By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – The Escanaba softball team that returned to Secchia Stadium on Thursday may not be too different from those that made trips to the Division 2 Semifinals in 2016 and 2017 as well.
But a couple of notable characteristics have the Eskymos sticking around for a few more days this time.
Even if his hitters start slowly, coach Jamie Segorski said, he knows to remain patient – they will come through. And a few runs frequently are enough with sophomore Gabi Salo in the pitching circle.
Escanaba didn’t get a hit until the fourth inning of Thursday’s 2-0 win over Eaton Rapids. But when the Eskymos struck, Salo made it stand, allowing only four hits to help her team to its first MHSAA championship game in this sport since 2003.
“This year we have a lot more energy in the dugout. We stayed up the whole time, never got down on ourselves,” Salo said. “A lot of people on this team have been here before, and that makes a difference.
“We had a feeling (we’d get back), but you don’t want to get too confident because you never know what’s going to happen. (But) we definitely are excited for Saturday.”
Escanaba (30-3) will play for its first MHSAA softball championship against South Haven at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. A first-time champion is guaranteed; Escanaba was runner-up in its lone championship game run, and South Haven was runner-up in three straight Finals from 1977-79.
Salo, who already has committed to play collegiately at University of Wisconsin, threw three scoreless innings of relief during last year’s trip as Escanaba fell to Richmond in the Semifinals for the second season in a row.
She went the entire way Thursday, striking out seven and walking only one batter.
Eaton Rapids sophomore Grace Lehto was similarly stellar, giving up only five hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
But the first Escanaba hit was a double to the left-field wall by junior Lexi Chaillier, who moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored when Eaton Rapids threw the ball into the outfield trying to double her up on a pop up.
Senior shortstop Taylor Gauthier launched the other significant shot, a triple to right field in the sixth inning, and she was driven home by senior third baseman Madison Griffin.
And that was plenty for Salo.
“She’s mature beyond her years. She doesn’t get rattled,” Segorski said. “They put a couple balls in play, two infield hits and a decent shot to left field. She just pitches through it. She just gets the job done. She’s just so emotionless out there until after the game.”
South Haven 14, Dearborn Divine Child 0 (5 innings)
South Haven’s incredible story just keeps getting better.
After defeating top-ranked Stevensville Lakeshore in the Regional Final and previously undefeated No. 2 Spring Lake in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, the Rams (32-8) unloaded 10 hits in their first Semifinal appearance since 1982.
Senior second baseman Haley Mines was 3 for 4 with three RBI, freshman centerfielder Jordyn Holland drove in two runs and scored twice, and senior pitcher Hayley Kreiger drove in three runs, scored a fourth and allowed only one hit and no walks over five innings in the circle.
“The kids are just really focused on what they want for the end result, and we really wanted to get to Saturday,” South Haven coach Wilma Wilson said. “We’re trying to take it step by step and moment by moment. … The kids were just feeling great today. All the kids in warm-ups were like, ‘I’m hitting good Coach. I feel good today.’
“I think we’re staying loose. I think we are focused and we’re zoning in on what we want to be the end product. We’ve been counting down seven games since we had a team dinner before our Districts. So every time, we go ‘7 … 6 …’ and now we’re on the 1.”
Senior first baseman Kerstin Hamann hit safely for Divine Child (22-10). The Falcons were back at the Semifinals for the first time since 1998.
PHOTO: (Top) An Escanaba hitter connects during Thursday’s Semifinal win over Eaton Rapids. (Middle) A South Haven hitter squares up for a bunt.
Owosso’s Macy Irelan earned 11 entries in the MHSAA record book over her three-year varsity career that came to a close last spring, most notably with her 1,157 strikeouts despite the 2020 season being canceled due to COVID-19.
Irelan’s career strikeouts were the second-most in the state since the pitching distance was lengthened three feet in 2011. She finished 31-7 last spring with a 1.43 ERA and 414 strikeouts in 229 2/3 innings in earning the Miss Softball Award for pitching.
She also hit .551 with 21 doubles last season, and her 55 career doubles over 117 games and three seasons made that category career list. She’s continuing her career at Kent State.
See below for more recent additions to the softball record book:
Unionville-Sebewaing’s dominating run to the 2021 Division 4 championship was filled with seven record book-worthy highlights, including many near the top of all-time lists. In going 40-3, the Patriots tied their season record for wins for the second time. Their 502 runs scored ranked third all-time, with their 493 hits tied for ninth, their 114 doubles second, their 49 home runs also tied for ninth, their 431 RBI also second and their 503 strikeouts thrown ranking third. Senior Brynn Polega completed her career with 13 record book entries despite her junior season being canceled because of COVID-19; she added listings for 71 runs, 79 hits, a third-best 28 doubles, 11 homers, 70 RBI, four perfect games pitching and 365 strikeouts, among others. Then-junior Laci Harris made lists with 77 runs, 83 hits, 22 doubles, 14 homers and 78 RBI, while then-junior Macy Reinhardt was added for 78 runs and then-freshman Gabriella Crumm was added for 16 doubles. Polega, Harris and Reinhardt also posted entries for single-game accomplishments. Polega is playing at Northwood and Harris at Madonna.
