ranked Millington in the regional semifinals, Gross held the Cardinals scoreless through the first five innings before the eventual state champions rallied from a 3-0 deficit to pull out a 4-3 win in eight innings.
“It was just … right there,” she said of the loss.
Gross became the first pitcher in Chesaning softball history to eclipse 500 career strikeouts, surpassing both the season and career school records previously held by Shawn Loachridge. She also set new records for complete games (30) and shutouts.
Now at 558 strikeouts and counting, the junior has one more season left to pad her lead.
“She’s been working hard at this since she was real little,” Poyer said. “She works hard and she goes out there and throws every inning that we play except three. We asked a lot of her this year just because we were a little short-handed.”
Gross is one of those players who is willing to take on some added responsibility, Poyer said. She was more than willing to pitch every game of the season.
“Taylor never said a word when we found out that we were going to be a little short-handed (pitching),” said Poyer. “I sat down and talked with her and bascially said, ‘Hey, give me the ball coach, I’ll throw and I’ll throw as much as you need me to.’ It’s kind of the mentality that she carries — ‘I want the ball.’ She has lofty goals pitching-wise and she’s well on the way to reaching some of those.”
One of Gross’ biggest strengths, is her wide assortment of pitches, which includes a changeup, curveball and riseball.
“She throws just about everything,” Power said.
Though she rewrote the Chesaning pitching record book, it was an offensive accomplishment that Gross looked back on most fondly.
“When thinking about the season, I think of my walk-off home run against Hemlock in the pre-district game (with one-out in the seventh for a 6-5 win),” said Gross, who batted .451 with 47 hits, five doubles, three triples, three homers and 37 RBIs this season.
Poyer said Gross’ offensive contributions should not be overlooked.
“She hit a few home runs and started out slow hitting,” Poyer said. “Later in the year she really picked it up.”
Who knows what will happen next season? Poyer said he is glad that Gross is just a junior.
“I think her biggest improvement (this year) was just mentally,” Poyer said. “Last year we would get in situations in games where maybe the umpire’s strike zone wasn’t where she thought it should be. Sometimes she would get frustrated and then just hang it over the plate, trying to do too much. This year, she kind of took it all in stride and made the good pitch.”
All-Area Softball Team
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Taylor Gross, Chesaning, P
Gross, a record-setting junior right-hander, pitched the Indians to MMAC and district championships this season. Gross started 30 games, completed all 30 and had an ERA of 1.43 over 1852/3 innings. Pitching all but three innings for Chesaning during the entire season, she set single-season (244) and career (558) school strikeout records.
Viele went 20-8 and had 1.89 ERA over 174 innings. The junior right-hander struck out 299 against 41 walks. She was an honorable mention Division 3 All-Stater by the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association.
Irelan, a freshman right-hander, went 18-6 with two saves, capturing unanimous first team all-Flint Metro League honors. She struck out 256 and walked 61 in 161 1/3 innings and had an ERA of 1.04.
L’Esperance batted .636 with an area-high 70 hits in 110 at-bats. The senior shortstop, a first-team Division 3 All-Stater, led the area with 47 stolen bases and powered three homers while also shining in the field. The Bowling Green-bound L’Esperance was first-team all-league, all-district and all-regional.
Barta hit .558 with 14 doubles, five triples and seven homers and drove in 43 runs from the leadoff spot. The senior stole 14 bases and scored 53 runs. Barta was first-team All-State along with first team all-MMAC, all-district and all-regional honors.
Mahoney, a first-team Division 3 All-Stater, batted .545 with 63 runs scored and smacked an area-best 10 home runs. She tied New Lothrop’s Charleigh Birchmeier for first in the area with 48 RBIs. Mahoney added 14 stolen bases and drew 33 walks — striking out just once all season.
Eva captured first-team Division 4 All-State honors after batting .575. Eva had 29 stolen bases and powered four homers with 21 RBIs.
Kiczenski hit .621 during the regular season. A first-team all-conference selection in the Genesee Area Conference, Kiczenski was also all-district and all-region. She drove in 32 runs, had 20 stolen bases and hit two home runs.
An honorable mention All-Stater, Coon hit .524 with 12 doubles and 22 RBIs. The first-team all-MMAC, all-district and all-regional selection stole 13 bases and scored 45 runs.
The sophomore batted .689 with 42 hits in 61 at-bats playing a partial schedule as a dual-sport athlete — she was a three-time state champion in June for Corunna’s girls track team. Hollister stole 40 bases and drove in 10 runs from the leadoff spot.
New Lothrop, 1B
Birchmeier batted .468 in the regular season seven with home runs and a co-area best 48 RBIs. The first baseman was named a Division 3 honorable mention All-Stater.
New Lothrop, INF
Martin had a .518 average and ranked second in the area in RBIs with 45. The junior hammered six homers and totaled 59 hits.
Hemgesberg, a first-team MMAC selection, batted a team-high .549 with 62 hits, 43 RBIs and four homers. Hemgesberg was a pitcher, but also played third base. On the mound, she worked 108 innings and compiled a 2.72 ERA. The freshman struck out 117.
Timm had a standout freshman campaign with 327 strikeouts against just 22 walks, compiling a 2.26 ERA over 133 innings.
Miller threw 78 2/3 innings and had a 3.20 ERA. The junior right-hander went 10-3 and struck out 70 with 16 walks. Miller also batted .323 with 31 hits.
New Lothrop, C
Henige, a freshman, finished the regular season with 48 hits and a .511 average. She was named to the MMAC first team.
New Lothrop, OF
Angst batted .396 with 29 steals, capturing first team honors in the MMAC.
The shortstop hit .446 with seven doubles and two homers. Drope stole 12 bases, drove in 19 runs and scored 37 time. She was first-team all-MMAC.
Viele batted .431 with 35 RBIs, two homers and 11 stolen bases.
Daenzer hit .421 for the Ramblers and fielded .914 with five errors.
Walser was an All-state honorable mention, batting .354 with 34 hits, 27 runs, 20 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. She was also a standout in the field. She was named all-MMAC honorable mention.
Ryon batted .432 with 38 hits in 88 at-bats. She drove in 18 runs with five steals and one homer.
Bishop had a .396 average with 41 hits including 13 doubles, two triples and two homers. The catcher, a second-team all-MMAC pick, drove in 34 runs.
French hit .400 and drove in 37 runs with three homers. She added 17 steals.
Langdon batted .343 and belted two homers, 30 RBIs and scored 40 runs. The junior was named first-team all-Flint Metro League.
Alyssa Schnell, New Lothrop
Emma Muron, New Lothrop
Elena Kozachik, Laingsburg
Madison Wagner, Laingsburg
Emily Rinz, Durand
Jordyn Bishop, Chesaning
Delaney Hamilton, Byron
Raegan Forgie, Byron
JaiLia Campos, Corunna
Morgan Renwick, Corunna
Clover Brandt, Owosso
Madison Baxter, Perry
Sadie Casaday, Ovid-Elsie
Mandy Miller, Morrice
Jenna O’Berry, Morrice