Bluestreaks' Run Thrilling, Unforgettable

June 29, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Dawn Forter will never forget Brooklyn Woelmer’s knowing smile with Ida’s championship hopes one strike from being dashed.

The senior shortstop faced reigning champion Richmond and a two-strike count, her team down 3-1 with two outs in the seventh inning of the Division 2 championship game June 17 at Secchia Stadium.

If Ida’s run would’ve ended there, it still would’ve been worth celebrating. Seeking their first MHSAA title in the sport since 1994, the Bluestreaks had advanced to their first Final since 2006 despite entering the playoffs unranked and overlooked.

“I don’t know how many she fouled away. That last one barely touched (the bat),” Forter, her coach, said of Woelmer’s crunch time effort. “She stepped out of the box, took a deep breath, looked in the dugout and smiled.

“I’ll never lose that image. I knew when I saw her face that she was going to get on base.”

Woelmer ended up driving a double down the right-field line that brought in a run, and she crossed the plate as well on an error to tie the score at 3-3. The teams traded runs in the eighth inning before Ida put up four runs in the ninth to finish off the Blue Devils in the most thrilling conclusion from a tournament season packed with them.

There were a number of strong candidates for the final MHSAA/Applebee’s Team of the Month award for the 2016-17 school year. But it was impossible to look past Ida, which downed No. 10 Carleton Airport on the way to Michigan State, then No. 6 Stevensville Lakeshore in the Semifinal and the No. 2-ranked Blue Devils to earn a title at least a decade in the making.

Forter, who took over the program in 2004, had been part of an MHSAA runner-up finish as a player at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in 1989, and enjoyed a nice share of accolades playing shortstop at University of Detroit Mercy before also coaching at the college level and then returning to guide the Bluestreaks.

She has led the program to 349-131 record over 14 seasons and three league titles over the last four springs. This Ida team enjoyed something special from the beginning – although Forter had only 12 players, she said all could’ve started at any time – and together with three junior varsity call-ups, they won the program’s first District title since 2010 and first Regional title since 2009.

She said after the Semifinal win she was proud of all 15 of her players, and she meant it. All three of those call-ups had contributed in the Quarterfinal shutout of Flint Powers Catholic, 10 players saw the field in the Semifinal and 12 played in the championship game.

Ida had only three seniors and seven underclassmen on the postseason roster. But they showed they belonged at that late stage in the tournament – and showed some impressive poise conquering it.

“We were down a couple times during the postseason, after the other team scored first, but we chipped away,” Forter said. “We did what we do, we didn’t lose our minds, we stayed cool. We had confidence all along that we could battle back. We have extremely powerful bats, and we relied on the fact that that carried us all year. So there was no panic, even down 3-nothing in the seventh inning of the state finals. My assistant coach (Cheryl Hoffman) and I were more freaked out than they were.

“Where did they get that (composure)? I don’t know. We were a nervous mess.”

Ida had a little extra juice entering the postseason thanks to the rankings slight. Like many coaches in many sports, Forter said she doesn’t pay much attention to the weekly coaches association polls. But some of her players and their parents do. And when the Bluestreaks didn’t crack even the honorable mention list at the end of the regular season, Forter found herself a little irked too.

No doubt, that fueled the fire a little bit. “But I’d take that path again if it happens,” she admitted.

Ida finished 37-7, and after the season Woelmer, junior outfielder Karlee Lambert and junior second baseman Hannah Tuller made the all-state team. But their talents and contributions extend farther than the foul lines. Woelmer and senior outfielder Ashlyn Brososky claimed academic all-state individual honors as the Bluestreaks earned team academic all-state recognition. This year’s group boasted a grade-point average above 3.6, with no player below a 3.2. Forter also noted the group’s well-roundedness, with a number of her players active in Ida’s Young Life club and several participating in peer tutoring at the district’s elementary school.

This was a banner softball season for the southeastern corner for the state. Not only did Ida win in Division 2, but Monroe County neighbor and Forter’s alma mater St. Mary won its third straight Division 3 title. Ottawa Lake Whiteford, from bordering Lenawee County, was runner-up in Division 4.

Of that original 12 players on Ida’s roster, eight had been playing together since they were about 8 years old. They usually teamed up for the annual age-group tournaments that are part of the Monroe County Fair, coming away with at least four championships over the years against tough competition.

Those no doubt also prepared them to hang tough when their dreams rested on one more possible strike two weeks ago.

“How things played out, I don’t think I’ve ever been on an emotional rollercoaster like that as a player or a coach,” Forter said. “I was part of a state runner-up and I played college ball as well, and this didn’t compare to anything else I’ve experienced on a ball field.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2016-17
Whittemore-Prescott boys track & field - Report
Frankfort baseball - Report
Flushing girls basketball - Report
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central girls skiing - Report
Powers North Central boys basketball - Report
Dundee boys basketball - Report
Rockford girls swimming & diving - Report
Rochester girls golf - Report
September: Breckenridge football - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Ida coach Dawn Forter and her players celebrate Brooklyn Woelmer (14) scoring the tying run during the seventh inning of the Division 2 Final. (Middle) The Bluestreaks, after winning an earlier round of the MHSAA Tournament.

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.)