The 2023 Michigan high school spring sports season is in its final stages as the state tournament moves along.
Accordingly, it’s time for CatchMark SportsNet to proceed with its West Michigan Conference Player of the Year series for 2023 spring sports. In a few days, it’ll be time for you to vote — and vote again and again, for two weeks.
A CatchMark panel consisting of Scott DeCamp, Conner Raeth and Tate Stine met to decide upon three finalists for the Player of the Year award in each of seven spring sports. The panel believes that any of the three finalists in each of the three sports is deserving of winning the award, but ultimately it’s up to you, the voters.
Fan polls will open at 8 a.m. Monday, June 5, and they’ll close at 8 a.m. Friday, June 16.
The CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year spring sports banquet will be held at the Viking Athletic Center in Whitehall on Saturday, June 24, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Below are the Player of the Year finalists for softball, baseball, girls soccer, boys track and field, girls track and field, boys golf and girls tennis, along with brief capsules highlighting each of the finalists:
EMMA GILLARD, Ravenna: This senior has all the tools and puts them on full display whether it’s from the batter’s box, basepaths, pitcher’s circle or shortstop position. The Ferris State University signee is enjoying a dream season. The left-handed leadoff is batting .657 (69-for-105) with 12 home runs, 11 doubles, 12 triples and a 1.295 slugging percentage to go with 59 RBIs. The speedy Gillard has scored 79 runs and stolen 49 bases. In the circle, the right-handed Gillard is 13-2 with a 1.48 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 10 walks in 75.1 innings. WMC Rivers champion Ravenna, which looks to make a deep run in Division 3, has a 31-5 record.
EMMA HERREMANS, Ravenna: This sophomore third baseman and left-handed-hitting No. 3 batter for the Bulldogs was a first-team all-state selection and CatchMark Player of the Year finalist as a freshman, when she batted .622. This season, Herremans is batting .635 (61-of-96) with five home runs, 20 doubles, seven triples and a 1.146 slugging percentage. She’s totaled a team-high 63 RBIs, 54 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. She was a CatchMark Player of the Year finalist last season. WMC Rivers champion Ravenna, which looks to make a deep run in Division 3, has a 31-5 record.
KAELINN JOZSA, Oakridge: This junior slugger bats leadoff for the Eagles and you’d better be careful pitching to her: She leads the Muskegon area with 14 home runs. As a team, Oakridge has set a program record with 50 homers this season. Jozsa is batting .489 (46-for-94) with nine doubles, two triples and a 1.074 slugging percentage. She has driven in 53 runs and scored 63. Her on-base percentage is .650, boosted by the fact she’s been hit by pitch 23 times this season (46 in her three-year varsity career). As a pitcher, the right-handed Jozsa is 16-4 with a 3.15 ERA, posting 82 strikeouts and 42 walks in 93.1 innings. WMC Lakes champion Oakridge (27-9) is 101-1 in league play during its seven-year reign.
TROY MCMANUS, North Muskegon: This senior left-hander is one of the more versatile players in the league. He was voted CatchMark SportsNet Player of the Year last season. This spring, McManus is 9-1 on the mound with a 1.22 ERA to go with 68 strikeouts and 17 walks in 51 2/3 innings. At the plate, the Norsemen leadoff batter is hitting .448 (56-of-125) with 14 doubles, two triples and 40 RBIs, and he’s used his speed to produce 47 run scored and 26 stolen bases. McManus is committed to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he intends on playing basketball. North Muskegon enters district play Saturday with a 32-5-1 overall record, riding an 18-game winning streak.
BEN MEYERS, North Muskegon: This junior is a quiet leader behind the plate as the Norse catcher and a patient, dangerous hitter in the batter’s box. A Division 3 second-team all-stater last season, Meyers is batting .529 this season (64-for-121) with five home runs, eight triples, 11 doubles and 47 RBIs. He has scored 62 runs and stolen 33 bases. A college prospect with a very high baseball IQ, Meyers is the heart and soul for a North Muskegon team that is 32-5-1 and carries an 18-game winning streak into district play Saturday. The Division 3 fifth-ranked Norsemen ran away with WMC Rivers Division title.
NICK MOSS, Montague: This senior is a middle infielder by trade, but he’s also pitched and caught for the Wildcats, who earned a share of the WMC Lakes Division championship. Moss leads the conference in batting average a hefty .591 (52-of-88) with six doubles, one triple and 28 RBIs. The aggressive and heady player also has scored 40 runs and stolen 24 bases. He typically plays shortstop, but he’s stepped up as a pitcher, too. The right-handed Moss is 2-1 with a 1.68 ERA, 30 strikeouts and five walks in 25 innings. Moss has signed to play baseball at Lake Michigan College.
