Caledonia Completes Championship Climb
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
June 16, 2018
EAST LANSING – A 2009 Regional Semifinal loss to eventual state champion Hudsonville is the moment Caledonia softball coach Tom Kaechele points to as putting his program on the map.
Sammie Gehrls was in the stands that day, watching her sister Alexa pitch in the 2-1, 14-inning thriller. On Saturday, Sammie helped the Fighting Scots cement their place among the state’s elite, delivering an MHSAA Division 1 championship with a 6-4 win over Hartland at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.
“That definitely set the tone for me,” said Gehrls, now a senior pitcher for the Scots. “I was a little kid, so being able to see her and that experience, I didn’t quite understand everything that was going on, but then she went and played throughout college and I was able to follow in her footsteps and look up to her all these years. She’s definitely one of my biggest supporters, and someone that I look up to very much, and has guided me in a lot of different situations and has taught me a lot.
“To be able to see where the program was at the bottom, and to be able to see what Coach Kaechele has built – these two coaches (assistants Tami Marlow and Jeff VanZytveld) have put in a lot of work and a lot of years. A lot of these girls have played for the same travel team. To see it all connect and be able to reach the ultimate goal is just so surreal.”
The title is the first for Caledonia, which had reached the Final in 2015, losing 5-0 to Warren Regina.
“I am just like in shock right now,” Caledonia junior third baseman Brooklynne Siewertsen said. “I don’t even feel like it’s real. It’s crazy.”
Gehrls picked up the win, striking out three while allowing six hits, four walks and four earned runs. Three of the runs, two of the hits and two of the walks came in the first inning, as Hartland built an early 3-1 lead on the strength of a bases-clearing double by Sam Nagel.
Following that inning, the Eagles found it harder to get things going against Gehrls, who closed the game with two perfect innings, including a pair of strikeouts to finish it out.
“If there’s one weakness Sammie has, it’s that she gets too amped up inside,” Kaechele said. “She’ll come out, and she overthrows. She didn’t have the best grip on the ball, and it was going high on her. The other day we got away with it because (the umpire) had a high strike zone. This guy didn’t have that, so she had to make adjustments within the game.
“Our pitching coach was talking to her all the time about how she had to make those adjustments, and we saw what she did with the adjustments in that last inning.”
The Fighting Scots (29-6) got down early, but a four-run, two-out rally in the third inning proved to be the difference.
“We had some miscues out there. We didn’t play super clean defense,” Hartland coach Bob Greene said. “No matter who you’re playing, that’s tough to come back from.”
It was Gehrls who started the rally with a single. She was the first of five Scots in a row to reach base, with four out of five recording hits, including a triple from Jadon Huyser that drove in a pair of runs and gave her team a 5-3 lead. Siewertsen also drove in a run in the inning, and Gehrls scored the other run on an error.
“Especially during the tournament season, we’ve really been coming through clutch with two outs,” Siewertsen said. “That’s just something that we’re pretty used to right now.”
Caledonia also bookended the game with runs, getting one on an RBI single from Abby Mitchell in the first inning and another on an RBI single from Gehrls in the seventh.
“(The run in the seventh) was huge,” Siewertsen said. “We were only up by one and with only being up one and their hitting, that extra run, that’s a lot of confidence, especially for Sammie pitching, and for us backing her up.”
Mitchell, Gehrls and Huyser all finished with three hits on the day, while Emmalee Hamp had two.
Delaney Robeson had an RBI for Hartland (33-6), driving in a run in the fifth inning. Freshman Rachel Everett took the loss, striking out nine and walking none while allowing 13 hits and two earned runs as Hartland was making its first title game appearance since 1996.
“I think that this team fought hard. We were pretty resilient all year,” Greene said. “Give it up to Caledonia. They fought hard, they put the ball in play a lot, and eventually that was their success.
“Hartland has been very successful in athletics, and this morning we were talking with the athletic director and he said it’s kind of like kids all over the school, no matter what sport, believe that they can get here. I think this is good; this is more proof of that.”
VIDEO: A four-run third inning, capped by this two-run double by Jadon Huyser, gave Caledonia the lead to stay.
PHOTOS: (Top) Caledonia players celebrate clinching their first MHSAA championship in softball. (Middle) The Fighting Scots’ Abby Mitchell (3) slides into third base ahead of a throw.
Ace's 13 listings lead Hudsonville's 50 added to Softball Record Book
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
June 9, 2023
A total of 50 entries covering the last three decades of Hudsonville’s successful history have been entered in the MHSAA softball record book, with 2011 grad Sara Driesenga leading the way with 13 listings.
