By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Welcome back, Caledonia and Sammie Gehrls.
Three seasons after finishing her freshman year at Secchia Stadium, the Fighting Scots’ ace once again has her team one more win from its first MHSAA softball championship.
Gehrls tossed a three-hitter and struck out nine to kick off the Division 1 Semifinals on Thursday, and also drove in the game’s lone run in Caledonia’s 1-0 victory over Warren Regina.
The Fighting Scots will face Hartland in Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship game, their second in four seasons. Gehrls as a freshman pitched the Scots to the Division 1 Final, where they fell that time to Regina 5-0.
“As a freshman I just had little experience, and to see how much it really takes to get here, you just begin to appreciate it that much more,” Gehrls said. “Every year we’d come with the intent to try to get back to this big stage. But at the same time, you know that every pitch matters. These last couple of years, we didn’t win those pitches. And so to come out and win these pitches and be able to get to this point is incredible.”
Caledonia (28-6) won the few that counted most Thursday, particularly during the third inning when sophomore shortstop Emmalee Hamp tripled and Gehrls drove her home with a ground out to second base.
Senior third baseman Melina Livingston singled to lead off the game for Regina and had two of her team’s three hits, but the Saddlelites (25-8) never advanced a runner past second base.
Regina junior Marisa Muglia similarly was stellar in the pitching circle, allowing only seven hits and walking one while striking out three. Junior Jadon Huyser had two of Caledonia’s hits during a fast-moving game dominated by the aces.
Gehrls, who will continue next season at Grand Valley State, moved to 21-2 pitching this spring. She also entered this week hitting .495 with 13 home runs.
“She didn’t hit the ball (today) like she can normally, but I told her think right field, and she got (the RBI) down that right side to get that run in and that was the difference in the game,” Caledonia coach Tom Kaechele said. “That’s what she does though. She does those little things to help our team win, and that’s all she really wants. She says, ‘You know what Coach, stats, awards, that type of thing, I don’t care about those. I want to win. I want to win for this team, I want to win for you and I want to win for our community.’
“And when you have that kind of player, it’s hard not to love her.”
Hartland 6, Howell 4
Hartland had swept Howell earlier this spring on the way to winning the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold title, while the Highlanders came in second.
They met again in Thursday’s second Division 1 Semifinal, and the Eagles held off a late charge to finish the season sweep and earn their first MHSAA championship game appearance since 1996. Howell was playing for its first appearance in a Final.
“What it means is it’s really hard to get to this point,” Hartland coach Bob Greene said. “This is a tough tournament to win, and we’ve been blessed so far and things are falling our way. We’ve got a great group of kids really riding the wave right now. Everything’s falling into place at the right time.”
Howell opened with two runs in the top of the first inning. Hartland took the lead with four in the fourth and added two more in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Highlanders (29-11) gave Hartland one final scare, scoring a run in the top of the seventh and putting two more runners on before Hartland freshman pitcher Rachel Everett got a flyout to end the game.
Junior catcher Brooke Cowan was 3 for 3 with a double and two RBI, and senior second baseman Bri Robeson was 2 for 4 with a double and drove in a run for the Eagles (33-5).
Sophomore Maddie Heilner was 2 for 4 and scored twice for Howell, and junior AJ Militello was 2 for 4 with a double and RBI. Freshman first baseman Avery Wolverton was 2 for 3 and drove in three runs for the Highlanders.
PHOTOS: (Top) Caledonia's Sammie Gehrls prepares to unload a pitch during Thursday's first Division 1 Semifinal. (Middle) Hartland's Delaney Robeson heads to second base during her team's Semifinal win.
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.