MIA CLEMENCE, Fremont: This sophomore was a prolific goal-scorer for the Packers, who finished runner-up in the West Michigan Conference behind North Muskegon. Clemence, a forward and team captain, tallied 29 goals and 13 assists on the season. She had a goal in all but two of Fremont’s matches this season and scored in 15 straight contests. She scored against every conference opponent except for Oakridge. Eight of her goals this season were game-winners. Clemence was an all-district and all-Central State Activities Conference selection last season as a freshman. Fremont finished with a 14-5-1 overall record.
SAM JOHNSON, North Muskegon: This senior has been on quite the tear for the Norse — not even a broken arm has been able to stop her. The right wing has a team-high 17 goals and eight assists, including the lone goal in North Muskegon’s 1-0 victory over Western Michigan Christian in Thursday’s Division 4 district finals. Johnson played that game with a cast and protective wrap over her left forearm/wrist after suffering two fractures in Tuesday’s district semifinals. She has scored in nine straight contests for the Norse (15-3-1), who are riding a 13-game winning streak entering regional play. She was a CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year finalist last season, too.
NATALIE PANNUCCI, North Muskegon: This senior left wing was the CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year last spring. Pannucci, who was a key member of North Muskegon’s dominant, Division 4 state championship-winning team her sophomore year in 2021, is a dangerous goal-scorer for the Norse. This season, she has 13 goals and six assists. Entering the state tournament, she had registered a goal or an assist in nine straight games. Pannucci will take her talents to Hope College, where she intends on playing volleyball. First, she is hoping to lead red-hot North Muskegon (15-3-1) on another state-title run.
BOYS TRACK AND FIELD
CLAYTON ACKLEY, Hart: This senior has enjoyed a record-setting career with the Pirates. Ackley owns school records in the 1600-meter run and 3200-meter run. In the former, he ran 4:24.24 at the 8th annual Kent City Elite Invitational. In the latter, he ran 9:23.55 at the 2023 Shepherd Bluejay Invite. He’s also run the 800 this season, posting a personal-record time of 2:01.25, and he anchors Hart’s 4×800 relay which is seeded first in the MHSAA Division 3 state finals. Ackley, who was a CatchMark SportsNet WMC Track Athlete of the Year finalist last track season, helped Hart capture a Division 3 cross country state title in the fall. He will continue his running career at Colorado Christian.
MALCOLM EARVIN, Whitehall: Between Earvin and fellow junior Trannon Aylor — the 2022 CatchMark SportsNet WMC Track Athlete of the year — the Vikings are in great shape in the sprints. Earvin is seeded second in the 200-meter dash at the MHSAA Division 2 state finals and he’s scheduled to compete in four events. In the 200, his personal-best time recorded this season was 22.30 in the regional meet at Allendale. In the 100, his PR was 11.03, also established in the Allendale regional. He also runs legs on state finals-qualifying 4×200 and 4×400 relay. Whitehall was a dominant team this season, although the Vikings fell just short of a title at last Friday’s MITCA Division 2 state finals.
KELLEN KIMES, Hart: This senior captured a New Balance Indoor national title in the weight throw in April with a toss of 78 feet, 4.25 inches. He’s also the state of Michigan record-holder in the event at 77-8. Kimes is the MHSAA Division 3 defending state champion in discus and he’s seeded first in Saturday’s MHSAA state finals. His personal-record in discus is 181-9. Kimes was an MHSAA runner-up in shot put last season and he’s seeded No. 1 in this year’s finals. He holds a PR of 58-8 in shot put. Kimes, who has signed to compete in track and field at Division I Liberty University, also competes in the hammer throw although hammer and weight throws are not MHSAA-sanctioned events.
GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD
MAELIE HOPE, Whitehall: This senior is a combination of strength and speed, unlike which has been seen in the conference, at least in recent years. Hope is dominant in throws and in sprints. She leads the state of Michigan in discus with a toss of 153 feet achieved in the Fruitport Trojan Invite early in the season. She’s ranked No. 6 in the state in all divisions in shot put with a personal-record of 42-3.75. Hope, who has signed to continue her career at Aquinas College, will also compete in the MHSAA Division 2 state finals in the 100-meter dash (12.58 PR) and 200-meter dash (26.03 PR).
