Comeback Coloma Claims 1st Softball Title

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 16, 2018

EAST LANSING – Wendy Goodline hadn’t given up hope Saturday with her Coloma softball team trailing by four runs after five innings.

But she had started to reflect on how good her team’s season had been, win or lose.

After her Comets rallied for six runs over the final two innings to defeat Millington 7-6 and claim the school’s first-ever MHSAA Division 3 softball title, however, those thoughts went out the window.

“I’ll be honest, I was in the dugout thinking, ‘Win or lose, I’m proud of these girls, they played well, they hit the ball, they didn’t have any errors, they earned it,’” said Goodline, who is in her 19th season as Coloma coach. “Then we came back, and I forgot everything I said in the dugout. 

"I’ve gotten a lot of Facebook things from former players, and it’s all because of them. These kids have seen those other teams compete and work hard and do what they have to do to be good. Softball doesn’t just begin in March in Coloma, and the players before them are what made this happen. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

The game featured the top two ranked teams in Division 3, and it showed, as they combined to both come up with huge hits, while also featuring spectacular pitching performances for stretches.

“I thought Coloma was a very good team,” Millington coach Greg Hudie said. “I felt like we were better, but we didn’t capitalize like we should have, and it bit us.”

Millington junior pitcher Gabbie Sherman put in a solid performance, striking out four batters and allowing just four earned runs. During one stretch from the end of the first inning through the fifth, she retired 14 straight Coloma hitters.

Coloma, meanwhile, used both of its pitchers, as Goodline started Jaidyn Hutsell, brought in Skylar Crisenberry to spell her in the fourth inning, and went back to Hutsell to close the game out in the seventh.

“We both bring different tools to the table, and we both rely on each other,” Crisenberry said. “I have so much confidence in her, and I think that’s how we switch in and out all the time, just having confidence in her. I would never be upset. I just wanted to win, and I knew Jaidyn had the tools to come in again and finish it off.”

Hutsell entered the seventh inning with a one-run lead and a runner on first base, but struck out the first two batters she faced. After a two-out single from Darrien Roberts, the Comets (38-3) intentionally walked Leah Denome, who had already tied a championship game record with four hits. The strategy worked, as Hutsell was able to force a groundout to shortstop Megan Koeningshof to end the game.

“I was very excited going back in,” said Hutsell, who had a pair of doubles at the plate. “Skylar did a great job keeping everything under control and not having any runners score, and I just came in and was confident.”

Crisenberry had pitched out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth inning to keep the Comets in the game and set up the final rally. After loading the bases, she followed up a strikeout with a popout and flyout to keep her team within four runs.

In the sixth, Coloma was able to make some contact against Sherman and capitalized. Hannah Mathis scored on an error, Hutsell smashed a double to centerfield to drive in Kayla Yore, and Morgan Taylor scored on a sacrifice fly from Mya Potter to pull the Comets to within one of the lead.

Sydney Bishop’s RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring Denome, gave Millington (39-3) an insurance run heading into the final frame.

It wasn’t enough, however, as the Comets strung together three straight hits to start the seventh, and pulled to within one again when Megan Neubecker scored after a ball was bobbled in left field. Yore drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly, and Wagner drove in the go-ahead run with a double to center.

“Megan Neubecker was the leadoff hitter, and I told one of my assistants, ‘You talk to her,’” Goodline said. “She’s a sophomore, she was nervous, she hasn’t been hitting real well – she hit well early in the season, then kind of hit a lull here – so I said, ‘You’ve got her, you talk to her.’ That hit was huge. It started it all.”

Hutsell had started the scoring in the game, driving in Koeningshof with a double in the first inning. Millington tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the third inning, when Roberts, who had tripled in the previous at-bat, scored on an infield single by Denome.

In the fourth, the Cardinals used a two-out rally to take control of the game, as an RBI single by Roberts was followed by a two-run triple by Denome. Her triple was the third of the game for Millington, an all-division championship game record.

That forced the first pitching change for the Comets, but the Cardinals managed another run as Denome scored on a wild pitch to make the score 5-1.

Hutsell finished the game with six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings, while Crisenberry struck out two in 2 1/3.

Denome had three RBI for the Cardinals, while Roberts had three hits and one RBI, and McKenna Slough and Sabrina Gates each had two hits. Gates had one of the Cardinals’ three triples.

Millington, which entered the postseason ranked No. 1, could bring every player back next year, as there was not a senior on the roster.

“We haven’t really talked yet, but I just told them that this is still a huge honor, and to get some pictures with the trophy – I know they probably don’t want to,” Hudie said. “It’s a huge honor even to be runner-up, so I told them to make sure they don’t pass this moment up.”

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Coloma scored three times in the top of the seventh inning, capped by Morgan Wagner's two-out double.

