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.
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
May: Whittemore-Prescott boys track & field - Report
April: Frankfort baseball - Report
March: Flushing girls basketball - Report
February: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central girls skiing - Report
January: Powers North Central boys basketball - Report
December: Dundee boys basketball - Report
November: Rockford girls swimming & diving - Report
October: 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.
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.