By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – John Morningstar, who led Monroe St. Mary’s Catholic Central to three consecutive state softball championships this decade, has been named head softball coach at Whiteford.
Morningstar replaces Kris Hubbard, the only softball coach the program has known. Hubbard started the program in 1979 and retired after the 2019 season, completing a 41-year career.
“I’m still in awe of that,” said Morningstar. “Being a head coach for 41 years at one place is an incredible accomplishment.”
Morningstar is not new to the Whiteford program. He was brought on as an assistant coach this past season and helped the Bobcats to a Tri-County Conference championship and a 29-5 overall record. Whiteford’s season came to an end in the district finals.
He met with a dozen potential future Whiteford softball players this week after being recommended for approval by Whiteford Athletic Director Jason Mensing and winning unanimous approval from the board of education. He’s already started off-season workouts with players.
“It was a chalk-talk session,” Morningstar said. “I just wanted to reiterate we are here to build on and maintain a solid program. This is year No. 1 for us, as every year will be. I want these kids to own the team, to have a say in the development of the team.”
Morningstar had a remarkable run of success at SMCC, winning state championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and advancing to the Division 3 Regional final in 2018. His four-year record at SMCC was 113-22. That included a 25-1 record in the state tournament.
He left SMCC following the 2018 season due to work commitments but joined the Whiteford coaching staff prior to the 2019 campaign. He already knew Whiteford assistant coaches Audra and Matt VanBrandt and knew Hubbard from coaching.
“It was a volunteer thing,” he said. “I said I would be there when I could. They were willing to bring me on board. Coach Hubbard welcomed me on the staff with open arms. We had a great time this year. The stars aligned, I guess.”
Morningstar also lives near the school and said he’s been impressed with the community and athletic commitment the school and athletes have.
“It’s six minutes from my house to the field,” he said. “Having been there last year and helping out will make the transition that much simpler. It’s not like I am a new face just showing up. I’m excited about the opportunity and to be coaching.”
Morningstar played football, basketball and baseball in high school, which started at Onsted and finished at Sylvania Southview. He was an assistant at SMCC prior to becoming head coach.
In 41 seasons at Whiteford, Hubbard compiled a record of 865-380 with 23 district championships, 13 regional championships, three state titles and 11 Tri-County Conference titles. She ranks 14th in Michigan High School Athletic Association history in softball victories.