Bay City Western Finishes 1st Title Run

June 14, 2014

By Kelsey Pence
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Hannah Leppek tried not to think about last year.

Easier said than done.

After leading and then losing last year’s Division 1 championship game to Mattawan, Leppek was determined not to let this one slip away.

The senior pitcher struck out six, walked two and gave up just three hits through seven innings as Bay City Western held off Portage Central 4-2 in the Division I Final on Saturday at Secchia Stadium at Michigan State University.

“I tried not to think about it, but obviously it was in my mind,” Leppek said of last year’s loss. “I had that extra motivation, like, I need to finish it out this year. I really don’t know how to describe it. It’s just awesome. I have no words for how good I feel right now. I’ll probably be up all night just smiling.”

The MHSAA title is the first in softball for Western (41-3), after last season’s championship game appearance also was a first.

Meredith Rousse was hit by pitch in the bottom of the first inning to get things started for the Warriors, and Kaylynn Carpenter brought her home with a double to centerfield.

“That hit boosted (my confidence) up a lot, and I think it boosted up the girls' a lot,” Carpenter said. “Once our first, second and third girls get hits, it just riles everyone up. That’s how we win the game.”

Leppek then hit a foul ball to the first baseman that was caught, but Portage Central’s Meredith Adams fell into the dugout on the catch, and Carpenter came home for the second run.

The Mustangs (42-4) got on the board in the top of the third with a home run to right field by Lea Foerster.

Bay City Western built some cushion in the sixth inning when Leppek singled to left field and Kelsie Popp doubled to center. Blair Miller brought home a run with a single to short right field and Melissa Wegener singled to increase the lead to 4-1.

Portage Central found some fire in the top of the seventh inning. Brooke Wyman walked and Adams doubled to center to put runners in scoring position.  With one out on the board, and the memory of last year’s loss lingering, Western coach Rick Garlinghouse rallied his team around the pitcher’s circle.

“We had a 4-1 lead, so we could allow those runs to score, but we wanted the batter to stay at first base,” Garlinghouse said. “Our throw from the outfield was going to second base. The infielders were going to first base. We weren’t worried about any tag plays at the plate. We wanted to get outs.”

Cole grounded out, scoring Wyman, but Leppek then got a strikeout to end the game.

“Honestly at the beginning I felt a little off, and then I found my groove in the middle of the game,” Leppek said of her performance. “That last game tripped me up a little bit, but I got it back.”

Foerster, Adams and Cole picked up Portage Central’s three hits. Gina Verduczo pitched six innings, striking out two, while allowing seven hits and no walks.

“This has been a fun year win or lose at the end,” Mustangs coach Tom Hamilton said. “You get someone crying or someone going home smiling, and we’re going home crying today. I’m going to go home crying too because these kids are wonderful kids, and that is what it’s all about. They’ve made it special. The kids will come back.  I hope they look back on this and realize how special it is.”

Carpenter finished 1 for 3 with a run and an RBI for Portage Central, while Miller and Wegener each had a hit and an RBI.

“She has had two great years,” Garlinghouse said of Carpenter. “She drove in the first run and scored the second one. She’s a gritty player.

“It’s a very surreal feeling. I am real happy for the kids. They did all we asked them to do all year, play 21 outs. They wanted to get here after losing last year’s game.”

Added Carpenter: “It feels good going in my senior year and actually coming here and winning it. (Last season) wasn’t on my mind at all. I knew that was behind me. I had support, and I knew we could get it.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: Bay City Western’s Meredith Rousse crosses the play during the Warriors’ Division 1 Final win. (Middle) Western’s Hannah Leppek finished 1 for 3 at the plate and threw a complete game.

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.)