Catcher's Grit Shines in Health Scares

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

April 9, 2018

RICHMOND – Evelyn Swantek couldn’t have imagined what her day would be like when she awoke on Aug. 8 of last year.

Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt on a seasonably warm summer morning, Swantek went for a mile run as part of the training that all varsity volleyball players at Richmond High School were expected to complete.

Near the end of her run, Swantek noticed something wasn’t quite right. A bit of fatigue, yes, but it was more than that. She went home and told her father, Dave Swantek, that she was going to take a nap. But when she awoke, her world changed dramatically.

“It came out of nowhere,” she said. “I woke up and couldn’t talk. Part of my face went numb and I couldn’t see out of my right eye. And my neck was really big.”

A bit dazed by the sudden physical change of the youngest of his three daughters, Dave Swantek drove her to the hospital not knowing what was wrong.

Thankfully, Dave was home on a vacation day while his wife, Julie, was at work. He was attending to a couple of odd jobs around the house when his daughter came home.

“Evie came in and said she was tired, and wanted to take a nap,” he said. “She got up and came downstairs; immediately I knew something was wrong. It’s something, as a parent, you just don’t want to see.”

The Swanteks arrived at McLaren Hospital in Mount Clemens and, after the diagnosis, were told that Evie had developed blood clots – one in her throat and one in her face, and that she had suffered a Transitory Ischemic Attack (TIA), commonly known as a mini-stroke.

 

Dave Swantek said the doctors immediately took his daughter off the blood-clotting medication she had been taking since January.

On New Year’s Eve, 2016, Evie experienced abdominal pain while celebrating the arrival of the New Year with family members. She was taken to McLaren Hospital, where exploratory surgery was performed and she was diagnosed with endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in which a layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. One of the main symptoms is pelvic pain.

 

At the time, the Swanteks never gave it a second thought. Evie took medication, didn’t miss a day of school and continued to compete on the varsity basketball team. After that season ended, Evie made the varsity softball team for the first time and was named the starting catcher by coach Howard Stuart. Richmond won the MHSAA Division 2 title in 2016, and the Blue Devils reached the championship game again in 2017 only to lose to Ida, 8-4, in nine innings in the Final.

Seven weeks later, the Swanteks’ world turned upside down. And it would take nearly three months for their world to be turned right side up.

“It was a warning sign,” Dave Swantek said of the blood clots and the mini-stroke. “The medication she was on was clotting. Then they took her off of it. It gave us time to find out what was wrong. And this went on for a long time.”

Not knowing the exact cause and the proper medication was disconcerting to the Swanteks.

“They had no clue,” Evie said. “I kept asking (the doctors) what’s wrong. They said they didn’t know yet. I was sitting in the hospital just thinking, this is scary.”  

For about a six-week period, Evie was in and out of the hospital three or four times – doesn’t recall the exact number. The illness prevented her from competing in volleyball and basketball, and for a senior, that can be difficult to handle. She also can’t give the exact number of days of school she missed, but she does remember missing a couple of football Friday nights, which did not sit well with her. Evie was able to attend Homecoming, however.

All during this time one thought, one goal, weighed heavily.

“Not knowing if I was going to play softball was hard,” she said. “I kept asking the doctors, ‘Will I be able to play?’ That’s my favorite. I’ve been playing since I was 7. I’ve been playing travel (softball) since I was 8. And I’ve always been a catcher.

“It was hard on my parents, too. It was frustrating.”

This frustration and uneasiness came to a head one evening while Evie was watching television.

“I started to have these chest pains,” she said. “I’m lying on the coach, and it’s starting to hurt real bad. And I have a high threshold for pain. I broke my wrist (glove hand) and played three more tournaments, so it has to be a lot of pain for me to do something about it. I had had these chest pains before, but this time it was really bad. I rolled up into a fetal position, it was so bad.”

Said her father: “I remember that. I rushed to (McLaren) hospital and the people in the emergency room looked at us and it was like, what now? It took them three days to find out. The doctors kept saying they don’t know.”

Dave Swantek said the doctors changed medication, from one blood thinner, taken orally, to one that was administered intravenously. In the end, that did the trick. Evie said she’s feeling better since the switch was made and the application, after a couple of tries, became second nature. She’s able to administer the shots by herself.

Dave Swantek gushes when he talks about how well his daughter has handled this situation. He said the doctors who have either diagnosed or treated Evie have offered to have a psychologist meet with her in an effort to make sure she recovered mentally from the ordeal.

“The coping mechanism she has displayed is amazing,” he said. “She’s been amazing through it all. She lost two sports – two sports she played her whole life. She loves volleyball and basketball. There were times they were throwing all kinds of medication at her, trying to find out what works. When they can’t tell you what’s wrong with your daughter, it’s a challenge. It was a rough time. She did a wonderful job.”

There is a happy ending. Evie is playing softball and expected to be one of Richmond’s top players. She’s down to one shot per day and she’s hoping, after she and her parents meet with the doctors April 26, that she will be taken off medication.

And her future looks bright on the diamond. She’s received a scholarship to Oakland Community College where one of her sisters, Ally, a sophomore, is a student.

“I’ve had the best support system you could imagine,” Evie said. “My parents, my family, have been so great. It’s been very comforting.”     

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at tmarkowski@statechampsnetwork.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Richmond catcher Evie Swantek frames a pitch during last season’s Division 2 championship game. (Middle) Swantek powers through a swing during the Final. (Below) The Swantek family: parents Julie and Dave and daughters Emily, Ally and (far right) Evelyn. (Family photo courtesy of the Swantek family.)

Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

January 4, 2023

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:

Softball

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.