Driesenga’s most notable was her 0.15 ERA in 2010, which is tied for 10th lowest. Danielle Freeman, a 2013 grad, was added 10 times, including for 85 hits (tied for 10th) in 2012.
Others making lists one or more times were Kenzie Ritsema, Kelly Zackrison, Bethaney Murphy, Grace Sommers, Sydney Burns, Aleigha Talsma, Erica Bosman, Sarah Nederveld, Arinn King, Brooke Agers, Marleah Stapf and Lexi Agers.
Driesenga went on to star at Michigan, Freeman was a standout at Evansville, and Ritsema was a standout at Western Michigan. Zackrison played at Michigan State, Murphy at Saginaw Valley State, Talsma at Campbellsville (Ky.), King at Hope College, Brooke Agers at Muskegon Community College and Stapf at Florida International.
See below for more recent record book entries in softball:
A trio of Beaverton standouts over the last two seasons were added. Alexis Grove led with seven entries including 75 hits, 66 runs and 18 doubles last spring as a senior and 42 doubles and 158 RBI over her four-year career despite the cancellation of the 2020 season. Sawyer Gerow was added for 19 doubles as a senior last spring and 39 over her four-year career, and Molly Gerow was added for 72 hits in 2021. Grove is continuing her career at Northwood.
A pair of Otisville LakeVille Memorial players were added for accomplishments during the 2022 season. Jayla Thompson strung together a 24-game hitting streak beginning May 1 and continuing through her team’s District title run, and she also hit 12 home runs over 36 games. Teammate Mallorie Nevadomski became the third player to be listed for being hit by two pitches in the same inning, which occurred during the first inning of an April 11 game against Mt. Morris. Thompson is a junior this spring, and Nevadomski is a sophomore.
Fowlerville’s Tori Briggs earned her first record book entries last season as a sophomore. She tied the record for most triples in a game with four against Lansing Eastern, and also was added for 20 doubles over 34 games played.
Sabrina Lee was hit by pitches an incredible 33 times over 106 games and three seasons during her Rochester Adams career that ended last spring, and that’s with 2020 being canceled. She sits atop the career HBP list. Additionally, Adams coach Fran Scislowicz was added to the career coaching wins list with 756 since taking over the program in 1988.
Watervliet’s 36-5 run in 2022 included several performances that made record listings including for 476 hits, 438 runs, 349 RBI and 237 stolen bases as a team, and a .401 team batting average. Five players also earned individual entries, led by Samantha Dietz, who was added for 67 runs scored and 71 stolen bases in 74 tries – the latter tying for ninth-most stolen bases in a season. She also was one of four players added for driving in six runs in one game, joined by Abigail Whorton, Addison Riley (twice) and Grace Chisek. Chisek also was added for 75 hits, 75 runs scored, 12 triples and a 26-game hitting streak, and Maddie Flowers made the runs scored list with 73. Riley graduated last year, Dietz is a senior this spring, and Whorton and Chisek are juniors.
Kalamazoo Loy Norrix played a record-setting game against Comstock on April 9, 2021, and Gracie Goschke played a major part. She was added for three home runs in a game, including two grand slams, two home runs and six RBI during the second inning and 10 RBI total that afternoon. A sophomore then, Goschke is a senior this season.
East Kentwood finished a combined 50-28-1 over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, with three players teaming up to earn the program’s first record book entries. Aalana Kimble, a senior this season, tied for second all-time last spring as a junior with 18 triples and also made the records with 71 hits last year and 66 runs and 81 hits as a sophomore. Kelsey Depault was added for 81 hits and 19 doubles in 2021, and Emily Visser – now a junior – was added for 77 hits last season and 17 doubles in 2021. Depault graduated last spring and is playing at Northwood, and Kimble has signed with Saginaw Valley State.
Big Rapids reached the records in five team categories during the 2022 season, with 473 hits, 91 doubles, 344 RBI, 401 runs and a .424 batting average over 39 games. Marissa Warren led the charge, making the records with 70 runs, 79 hits and 21 doubles. She’s a junior this season.
Natalie Wandrie reached the record book six times last season as a junior at Indian River Inland Lakes, most notably for a .717 batting average that ranks sixth all-time for a single season. She also entered this spring on the career home runs list with 23, and hit 15 as a junior. She will play both softball and volleyball at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky.
PHOTO Hudsonville’s Sara Driesenga gets ready to pitch during the 2009 Division 1 championship game. (MHSAA file photo.)