ADDI HOVEY, Hart: Like Whitehall’s Maelie Hope, Hovey is a dominant athlete and she also leads the state in her speciality. This sophomore ranks No. 1 this season in the state of Michigan and fifth nationally in high jump with an effort of 5 feet, 11 inches, during the West Michigan Conference Rivers Division championships at Holton. Hovey also is an MHSAA Division 3 state finals qualifier in the 100-meter dash, who holds a personal-record time of 12.38 seconds, as well as in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays. Hart’s girls track and field team won the MHSAA Division 3 state title last year. Hovey is also a first-team all-stater in basketball.
JESSICA JAZWINSKI, Hart: This sophomore seems to perform her best in the biggest events, which should bode well for her in Saturday’s MHSAA Division 3 state finals. The distance phenom is an All-American and she continues to show why. Jazwinski won regional titles in the 800-, 1600-, and 3200-meter runs. Her personal-record in the 800 is 2:15.02 at the West Michigan All-Star Invitational, her best in the 1600 is 4:50.45 at the Distance Under the Lights event at Houseman Field, and her top time in the 3200 is 10:24.61. Jazwinski, who won the MHSAA Division 3 individual state title during cross country season in the fall, also has qualified with her 4×800 relay at the MHSAA state finals.
KILLIAN PREWITT, Fremont: This junior finished second place overall in scoring in West Michigan Conference Lakes Division nine-hole jamborees on the season (38.1 average over six events). Prewitt took first place in one jamboree, second in another and tied for second in a third. Fremont took second in the WMC Lakes behind Manistee. In 18-hole events, he was medalist of the Newaygo County Championship (76), third in the Lakeview Invitational (78) and tied for 13th in the Kent City Eagle Invitational (86). Prewitt tied for 47th at the MHSAA Division 2 regional at Katke Golf Course with a 90.
JACOB SCHARP, Manistee: This junior is team captain for a Manistee squad that finished second in the MHSAA Division 3 regional and qualified for the state finals. Scharp finished third place overall in scoring in WMC Lakes Division nine-hole jamborees on the season (38.5 average over six events). He placed first in two jamborees, second in two others and tied for third in another. Manistee won the division going away. In 18-hole events, Scharp took second in the Lake City/Terry Thompson Invite (73) and in Spring Lake’s George Bitner Invitational (74). He tied for fourth in the MHSAA Division 3 regional at Red Hawk Golf Course in East Tawas (80) and fifth in the Tawas Area’s Bogey’s Indoor Golf Invite (80).
MAX SCHARP, Manistee: This freshman certainly hasn’t played like a freshman this season. The younger brother of Jacob Scharp finished atop the season leaderboard for WMC Lakes jamborees (37.7 average over six events). He took first in two jamborees and first in a dual meet against Frankfort, and he placed second and tied for second in two other WMC Lakes jamborees. In 18-hole events, Scharp tied for fourth in the MHSAA Division 3 regional with his brother by scoring 80 at Red Hawk. He took fifth in the Lake City/Terry Thompson Invite (77). Most impressively, he captured medalist honors in the 36-hole, two-day Traverse City Central Tee Off against several larger schools with a 149 (75-74). Manistee won the WMC Lakes going away and finished second at its regional to punch a ticket to the state finals.
MARILYN GASTON, North Muskegon: This junior plays No. 1 singles for a North Muskegon squad that is headed back to the MHSAA Division 4 state finals. Gaston is 13-13 on the season, but at the top flight she’s faced some tough players and she did capture the Coastal Conference championship. Two years ago, Gaston teamed with Greta Goszkowicz to win a No. 4 doubles state championship in Division 4. North Muskegon finished runner-up in the Coastal Conference behind Ludington and second in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament behind Mona Shores.
HANNAH GLANVILLE, Ludington: This junior holds down the No. 1 singles spot for the Coastal Conference champion Orioles, who have earned their way to the MHSAA Division 3 state finals. Glanville, a three-year varsity starter, boasts a 20-5 record this season. She finished first during the Coastal dual season and second in the conference tournament, splitting with North Muskegon’s Marilyn Gaston. Glanville also placed runner-up in the MHSAA regional. This season, Glanville has lost twice to the regional champ, who is seeded third in singles at the state finals.
FIA LINDSAY, North Muskegon: This junior has had an outstanding season for the Norse, who are headed back to the MHSAA Division 4 state finals. North Muskegon’s No. 2 singles player is 23-3 on the season. She earned titles at her flight in the Coastal Conference, Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament and MHSAA regional. North Muskegon finished runner-up in the Coastal Conference behind Ludington and second in the GMAA tourney behind Mona Shores.
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