By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Coming off a season that saw the program capture their first district championship since 2011, head coach Kenny Allen and three 2021 Oxford graduates were selected to represent the Wildcats in the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association (MHSSCA) Division 1 All-Star Game at 10 a.m. this morning (July 14) at Central Michigan University’s Margo Jonker Stadium.
Second baseman Alexis Cardona, first baseman Caroline Marsh, and right fielder Alexis Stoll are the Wildcats to receive this special recognition.
Cardona and Stoll qualified for a spot on this roster through their status as Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) All-State selections, while Marsh was added by Allen.
Featuring 35 seniors, the student-athletes in this All-Star Game represent 25 high schools and will be split into two teams, the “Red” and “White.”
All three Oxford players will play for the Red team, which is coached by Allen and Bay City Central’s Bob Kukla.
Fraser’s Matt Fishburn and Grand Blanc’s Jami Neubecker will coach the White team.
The ‘Cats leadoff hitter for the entire season, Cardona hit .424 (64-for-151) as a senior with three doubles and 22 runs batted in (RBI). A four-year varsity player, she will continue her career at the collegiate level for the Davenport Panthers.
Marsh, another four-year standout, posted a .403 batting average (52-for-129) in 2021 with eight doubles, four triples, three home runs, and 39 RBI. Her 15 extra-base hits tied with classmate and center fielder Emma Morris for third-most on the team.
A left-hander hitter, Stoll led the Wildcats in most offensive categories, including batting average (.532), hits (66), doubles (9), and triples (6). Like Cardona, she will play in college, having signed with the Albion Britons.
These three young women are the third, fourth and fifth Oxford players from Allen’s eight-year tenure selected for this game, joining right-handed pitcher Kaitlyn Bean (2018) and second baseman/outfielder Chloe Allen (2019).
It is a tremendous honor for Allen to be nominated as one of the head coaches for this contest. “They called me last week and asked, ‘Would you be interested in coaching it?’” Allen said of how this came to be during our July 9 meeting. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ It’s super special, especially since we have three girls on the team. I’m pretty excited for it.”
In addition to winning games on the diamond, Allen has done a tremendous job of creating a culture with his program that his players want to be part of. This is evident when you see all the past graduates, such as Bean and Gabby Dinges, just to name a couple, take time out of their days to return to watch the games and assist the coaching staff in whatever way they can, passing on their experience and knowledge to the current roster.
During our meeting, Allen shared what he enjoyed best about coaching these three players over the last three-to-four years.
“I’ll start with Alexis Stoll,” he began. “Alexis Stoll did not make varsity as a freshman. She came up as a sophomore and she got a little taste, so she had to really compete to play as a sophomore – and she did – but it wasn’t a lot. Then COVID hit, so she didn’t play her junior year, but her senior year, she just went off. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it because that girl worked herself into an All-State player. It’s really cool to see somebody like that.
“Alexis Cardona, she came in with all the hype, she was an unbelievable softball player in middle school. So, we knew we were getting something real special with her. She’s had a wonderful career, I think she batted over .400 all four years and two years ago, she batted over .500. She’s not going to hit the ball over the fence, but she’s going to leadoff the game with a hit up the middle. Nobody is going to blow a ball by her, if they throw 75 (miles-per-hour), she’ll hit it. If they throw 40, she’ll hit it. She has a great arm, great glove, just an all-around great player and a wonderful young lady.
“Caroline, she made it as a freshman, as well, so she played four years. Last year was going to be her breakout year, without a doubt, because the jump from her freshman to sophomore year was pretty good and when she came into the offseason workouts in the winter and start of spring, she was annihilating the ball as a junior. We lost that season, but she came out this year and did what she does, I think it was the first game she hit one over the fence at Rochester. It was awesome.”
With these three players combining for 11 years of varsity experience, plus the departures of left fielder Makenzie Brown, designated hitter Maddy Lovins, shortstop Meghan Lupu, and Morris, the Wildcats will feature plenty of new faces in their starting lineup next year.
2022 third baseman Mya Spisz, who led the team with 52 RBI as a junior and hit .411 (51-for-129), headlines the list of returnees, with Oxford’s top-three pitchers, Annah Burdua, Abby Witt, and Ashlyn Witt, also all set to be back.
All right-handed hurlers, Burdua and Abby Witt belong to the 2022 class, while Ashlyn Witt is 2023.
Wednesday will be a full day of softball in Mount Pleasant, as the Division 2 All-Star Game will follow at approximately 12 p.m., with the Division 3 and 4 games slated for 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively.
By Teddy Rydquist