Chemics Developing 'Excellent' Formula
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
April 10, 2017
With nine seniors and a handful of other major contributors returning from a team that advanced to the Division 1 Semifinals a year ago, expectations from outside the Midland softball program are sky high.
Inside the program, they aren’t shying away from those expectations.
But for Chemics players and coaches, the focus isn’t on winning an MHSAA title – it’s on striving for excellence every day.
“I think that we are kind of thinking this is our year, but at the same time, we’re not going to expect that – we have to work hard every day for that,” senior pitcher Maya Kipfmiller said. “We’re not focused on the end goal. Excellence encompasses everything we talk about as a team: working as hard as we can, being determined, putting in 100 percent of our effort all the time, being mentally tough and handling pressure situations.
“Having excellence in everything we do this year is going to help us get to that (end goal).”
Midland – which is scheduled to open its season Thursday against Mount Pleasant – is ranked No. 1 in Division 1 after graduating just one senior from the 2016 squad that went 35-8 and lost 4-2 in the Semifinal against Macomb Dakota.
Having a large number of returning players is one thing, but the quality of the players returning for Midland is quite another.
It starts with Kipfmiller, a Boston University signee, who is one of the state’s top pitchers. In 2016, she had an earned-run average of 0.651 while striking out 217 batters and walking just 24 in 161? innings.
“She’s a really good control pitcher,” Midland coach Robin Allen said. “She throws the ball hard, too, but her control is really what helps her. She’s a hard worker. She’s one of those people that, after practice, she goes and practices some more.”
The Midland offense was equally impressive in 2016, as it averaged 8.7 runs per game and had a team batting average of .397. Five players – Kipfmiller, Julia Gross, Jillian Elmer, Nicole Miiller and Tara Gross – are back after hitting better than .400 a year ago, led by Kipfmiller’s .664 average.
Julia Gross led the team in RBI (57), triples (four), runs (59) and home runs (four), while her twin sister Tara led the team with 30 stolen bases. Elmer, meanwhile, managed three home runs and 28 RBI despite playing just half of the team’s games.
And Allen said there are plenty of others ready to perform when given the opportunity.
“This year, our strength is our depth,” Allen said. “Some years you have some people on the team that are there to help the chemistry, and maybe don’t see as much playing time. This year, I have girls at every position that are pushing the starters. I still haven’t made up my mind for some of them.”
The Chemics do appear to be pretty established up the middle, which Allen said is another strength of his team. Kipfmiller and Miiller (catcher) make up the battery, while the Gross twins handle second and shortstop, and junior Allison Gray plays in centerfield.
Allen praised the entire group’s defensive prowess, adding that the twins could be the best defensive players he’s seen in tandem. Both of them are committed to Northwood University, along with Miiller.
“We get along really well, and they always say that for twins, they have that connection; it’s kind of true with us,” Julia Gross said. “I can always count on her being there if there’s a hard-hit ball. We have that trust.”
That trust extends beyond the twins, as the Chemics have shared the diamond with one another for multiple seasons. Kipfmiller, Elmer and the Gross twins are all entering their fourth seasons on the varsity squad, while several others are entering their third.
“We all trust each other,” Tara Gross said. “There’s such a great chemistry. A lot of us have been playing with each other for three years, or even two years. We’re really focusing on respect and unity – being a team. We’re all just in it together.”
The experience together has come in some big situations. Two years ago, the team advanced to the Quarterfinals for the third time in school history, and the first time since 2000. This past year’s Semifinal appearance was the school’s first in the sport.
If the Chemics are able to make another run, they feel that having been there before will benefit them.
“Playing at (Central Michigan University for the Quarterfinal) and playing at Michigan State (for the Semifinal), now we’ve played there before, so we know what to expect,” Julia Gross said. “It’s both the atmosphere and the moment. The atmosphere of playing at CMU and at Michigan State with all those people there and all that pressure, and in the moment, right when the game starts you have jitters and are nervous, but you get better as the game goes on.”
Before Midland can worry about playing in those atmospheres, however, it will focus on day-to-day excellence, something the players have bought into even before the first pitch of the season has been thrown.
“To me it just means that everyone is determined and everyone is working hard,” Tara Gross said. “When people come and watch our practice or our games, we want everyone to know that, ‘They’re trying to gain respect. They’re all determined. They’re trying to be excellent.’”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Midland outfielder Allison Gray connects with a pitch during last season's Quarterfinal win over Rockford. (Middle) Pitcher Maya Kipfmiller signals two outs to her teammates during that 8-1 win. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)