Big Rapids set a school record for wins in 2021 in finishing 34-7, a run which included a number of accomplishments that reached the record book. The Cardinals scored 439 runs – tied for 12th on that list – and also as a team were added for 428 hits, 82 doubles and 363 RBI, which tied for 10th all-time. Marissa Warren made the individual hits list with 71, while Hanna Smith earned an entry with 20 doubles and Rylie Haist followed with 19. Josie Cornell was added with 40 walks drawn. Warren, Smith and Haist were added for single-game accomplishments as well, as was Madison Affer from a 2019 game. Haist, Smith and Cornell are seniors this school year, and Warren is a junior. Smith has signed with Ferris State.
A pair of Bad Axe standouts earned record book entries in 2021 with their work at the plate. Haley Newland made the single-season doubles list with 19, and Brooke Messing was added for seven RBI in a game that saw her hit a grand slam and three-run homer. Newland graduated last spring and Messing is a senior this school year.
Montrose then-freshman Lainey Cannon made two record book lists with her performance April 25 against Montrose. She hit three home runs to make the single-game list in that category, and also made the single-game RBI list with eight.
Capac then-sophomore Madalyn Roberson made the record book three times with her performance May 9 against Brown City. She hit two home runs in back-to-back at bats, both during the fifth inning, and also drove in six runs for the game.
Spring Lake standouts now fill the record book after the addition of 55 individual and 23 team entries dating back to the 2000 season. Among listings ranking highest in their respective categories were Madelyn Nelson’s 81 runs in 2018, which tied for seventh all-time; Nelson’s 250 career runs from 2015-18) that rank seventh and Lauren Hellman’s 249 career runs also from 2015-18 that rank eighth on that list; Nelson’s 84 hits in 2018 that are tied for 12th-most all-time and her 264 career hits that rank 11th, Leah Vaughan’s 26 doubles in 2019 that rank seventh, Evie Lorimer’s 16 triples in 2011 that are tied for eighth and her 37 career triples from 2010-12 that are ranked fourth, Vaughan’s 23 career times being hit by pitch from 2016-19 which rank second, and Lorimer’s 92 stolen bases in 2012 that rank second (with all 92 coming consecutively to tie for fifth on that list) and 183 career steals that rank 11th. As a team, Spring Lake in 2017 ranked seventh all-time with 501 hits over 42 games, fourth with 109 doubles and eighth with 34 triples. The 2018 team ranks 11th with 441 runs scored over 41 games, 10th with 497 hits and tied for ninth with 100 doubles. Valerie Alter, Linsey Paggeot, Jenna Core, Molly Poole, Alicia Mumby, Leah Anton, Ann Marie Galloway and Rachael Adams also earned individual entries. Nelson went on to play at Grand Valley State, Vaughan plays at Aquinas College, Lorimer played at Central Michigan, Alter played at Jacksonville University (Fla.), Poole plays at Cornerstone University and Mumby played at Lansing Community College. Core plays volleyball at Hope College.
Freeland’s offense earned five record book entries during the team’s 26-12 season in 2022, including for 412 runs scored, 442 hits, 78 doubles, 336 RBI and a .400 team batting average. Three individuals also earned entries – sophomore Addie Steffen for a 20-game hitting streak and seven RBI in a game, junior Evelynn Rybicki for six RBI in a game and freshman Brynn Jaime for getting hit by a pitch twice in the same inning.
Chloe Parker hit .604 last spring and made the records with 20 doubles over 33 games for Niles Brandywine. She’s a junior this school year.
A series of record book entries were added for past and present Zeeland West standouts. Carly Sleeman was added for 73 runs, 75 hits, 27 doubles and 12 home runs in 2021 as a sophomore, while Lily Brower was added for 72 runs, 17 triples and 11 homers, plus 38 doubles and 29 triples over a four-year varsity career. Sleeman’s 27 doubles are tied for fifth-most in one season, and Brower’s 17 triples are tied for fourth on that list. Haley Hoogenraad was added for 70 hits and 17 doubles as a junior in 2015, 19 doubles as a senior, and 49 doubles and 24 triples over her four-year career from 2013-16. Kenzie Siersma was added for 17 doubles in 2017 and 54 over her career from 2016-19, while Courtney Sleeman made the season home runs list with 15 in 2015 and Sarah VanValkenburg made the career RBI list with 152 from 2014-17. Emily Brands was added for hitting consecutive home runs in the same inning, May 7 against Reese; she graduated this spring. Hoogenraad went on to play at University of Michigan, Courtney Sleeman played at Western Michigan, Siersma plays at West Virginia Tech, Brower played last season at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and Carly Sleeman has signed with Central Michigan.
PHOTO Owosso’s Macy Irelan unloads a pitch during the 2021 Division 2 Final.