1st-Time Title Winner On Deck in D3

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

June 15, 2018

EAST LANSING – Gabbie Sherman never flinched Friday. 

The Millington junior pitched her way out of three tight spots, including a tense bottom of the seventh inning, to lead the Cardinals to a 5-3 win against Sanford Meridian in an MHSAA Division 3 Softball Semifinal at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.

“Everyone has enough confidence in each other,” said Sherman, who struck out 11 while walking one and allowing seven hits and one earned run over seven innings. “If I make a bad pitch, I have enough confidence that one of my teammates is going to be there to pick me up. So, in a jam, that’s kind of nice. In a jam, I know that I have to buckle down and I can’t miss a pitch.”

The Cardinals (39-2) advanced to the Division 3 title game against Coloma at 3 p.m. Saturday, which will be their first trip to an MHSAA Final in this sport.

“It is such a great feeling to know that we are the first team in school history to ever get this far,” Sherman said. “That is huge, and I wouldn’t want to do it with any other girls.”

Sanford Meridian (27-15) had a chance to prevent that first title game trip, however, scoring a pair of runs on an error and bringing the winning run to the plate twice in the bottom of the seventh inning. A strikeout and a pop out ended the game, however.

“We didn’t give up,” Sanford Meridian coach Jamie Smith said. “Unfortunately we had a few innings where we had some poor at-bats, but they didn’t give up at all. They battled, and I think we even had a little fear in that team at the end. My kids don’t quit. They never have, and they’re not going to start now.”

The Cardinals showed veteran mettle when they had to, however, despite not having a single senior on the roster.

“Not having a senior – you wouldn’t be able to tell if you came into a practice or watched one of our games,” Millington coach Greg Hudie said. “There’s leadership throughout, not just one or two people leading the team. This team does everything together, and they lead together. That’s what makes them special.”

Millington built an early lead, getting an RBI single from Sydney Bishop in the first inning and an RBI double from Elizabeth Bees in the second.

Sanford Meridian was able to get one run back in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI bloop single from Audrey Kielpinski. But Sherman mitigated the damage from what could have been a huge inning for the Mustangs, who had the bases loaded with no outs following the run. She struck out two and forced a pop out to end the threat and preserve the lead.

From there, Sherman was dominant, retiring 10 straight Sanford Meridian batters. After facing another bases-loaded jam, this one with one out in the sixth inning, Sherman again left three Mustangs stranded, this time with a groundout to first and a strikeout.

As Sherman was keeping Sanford Meridian hitters at bay, the Cardinals were slowly building their lead. A Sabrina Gates sacrifice fly scored a run in the top of the fifth inning, and a throwing error allowed Hannah Rabideau to score from third to give her team a 4-1 lead.

Bishop struck again in the top of the sixth inning with an RBI single that put her team up 5-1. She finished the game with three hits, while Rabideau, Darrien Roberts and Gates each had two. 

Peyton Grice led Sanford Meridian with three hits, while Baleigh Hill had an RBI. Grice took the loss, allowing four earned runs and striking out one over seven innings. 

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Millington takes a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a double by Elizabeth Bees.

Coloma 5, Clinton 1

Coloma also will be making its first appearance in an MHSAA Softball Final after controlling its Semifinal against third-ranked Clinton.

The No. 2 Comets (37-3) jumped out to an early lead and rode a strong pitching performance from Jaidyn Hutsell and stellar defense to claim the victory.

“It’s exciting; these girls have worked hard,” Coloma coach Wendy Goodline said. “I have seven seniors, four of them were my managers as eighth graders and they so deserve it. They just deserve it.”

Megan Koeningshof set the tone early for Coloma, drawing a walk on 12 pitches in the game’s first at-bat, then scoring the opening run on a sacrifice bunt from Morgan Wagner. Koeningshof would score the second run of the game in the third inning on an RBI single from Wagner.

In the top of the sixth, Clinton attempted to pitch around Koeningshof, intentionally walking her to load the bases. Kayla Yore responded with a bases-clearing double to put Coloma up 5-0.

“They walked Megan, which I thought was a great strategy,” Goodline said. “I just told Kayla, ‘Hey, you can hit this,’ and she came through. I’m excited for her.”

Clinton (37-2) would get one run back in the bottom of the sixth inning on an RBI single from Peyton Rodriguez, but that was all the Redskins could muster against Hutsell, who allowed four hits and one walk while striking out four to pick up the win.

