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.

Bedford Sophomore Powers Up with 23 Homers, Just Getting Started

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

June 7, 2023

TEMPERANCE – Here’s a warning for softball teams facing Temperance Bedford the next couple of seasons: Intentionally walking Aubrey Hensley only gives her more confidence.

Southeast & BorderThe Kicking Mules sophomore just finished her season with 23 home runs in 39 games, shattering school and Monroe County records. She remembers the home runs from the season that ended in the Division 1 District Finals, but she also remembers the walks.

“Our first game of the season, my first at-bat, I didn’t even get a swing in,” Hensley said. “As a hitter, it plays with your mind, but it also gives you confidence. If I go to the plate and they aren’t even willing to pitch to me, that gives me even more confidence. The next time up, I’m really going to look for my pitch.”

Hensley saw plenty of pitches she liked this season. She hit just a tick below .500 (61 hits in 124 at-bats), with seven doubles, five triples and nearly two dozen homers. They were pretty much split between the newly renovated Kicking Mules field in Temperance and road games.

Her most memorable home run was at Ypsilanti Lincoln.

“I usually have pretty good games at their field,” she said. “This year I hit a home run and hit the building which is behind the fence. That was a good one. I liked that watching and hearing that one hit.”

Hensley grew up in Toledo and moved across the state line in fifth grade. By then she was already involved in northwest Ohio travel softball programs.

“Softball kind of came naturally for me,” she said. “I loved to go to the field with my mom (Amanda) or my brother or just hit off the tee. I just have a mentality that I’m a good hitter and I can do whatever I put my mind to.”

Prior to her freshman season, Mules coach Marla Gooding, a first-grade teacher at Bedford, sent Hensley into the weight room. 

“I was not expecting to hit home runs going into my freshman season,” Hensley said. “I didn’t really know what to expect.

“When I was little, I wasn’t always a power hitter. I would hit a few doubles or triples and get into the ball some. I worked and put in time in the weight room, especially going into the freshman year. I think that really contributed to my home run hitting. Coach had us in the weight room during the season a little bit. It helps to develop your body to be a power hitter.”

Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. With the power in place, Hensley began concentrating on swinging through the ball.

“I don’t expect to hit a home run every time, but I go up to the plate thinking it’s possible,” she said. “I’m swinging to get through the ball and just drive it somewhere. I’m not hitting for contact. If you just go up hitting for contact, you are swinging lighter, and if it doesn’t go far, you start doubting yourself. I just go up and swing to drive the ball.”

Countless hours hitting off the tee and facing batting practice pitchers helped her fine-tune her swing. 

“I don’t like to get down on myself, because then it snowballs onto the field or another at-bat,” she said. “Short memory is one thing we really wanted to work on this year. I think I applied that more. It’s difficult sometimes if you aren’t getting the pitches that you want or aren’t producing. I just try to go up there with some swag and get the job done.”

Gooding called her a dream to coach.

“She’s a power-five softball player,” she said. “And the greatest kid ever. Seriously, a workhorse and team-first mentality.”

On the field, she is the Bedford catcher. She didn’t commit an error all season.

Hensley was a pitcher at a young age but loved the transition to behind the plate.

“When I got behind the plate, I loved it,” she said. “It’s like being a general out there controlling the whole field. I get to see everyone and everything. I put in a lot of work when I was little. I started with the basics and just advanced from there. I’m pretty dedicated to being the best I can behind the plate for my pitcher.”

Hensley will balance her summer of babysitting, playing basketball for the Mules in June and a busy summer travel softball season that will take her around Ohio, Kansas and Tennessee. She helped the Kicking Mules set a school record for wins with 23 and win a District title in basketball last winter.

Hensley isn’t the only Bedford softball player to show power this season. As a team, Bedford hit 51 home runs, including 12 by teammate Payton Pudlowski. That is one of the reasons Hensley isn’t simply intentionally walked time after time.

“We have some solid pieces behind her, and the two girls in front of her got on base all of the time,” Gooding said. “It was hard for other teams to do that.”

With 23 home runs this season, Hensley’s put her name among the top five all-time single seasons in state history. The record is 29 by Kali Heivilin from Three Rivers in 2021.

With 34 career home runs, she is almost in the top 25. 

Hensley isn’t concerned about records right now, except for one thing. She wants to put up a number that, by the time she graduates, is out of this world.

As she tells it, “I want to push the record so far that no one can touch it by the time I’m done with my career at Bedford.”

She might already have.

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) Bedford’s Aubrey Hensley prepares to drive a pitch this season. (Middle) Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. (Photos by Christine Kwiatkowski.)