1977 Baseball, Softball Finals Full of Firsts

June 5, 2017

By Ron Pesch
Special for Second Half

This season’s MHSAA Baseball and Softball Finals will be played in two weeks, June 15-17 at Michigan State University.

As we begin to turn our attention to that grand finale for the school year, MHSAA historian Ron Pesch takes on a recollection of the diamond championships in both sports from 1977.

That season’s baseball playoffs were the seventh under MHSAA sponsorship, while softball was in its third season as an MHSAA tournament sport.

BASEBALL

CLASS A – Four of coach Pat O’Keefe’s Grand Ledge baseball teams have advanced to the final game in the MHSAA’s top division since the start of tournament play in 1971. A standout athlete at Standish-Sterling High School, Central Michigan University and in the minor leagues in the Houston Astros organization, O’Keefe has led two Comets squads, the 2001 and the 1993 teams, to MHSAA runner-up finishes. Grand Ledge grabbed Class A championship honors in 1995, but it was the first title, earned in June of 1977, that caught everyone by surprise.

After opening the season with three victories and a single defeat, Grand Ledge dropped their next four games in a row before rallying to a 14-6 regular-season mark and a third-place finish in the Capital Area Conference. Behind solid pitching, O’Keefe saw his team’s bats come alive in the postseason. Tim Skinner had three hits, scored twice and had a pair of RBI in District games with Owosso and Brighton. With six straight tournament wins, Grand Ledge advanced to Saturday morning’s Semifinal contest at Valley Field in Grand Rapids against Sterling Heights and its pitching ace, Rick Lemanski, who was unbeaten in 12 games. Ranked No 2 in the state by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association, Sterling Heights loaded the bases with two out in the fourth inning, but a pop up to first baseman Scott Kemp ended the rally. With one out, the Stallions threatened again in the fifth with runners at second and third, but the rally ended when a missed sign on a suicide squeeze resulted in a strikeout and a tag out at third, ending the inning. Following a one-out double to center, junior Mike Dyer scored the game’s only run on a play at the plate in the eighth inning to win the contest. Craig VanDerSteen picked up the win for Grand Ledge, striking out 11.

Against top-ranked Detroit Catholic Central, the unranked Comets scored twice in the second inning, three times in the fourth and once in the fifth. Craig Dukes struck out two and scattered seven hits to secure the victory for Grand Ledge, while Dyer drove home three runners, scored, and sparkled defensively from the shortstop position.

“He played like a major leaguer, and he comes through in clutch spots like nobody I’ve ever seen.” said O’Keefe. Entering the 2017 season, his 49th as skipper at Grand Ledge, O’Keefe stood atop the MHSAA’s career coaching wins list with 1,221 victories against 208 defeats and a single tie.

CLASS B – In Class B, Gibraltar Carlson pounded out a 7-1 victory over No. 1-ranked Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher. Played at Stanley O. Broome Park in Flint and delayed until Monday due to rain, the game saw the Marauders score twice in the first inning. Southpaw Craig Smith, who struck out eight in a four-hit performance, singled and then scored on Kirk Williams’ triple. Williams scored to give Carlson a 2-0 lead on a sacrifice fly by Kelly Mousseau. The Marauders scored again in the second inning when Gary Southerland singled then scored on a Brett Kahn triple. Williams notched his second triple of the game in the third, scoring the first of four runs in the inning. Following a Mousseau walk, Mark Shallhorn singled to drive in both runners. Another single by Southerland drove home Shallhorn, and following a groundout, he scored on a single by Kahn.

“This was undoubtedly the finest season in his 24 years of coaching for (John) LeFevre,” stated The Associated Press when it named him Class B all-state Coach of the Year. “He led Gibraltar-Carlson to a 28-7 record which were personal bests for most wins and winning percentage.”

CLASS C – Like O’Keefe, Blissfield’s Larry Tuttle began his coaching career in 1968. Number two on the all-time baseball win list, a mere seven wins back, Tuttle and his Royals earned their first Class C MHSAA baseball crown in 1973, then grabbed their second in 1976. At Marshall High School in 1977, Blissfield became the first Class C baseball team to repeat as champions, downing Center Line St. Clement by a score of 4-2. Trailing 2-1 headed into the fifth inning, Blissfield’s Jim DeVantier singled, stole second and third base, then scored on a wild pitch to knot things up. A bases-loaded walk to Bud Friess followed to give the Royals the lead. An insurance run in the seventh, scored by Steve Cannon on another wild pitch, gave Dave Pagel the win. Pagel, a two-time all-state selection headed to Central Michigan University, struck out seven and allowed four hits on the day. Friess also pounded out a two-run triple in Blissfield’s 5-0 win over Sanford-Meridian in the morning’s Semifinal. Mike Burgermeister went the distance for the Semifinal victory. The Royals finished the year with a 28-2 mark. St. Clement, Class C champion in 1972 and 1974, ended with a 28-8 record.