PHOTOS: Coloma players hoist their championship trophy during the Division 3 awards presentation Saturday. (Middle) Coloma’s Jaidyn Hutsell turns on a pitch.

Bedford Sophomore Powers Up with 23 Homers, Just Getting Started

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

June 7, 2023

TEMPERANCE – Here’s a warning for softball teams facing Temperance Bedford the next couple of seasons: Intentionally walking Aubrey Hensley only gives her more confidence.

Southeast & BorderThe Kicking Mules sophomore just finished her season with 23 home runs in 39 games, shattering school and Monroe County records. She remembers the home runs from the season that ended in the Division 1 District Finals, but she also remembers the walks.

“Our first game of the season, my first at-bat, I didn’t even get a swing in,” Hensley said. “As a hitter, it plays with your mind, but it also gives you confidence. If I go to the plate and they aren’t even willing to pitch to me, that gives me even more confidence. The next time up, I’m really going to look for my pitch.”

Hensley saw plenty of pitches she liked this season. She hit just a tick below .500 (61 hits in 124 at-bats), with seven doubles, five triples and nearly two dozen homers. They were pretty much split between the newly renovated Kicking Mules field in Temperance and road games.

Her most memorable home run was at Ypsilanti Lincoln.

“I usually have pretty good games at their field,” she said. “This year I hit a home run and hit the building which is behind the fence. That was a good one. I liked that watching and hearing that one hit.”

Hensley grew up in Toledo and moved across the state line in fifth grade. By then she was already involved in northwest Ohio travel softball programs.

“Softball kind of came naturally for me,” she said. “I loved to go to the field with my mom (Amanda) or my brother or just hit off the tee. I just have a mentality that I’m a good hitter and I can do whatever I put my mind to.”

Prior to her freshman season, Mules coach Marla Gooding, a first-grade teacher at Bedford, sent Hensley into the weight room. 

“I was not expecting to hit home runs going into my freshman season,” Hensley said. “I didn’t really know what to expect.

“When I was little, I wasn’t always a power hitter. I would hit a few doubles or triples and get into the ball some. I worked and put in time in the weight room, especially going into the freshman year. I think that really contributed to my home run hitting. Coach had us in the weight room during the season a little bit. It helps to develop your body to be a power hitter.”

Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. With the power in place, Hensley began concentrating on swinging through the ball.

“I don’t expect to hit a home run every time, but I go up to the plate thinking it’s possible,” she said. “I’m swinging to get through the ball and just drive it somewhere. I’m not hitting for contact. If you just go up hitting for contact, you are swinging lighter, and if it doesn’t go far, you start doubting yourself. I just go up and swing to drive the ball.”

Countless hours hitting off the tee and facing batting practice pitchers helped her fine-tune her swing. 

“I don’t like to get down on myself, because then it snowballs onto the field or another at-bat,” she said. “Short memory is one thing we really wanted to work on this year. I think I applied that more. It’s difficult sometimes if you aren’t getting the pitches that you want or aren’t producing. I just try to go up there with some swag and get the job done.”

Gooding called her a dream to coach.

“She’s a power-five softball player,” she said. “And the greatest kid ever. Seriously, a workhorse and team-first mentality.”

On the field, she is the Bedford catcher. She didn’t commit an error all season.

Hensley was a pitcher at a young age but loved the transition to behind the plate.

“When I got behind the plate, I loved it,” she said. “It’s like being a general out there controlling the whole field. I get to see everyone and everything. I put in a lot of work when I was little. I started with the basics and just advanced from there. I’m pretty dedicated to being the best I can behind the plate for my pitcher.”

Hensley will balance her summer of babysitting, playing basketball for the Mules in June and a busy summer travel softball season that will take her around Ohio, Kansas and Tennessee. She helped the Kicking Mules set a school record for wins with 23 and win a District title in basketball last winter.

Hensley isn’t the only Bedford softball player to show power this season. As a team, Bedford hit 51 home runs, including 12 by teammate Payton Pudlowski. That is one of the reasons Hensley isn’t simply intentionally walked time after time.

“We have some solid pieces behind her, and the two girls in front of her got on base all of the time,” Gooding said. “It was hard for other teams to do that.”

With 23 home runs this season, Hensley’s put her name among the top five all-time single seasons in state history. The record is 29 by Kali Heivilin from Three Rivers in 2021.

With 34 career home runs, she is almost in the top 25. 

Hensley isn’t concerned about records right now, except for one thing. She wants to put up a number that, by the time she graduates, is out of this world.

As she tells it, “I want to push the record so far that no one can touch it by the time I’m done with my career at Bedford.”

She might already have.

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bedford’s Aubrey Hensley prepares to drive a pitch this season. (Middle) Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. (Photos by Christine Kwiatkowski.)