Allen Park's Return to Finals Weekend Ends with 1st-Time Celebration

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

June 18, 2022

EAST LANSING – Allen Park senior Madilyn Ramey remembers the walk to the Old College Field awards area last year following a disappointing loss in the Division 1 Softball Final to South Lyon.

Ramey and her teammates took the same path this season. But this time, they enjoyed a much different emotion.

Second-ranked Allen Park won the program’s first Division 1 Final on Saturday after blanking Macomb Dakota 5-0 at Secchia Stadium.

“Last year, that same walk we just had was a different type of feeling,” said Ramey, who had a home run and a pair of outstanding defensive plays in her team’s championship game return.

“Now that we came back here, we rewrote the story and it just feels amazing.” 

Ramey, who will play at the University of Michigan, was one of eight starters back from last year.

“That was our main focus, and we really wanted to get here again,” she said. “It was just nice to execute today, and we really fed off each other’s energy. That’s what it has been about these last few games. Our energy has kept us in the game.”

Allen Park coach Michael Kish, whose team finished 38-4-1, said his team was determined to return to the Final and avenge last season’s loss.

“Three hundred and 65 days of motivation,” he said. “Six a.m. workouts, we had 12-hour days and we did everything we could. That was my thing. I know the more you invest, the more it’s going to be worth it.

“We knew we had the talent; that wasn’t the issue. It was more of the confidence and the family aspect.”  

In the third inning, Allen Park snared the early momentum.

Dakota/Allen Park softballAfter a leadoff single by senior Madison Hool and a sacrifice bunt, freshman Kiley Carr tripled over the right fielder’s head to give the Jaguars a 1-0 lead.

Carr would score to make it 2-0 after a Dakota fielding error off the bat of Makalya Sitarski.

A squeeze bunt by Avery Garden sent Sitarski home, and it was 3-0.

“That inning was huge, and it’s momentum,” Kish said. “Before the game we were loose, and we’ve been here before. They had the nerves, and we knew if we got on them early it would be tough for them to come back.”

In the sixth inning, senior Madilyn Ramey slugged a solo home run and the lead expanded to 4-0.

“It felt amazing,” Ramey said. “I hit one last year here. My first at bat I struck out and I just had to reset, and it felt great to get that.”

Kish had high praise for Ramey’s overall play.

“She’s a gamer, she’s a competitor and she plays the game like a 10-year-old girl that just fell in love with the game,” Kish said. 

Allen Park tacked on one more in the top of the seventh inning. Another sacrifice bunt from Garden scored Faith Peschke, who led off the inning with a walk.

Third-ranked Dakota (32-5), which won the Division 1 title in 2017, outhit the Jaguars 5-4, but couldn’t get any timely ones off Allen Park senior pitcher Morgan Sizemore and a stellar defense. 

“That’s a really good team over there,” Cougars coach Dan Vitale said. “They are well coached and their shortstop … we know why she’s committed to Michigan. She made some great plays against us and stole some hits from us.

“We weren’t expected to get this far, and we did, so we’re really proud of our kids. We plan on being here next year.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Madilyn Ramey’s teammates welcome her at the plate after a sixth-inning home run Saturday at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) An Allen Park runner gets back to third base as Dakota’s Gracie Maloney takes a throw.

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

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.)