GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett softball coach Jim Schmidt has been around the game for more than 40 years, and he considers senior Emma St. John to be among the best high school pitchers he has ever seen.
Facts help to back up Schmidt’s high opinion of St. John’s talents.
St. John — who spent her first two seasons at Grosse Pointe South before transferring to Liggett prior to her junior season — has thrown 13 career no-hitters, including a perfect game her freshman season, when she struck out all 18 batters faced.
She has more than 80 career wins, has earned two All-State selections and has been named league MVP twice — once in the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division with South and the other last season with Liggett in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference.
One of St. John’s most recent achievements was surpassing 1,000 strikeouts in her career, becoming the 38th athlete in state history to do so.
She reached that milestone May 9 en route to a no-hitter against Sterling Heights Parkway Christian. She struck out 14 in the game.
“It goes to show all my practice has paid off,” said St. John, who had a 1.106 ERA and 0.771 WHIP (a measurement of walks plus hits per inning pitched) through her junior season. “I couldn’t have done it without my team supporting me and my great coaches. … Everyone was cheering for me, and they announced it. It was such a cool feeling.”
Schmidt spoke about St. John the day after she had struck out 20 batters in a game against Auburn Hills Oakland Christian May 18.
“It’s been nice to get to watch a pitcher of that caliber develop and progress with time,” Schmidt said. “She’s got a whole arsenal of pitches, and she can throw (them) all for a strike. … How often do you get somebody who strikes out 20 people?”
Aside from pointing out that St. John is also a consistent .500 hitter and an “excellent” base runner, Schmidt also acknowledged the work of Liggett’s freshman catcher, Jenna Hummel.
“You have this freshman-senior combination, which I think the two of them together form the best battery, probably in the state,” Schmidt said.
St. John’s achievements have not come without sacrifice. While there can be plenty of things to occupy the time of a teenager, she has chosen to spend much of her time developing her skills as a softball player.
Reaching 1,000 strikeouts can help serve as another reminder that it’s all been worth it.
“I usually find myself at the field, even after games, taking ground balls or pitching,” said St. John, who had four no-hitters on the season at press time. “I generally pitch a few times a week. I go to pitching lessons; I have hitting lessons. … When I hit a thousand strikeouts, it’s like, ‘Wow, I worked so hard.’ It really is great that I pushed myself this hard, and it’s been something I’ve wanted.”
St. John also acknowledged the support of her parents, Bob and Heather.
“My dad can tell you how much he supports me with all the bruises that are on his shins,” St. John said. “He gave up this year on catching. … My mom was the reason why I started pitching. She was a pitcher in high school. … She was awesome.”
St. John’s talent and work ethic has earned her the opportunity to play for the University of Detroit Mercy, an NCAA Division I program.
“My ultimate goal is to be a nurse anesthetist in the future,” St. John said. “I think it’s such a blessing. I get to play softball, but also go to such a great school academically. … It’s such a great opportunity, and I think I really have to make the most of it.”
While St. John is enthused about her opportunity to play at the next level, there is still some business she would like to care of before leaving Liggett, and that is to come away as a state champion.
“We were so close last year,” St. John said. “I think now that we kind of took the loss (in a Division 3 quarterfinal), we know how to approach states differently. Hopefully we can get the ‘W’ this time.”
Liggett plays at 4:30 p.m. May 30 in a Division 3 district opening-round game against Detroit Edison Public School Academy at home.