EAST LANSING - Things were not going according to plan for Allen Park early in Thursday morning’s Division 1 Semifinal at Secchia Stadium.
Mattawan, fresh off an upset of top-ranked South Lyon on Tuesday, came out in giant-killer mode again, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead against the No. 2-ranked Jaguars.
“Those nerves, they got us early, but we came back to play,” said third-year Allen Park coach Michael Kish, whose team will try to take the final step Saturday after last year’s D1 runner-up finish.
Allen Park scratched back to tie the game with single runs in the bottom of the third and fourth innings, setting the stage for junior Mia Hool’s two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to complete the come-from-behind, 4-2 victory.
“I knew that I was due,” said Mia Hool of her hit to right field, which scored Madilyn Ramey and Ashten Omodio. “It feels great to know that I had my team’s back. When we get behind, we know we have to stay up and keep the energy. Our bats will come around.”
Both of Thursday’s Division 1 Semifinals featured cross-state matchups, with the east side prevailing in both contests.
Allen Park, 37-4-1, will go for its first softball Finals championship at 10 a.m. Saturday against No. 3 Macomb Dakota, which hung on for a 2-1 victory over Hudsonville. The Final should be a classic between the strong hitting of Allen Park and the dominant pitching of Dakota junior Megan Nuechterlein, who struck out 15 in her team’s Semifinal win.
It took the Jaguars a couple of innings Thursday to adjust to Mattawan junior Madison Vrba, and it was a run-scoring single by freshman Kiley Carr in the bottom of the third inning which broke the ice and changed the momentum of the game.
Allen Park tied it in the fourth, as Avery Garden smacked a leadoff triple and was driven in on a single by junior pitcher Morgan Sizemore.
Sizemore, who improved to 21-4 with the victory, allowed seven hits during the first three innings, then pitched no-hit ball over the final four innings.
“I usually do better pitching once my team scores,” explained Sizemore, who pitched last year’s Final when Allen Park lost to South Lyon, 5-0. “I start thinking different on the mound when my team is hitting behind me. Once we started scoring, the energy changed.”
Sizemore and Carr both finished 2-for-3 at the plate to lead the Jaguars, who finished with seven hits.
Mattawan, which also finished with seven hits, came out aggressively and with no sign of nerves – although none of its players had advanced out of Districts before this spring.
Alyssa Bloomfield and Eliana Ruhrup both singled in the first inning, before freshman Audrey Ford brought them both home with a single to right field. Ford and Ruhrup both went 2-for-3 for Mattawan (24-16), which put it all together in the postseason for a memorable run to the Final Four.
“It was a great start, and we also had a lot of runners on base in the second and third innings, but we couldn’t get that key hit to keep it rolling,” said 22nd-year Mattawan coach Alicia Smith, whose team finished second in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. “It’s a big environment and a big game, and I think the girls got just a little bit tight.”
Macomb Dakota 2, Hudsonville 1
Megan Nuechterlein was dominant on the mound – and at the plate – as Macomb Dakota won its 21st consecutive game.
The Cougars scored runs in the third and fourth innings to take a 2-0 lead and were cruising, until the young Hudsonville team made a charge in the seventh inning.
After a single by Jessica Dobias, sophomore leadoff hitter Megan Beemer lined a triple into the gap in right-center to score Dobias and put the tying run 60 feet away.
That set up a showdown between Nuechterlein, a junior who has a 0.84 ERA and has committed to Kent State University, and Hudsonville junior shortstop Ella Reifschneider, the Eagles’ leading hitter with a .536 batting average and 41 RBI.
Reifschneider got around a pitch but pulled it directly to Dakota first baseman Madison Franzoni, who grabbed the ball and touched her glove to the base to end the game.
“There were definitely some nerves there, but knowing that I have great defense behind me really helps,” said Nuechterlein, who improved to 17-2 on the season and added 15 strikeouts. “I try to spin the ball more and change up speed more as it gets later in the game.”
Jenna Higgins, a freshman outfielder, went 2-for-2 to lead Dakota at the plate. Alexis Olterdorf singled in Higgins in the third inning to open the scoring, and Nuechterlein had a long solo home run over the left-centerfield fence in the fourth inning.
Those two runs turned out to be all the Cougars needed, thanks to the overpowering pitching of Nuechterlein.
“I’ve been saying that she’s probably the best pitcher in the state of Michigan right now,” said third-year Dakota coach Dan Vitale, whose team won the Macomb Conference Red. “We know we are going to have our hands full (Saturday). We have to hit the ball better.”
Hudsonville, 34-7, finished with seven hits, compared to six for Dakota. Junior third baseman Ashley Sorrell finished 2-for-3 to lead the Eagles, who had just two senior starters.
“There is no quit at all in this team,” said 41st-year Hudsonville coach Tom Vruggink, who has won 1,124 games during his career. “That was a very good pitcher we faced, but we kept battling and hung in there and we were that close to tying it up.”
PHOTOS (Top) Allen Park’s Mia Hool lines up a powerful swing during Thursday’s opening Division 1 Semifinal. (Middle) Macomb Dakota’s Angela Petrovitch begins her sprint to first base. (Click for more Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.