Pittsford Arrives at Cusp of History Again

March 16, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Their record alone – 102-2 – is simply incredible to consider.

And by the end of Saturday morning, Pittsford seniors Jaycie Burger and Maddie Clark could finish their careers alone as the winningest girls basketball players in Michigan high school history.

The Wildcats’ all-state duo tied former St. Ignace standout Kelley Wright (102-5 from 2011-14) for first on the MHSAA's varsity wins list with their team’s 57-39 Class D Semifinal victory Thursday over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.

And that set up one more history-making opportunity Saturday for a team that has put its small Hillsdale County town on the sports map. Top-ranked Pittsford will take on unranked Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary in the Class D Final riding a two-season, 54-game winning streak as it looks to finish with a second straight Finals title.

“It’s, honestly, kind of unbelievable,” Burger said. “We come from a small town. No one had every heard of it before the first time we came here. Pittsford … tiny. Like Maddie said last year, we just got a Family Dollar, and that’s like the biggest news ever. 

“So for us to be able to come here three years in a row and have the possibility to win a second state championship is just awe-inspiring. And I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to play this long with these girls and with my team, and I’m thankful to do something that’s this great.”

Pittsford will attempt that repeat finish at 10 a.m. Saturday. But getting the opportunity wasn’t as easy as showing up Thursday to what’s become a home court away from home. 

Wildcats coach Chris Hodos called Sacred Heart the toughest team his has faced this season, and with good reason. The Irish, without a senior, fell to only 25-2 with the loss after playing in their third Semifinal in four seasons. Sacred Heart was Class D champion in 2015 and fell to Pittsford in the championship game last winter, 48-30.

The Irish led into the second quarter this time and tied the score again with two minutes to play in the first half – before the Wildcats scored the final five points of the half to slowly start to pull away.

“Very simple. Our gameplan was to attack the press and attack the basket,” Sacred Heart coach Damon Brown said. “The energy of putting pressure on them was something we really wanted to do. I think last year we were a little hesitant. I think we were caught up in the moment last year, but this year we were more aggressive. I loved how we played this year.”

Pittsford stifled Sacred Heart with defense and rebounding, forcing 28 turnovers while giving the ball up only 13 times and outrebounding the Irish 37-29 – including 21-5 on the offensive boards.

Clark led with 19 points and eight rebounds, and Burger had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Junior guard Marissa Shaw chipped in eight points and eight steals – her 171 steals this season rank seventh in MHSAA history.

“Her anticipation is just off the hook,” Hodos said. “You can’t say enough about her. She made big baskets for us tonight. She makes some great passes.”

Sophomore guard Scout Nelson led Sacred Heart with 16 points, and junior forward Sophia Ruggles added eight points and five rebounds. As noted, Sacred Heart didn’t have a senior – the Irish were paced by six juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.

“The locker room was a little bit different this year. There was some sadness, but the motivation and the energy to get back at it again and get back here next year has already started,” Brown said. “And that’s what I like, a group of girls who are committed to being the best team they can be. This is just a small hurdle that we’ll overcome.”

“I think it’s a big motivation for us,” Ruggles added. “Like he said, we’re all hungry to get back in the gym and compete, and it just adds a little fire to (our) want to get better.”

Meanwhile, Pittsford's four seniors, including forward Katelyn Kafer and guard Katie Clement, can cement their Breslin legacy with one last win.

And they're prepared to face the hype that will go with that historic opportunity.

"As long as we keep the same mentality we’ve had all year, just to play our game and execute our gameplan, we should be OK,” Burger said. “As long as we don’t let the hype that surrounds the state championship interfere with our team chemistry and our gameplan, I think that definitely should be OK.

“But it’s definitely going to be surreal feeling. It’s going to be the last time I’m out there with my girls. And it’s going to be, definitely, a game to remember.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) A pair of Pittsford defenders tie up Sacred Heart’s Sophie Ruggles during Thursday’s Class D Semifinal. (Middle) The Wildcats’ Maddie Clark (10) works to get a shot up over Grace Reetz (2).

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)