CLASS D – Mark Kelley struck out 15 in leading Ann Arbor St Thomas to a 4-3 win over Frankfort in a Class D Semifinal, then in the title game pitched the final two innings in relief to earn the win in St. Thomas’s come-from-behind 10-9 clincher over top-ranked Potterville. The games were played at Alumni Field in Mt. Pleasant. Trailing 7-4 headed into the top of the seventh inning, the Irish scored six runs on five hits, including a two-run single by Tom Dishman and a two-run double by Mike Stork to take a 10-7 lead. Potterville scored twice in its final at bat to pull within one run of the lead. With the bases loaded and one down, Kelley managed to retire the next batter with a pop-up to short, then struck out the final batter for the victory. Starting pitcher Gary Farmiloe, ousted from the title game after two innings, went 2 for 3 and scored the winning run in the Semifinal game versus Frankfort, then went 3 for 4 at the plate against Potterville with two singles and a double. St. Thomas, 5-11 at one point during the season, finished with a 15-12 record.

SOFTBALL

CLASS A – Senior Karen Searles tossed a two-hitter in Portage Central’s 10-0 victory over Temperance-Bedford in a Class A Semifinal, then allowed five hits in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Flint Carman to clinch the championship. The Mustangs opened a 3-0 advantage in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-run single by Kim Barnes. Searles, who finished the year with a perfect 20-0 record, gave up three walks and a pair of hits in the sixth, including a two-run single by Kim Lancaster as Bedford rallied to tie the game. In the bottom of the seventh, an error allowed Karen Frank to reach first base with one out. Sacrificed to second, she scored on Sandy Surch’s third hit of the game. The Final was hosted at Memorial Field in East Detroit.

CLASS B – At Henry Robinson Park in Ionia, Roxanne Abramouski picked up her 31st victory without defeat as Grosse Ile downed South Haven, 5-3, for the Class B title. Grosse Ile opened a 3-0 lead in the first inning as Shawn Perry reached first on an error and scored following a double by Ann Perrault. A single by Allison Smith scored Perrault, while Smith later scored on another error. Patty Silye singled home a pair of runs in the fifth, expanding the lead to 5-0, before South Haven cut the margin to two with three runs in the sixth inning. A semifinalist in 1976, Grosse Ile finished the year with a flawless 33-0 record and 0.75 ERA. Abramouski continued her playing career at Ferris State, where she still ranks among the school’s pitching leaders in various categories.

“I would say it has been a pretty good year for girls athletics at South Haven,” said coach John Yelding. Earlier in the year, the Rams also finished Class B runner-up in volleyball.

CLASS C – DeWitt’s Cindy White fired a four-hitter, then went 4 for 4 at the plate to lead coach Debbie Boyd’s Panthers to a 12-5 thumping of Center Line St. Clement in the Class C championship played at Ella Sharpe Park in Jackson. White drove in five runs in the contest, notching a triple, a double and a pair of singles as DeWitt picked up its first MHSAA championship in any sport. St. Clement took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Panthers exploded for five runs in the third, two in the fifth and five more in the sixth for a 12-1 lead entering the seventh.  DeWitt downed Niles Brandywine, 7-1, earlier in the day to advance to the title game. The championship was especially sweet for Coach Boyd, who had announced prior to the tournament that she would step down after five years at the helm.

CLASS D – Allendale senior Ruth Crowe tossed a pair of two-hitters as the Falcons downed Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, 10-0, in the morning’s Semifinal, then defeated Custer Mason County Eastern, 8-0, at Fink Field in Fowler. Allendale, top-ranked in Class D, scored early and often, tallying six runs in the first inning as Mason County Eastern allowed 11 hits and five unearned runs on the day. Deb McBurnett doubled to right-center in the second inning and scored on a Weez Stelland single for a 1-0 lead. Three errors, a walk and a bunt single by Crowe pushed the margin to four in the third inning. Another run on errors came in the fifth, and with two out in the sixth inning, five consecutive singles combined with errors allowed three more runs to score. Allendale ended the year with a 22-2 record, while Mason County Eastern wrapped up the season at 19-3.

Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at peschstats@comcast.net with ideas for historical articles.

PHOTOS: (Top) The Lansing State Journal on June 19, 1977, touted Grand Ledge’s first MHSAA baseball championship. (Middle) The DeWitt softball team won its first MHSAA title in any sport that spring. (Top photo courtesy of the Lansing State Journal, bottom photo from MHSAA archives.) 

Otsego's Bolhuis Earns Record Book Fame with Elite Ability to Get On Base

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 2, 2022

Jada Bolhuis finished up her Otsego softball career this spring all over the MHSAA record book – and despite playing only three seasons because 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19.

Bolhuis owns 12 entries in the MHSAA record book including for 228 career runs (16th all-time), 230 career hits and a .622 career batting (sixth all-time) over 112 games and three varsity seasons.

She also made the hitting streak list twice, with a run of 44 straight games with a hit from April of her freshman year until the end of April of her junior season, and for a 33-game hitting streak during her junior and senior springs. The 44-game streak is the second-longest in MHSAA history.

Bolhuis also is a track sprinter and is slated to run at University of Tampa.

We’re continuing to catch up on adding record book listings. See below for more of the most recent added for softball.

Softball

Richland Gull Lake’s Savanna Disbrow had a par of significant run-producing games over the course of two weeks in May 2021. She drove in seven runs against Mattawan that May 5, then eight in a win over Delton Kellogg on May 20. She played this past season at Bemidji State in Minnesota.

Gabby Schloop put up a senior season to remember for Midland in 2021, posting the fifth-most runs scored (83) and tying for the fifth-most doubles (27) in MHSAA history, while also making the single-season hits list with 70 and career doubles list with 49 over three seasons. Taylor Sanborn also made the single-season hits list in 2021 as a senior, and also with 70. Sanborn continued her career at Calvin University, and Schloop at Northwood.

Maddisyn Miller also was added for RBI in a single game, driving in seven May 12, 2021, for Ovid-Elsie against Laingsburg. She is a junior this fall.

Rochester Adams earned its first softball record book entries in 2021. Then-junior Sabrina Lee was added for getting hit by 17 pitches over 34 games. Teammate Elizabeth Blaine, a senior that season, hit home runs in consecutive at bats, both in the second inning, of a game against Auburn Hills Avondale.

Potent offense helped drive Grandville to a 31-5 finish in 2019, with a number of top hitters in the record book. As a team, the Bulldogs are listed for 399 hits, 76 doubles, 34 home runs and 292 RBI that season. Then-senior Taylor Buiter was added for 10 home runs, including a pair in consecutive at bats, and then-junior Maddi Ungrey was added for three home runs in the same game all in consecutive at bats as well. Then-senior Lexi Dukesherer became the first player listed for being hit by a pitch twice in the same inning, and she also made the single-game list in that category for three. Additionally, former Grandville standout Carrie Mesman was added for her 17 doubles in 2015. Mesman went on to play at Aquinas College, and Buiter played at Ferris State.

Bath’s Bailee Buck has become the first entry for career times hit by pitches, as she totaled 30 over 99 games from 2017-19 (with her senior season of 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). She also made the single-game list with three HBPs as a junior. Teammate Ally Estrada was added twice for hitting consecutive home runs, five days apart during the 2019 season, and also for driving in seven runs in the first of those games May 18, 2019, against Algonac. Estrada graduated this spring.

Grosse Pointe South’s Shannon Dame became the second player added to the single-season hit-by-pitch list. She was hit by 20 pitches during the 2021 season, when she was a junior.  

A trio of New Lothrop hitters were added for hitting during the 2021 spring, led by then-junior Jersey Hemgesberg who was added for 73 hits, 25 doubles and 12 home runs over 38 games – with the 25 doubles tying for seventh-most in MHSAA history. Additionally, Brynne Birchmeier was added for 20 doubles and Marissa Rombach for 17. Both are juniors this fall.

Bloomfield Hills sophomore Hannah Grant made the single-game lists for home runs and RBI during a win over Berkley on April 7. She had three homers and six RBI in the 9-7 win; the three homers tied for second-most in one contest.

Buchanan sophomore Hailee Kara also joined the single-game RBI list with nine during a 19-7 win over Vicksburg on April 21. The nine RBI tied for seventh-most in one contest.

PHOTO Jada Bolhuis makes a throw to first base during Otsego’s District Final win over South Haven this spring. (Photo by Gary Shook.)