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Kayla Yore's bases-loaded double for Coloma in the sixth inning broke its game with Clinton open.

PHOTOS: (Top) Millington’s Gabbie Sherman makes her move toward the plate during the Cardinals’ Division 3 Semifinal win. (Middle) Coloma leftfielder Megan Neubecker pulls in a fly ball during her team’s victory.

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

May 7, 2024

Bill and Julia Turner have not only put in a lot of miles on the road, but they’ve also put a lot of miles in on the softball field.

Greater DetroitBefore Olivia Turner was hitting the cover off the ball and becoming Michigan’s career RBI leader for the Grass Lake softball team, Bill and Julia were taking her to the field for batting practice.

“I always wanted to go to the field, and my dad would take me and my mom would shag balls in the outfield,” Olivia said. “They’ve spent countless hours, especially traveling around the country. They’ve been my biggest support system. They are awesome.”

Her Warriors teammates are grateful, too. Last week Turner became Michigan’s all-time leader in runs batted in, surpassing Taylor Light & Life Christian’s Kelly Kennedy, who held the record with 304 RBIs from 1991-94.

“It was crazy to think I beat a 30-year-old record,” Turner said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I’m just super thankful.”

Having her name on the state record book for softball is nothing new to Turner. She barely missed the state mark for RBIs in a season last year when she had 102 and is the state’s all-time career doubles leader already.

Grass Lake head coach Roger Cook said Turner never talks about hitting home runs or driving in runs – just about being a teammate.

“I’m going to tell you, she’s one of the most modest people you’ll ever talk to,” Cook said. “She just talks team, team, team. She always has since I’ve known her. She has never said one thing about a home run or a base hit.”

Turner, who plays third base, has been around the Grass Lake program for a long time. When her sister Madeline was playing for the Warriors before heading off to play at Findlay University in Ohio, Olivia would tag along.

“I just wanted to be at the field, be around softball,” she said.

Turner first picked up the game when she was on an 8-and-under team.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records.She started as a pitcher, but quickly converted to infielder, where she has played with Grass Lake and various travel teams. She also plays volleyball and basketball for Grass Lake, but softball is her sport.

“We’re all one family,” she said. “I love that you get to play with girls that you may not be friends with at school. It shows you who you are. Softball gives you a lot of life lessons – dedication, teamwork, how to work with others.”

She loves to hit, too.

“Every at-bat, even if there is no one on base, I want to get on base,” she said. “I’m always going up to the plate doing it for my team, not for myself. The RBIs are pretty cool. My team gets on base for me. All of the girls are phenomenal.”

Cook said he sometimes gets worried that opponents will just pitch around Turner. But because of who is in the lineup in front of and behind her, he doesn’t have to worry about that.

“We have Rylee Fitzpatrick, Emily Brown, then Olivia,” Cook said. “After Olivia we have (junior) Bree Salts, who has committed to Central Michigan. It’s hard to pitch around her. When we get to some of these big games, teams will have to throw to her.”

Last year’s Division 3 runner-up Ottawa Lake Whiteford has faced Grass Lake multiple times over the past couple of seasons, and coach Matt VanBrandt is plenty familiar with the damage Turner can do.

"You'd better have a plan when you are pitching to her,” VanBrandt said. “She’s a dangerous hitter. She’s someone you need to think about before the game starts.”

Turner hit .714 last season with 30 doubles and those 102 runs batted in. For her career, she’s belted 48 home runs and knocked in 309 runs after Saturday’s tournament. She’s never hit below .535 for a season and is nearing 100 career doubles.

Grass Lake currently is 22-1 and leading the Cascades Conference.

“It’s crazy to think I am actually a senior now,” Turner said. “Now that it is my senior year, I just want to work hard and play for my team. We’ve had great seniors the last couple of years. It’s crazy to think this is my last season.”

Turner will attend Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. She chose Bradley because of its nursing program.

“Academics has always been first for me,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus. It’s not too big or too small. The staff there is great.”

Before taking her swing to college, Grass Lake wants to make a deep tournament run this season. And the more games the Warriors play, the more RBIs Turner is likely to add to her record.

“Olivia has one of the smoothest, most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen,” Cook said. “She’s one of the girls you want up there at bat with the game on the line. She can do it all. If you need a single, she’ll get you a single. If you need a walk-off, she can do that, too.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Grass Lake’s Olivia Turner focuses on a pitch coming her way. (Middle) Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records. (Photos courtesy of Pictures by Marisa and the Grass Lake softball program.)