Constantine Follows Slugger on Fast Start

By Wes Morgan
Special for

May 11, 2017

By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half

Kim Maddox has an incredible feel for the game of softball. Growing up with significantly impaired hearing, that’s been a necessity.

Maddox, a junior slugger at Constantine High School who set her school’s season home run record in 2016 with 11 bombs, has already blasted 12 through 23 games this spring in playing a major role in the Falcons’ 22-1 record.

With the aid of cochlear implants she’s had since she was a small child, Maddox can hear, but she has to concentrate more than anyone else on the field. That is just one of many traits Constantine coach Marge Caid said sets her third baseman apart.

“She misses some things, but she does pay attention more than the others,” Caid said.

“I just look at the coach all the time,” Maddox said.

Precision and power are what’s obvious about Maddox, not any kind of disability.

“She is physically probably the strongest player I have ever coached. She has great bat speed, and her technique and her form are textbook. She works very, very hard and she is very dedicated to making sure that swing is perfect.”

Maddox fully expected to have this kind of year individually and as a team.

“We have good hitting, and this is a good team together,” she said. “I love my team. I have hitting lessons and I’ve been practicing and practicing. The biggest thing for me is to relax and then attack the ball.”

Like any good squad, success has been predicated on more than just individual talent. Constantine graduated some extremely skilled and productive players at the end of a 2016 campaign that set a record for wins in a season with a 32-6 record. The Falcons went 12-0 in Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley division play.

The loss of starting catcher Dylan King and hurler Bailey Potter to graduation didn’t slow the Falcons down. They have won 10 straight games since their lone loss of the year to a solid Three Rivers team.

Constantine has outscored opponents 247-29 and won by shutout nine times. In all, Constantine boasts five players hitting over .350, while its pitching has been effective and reliable.

Emily Mallo is 9-0 in the circle with a 0.56 ERA, and Mercedes Cole is 13-1 with a 0.66 ERA. The two combined have allowed 75 hits and 11 earned runs.

“We hit the ball well, which is our biggest strong point,” Caid said, “besides having a bunch of players who have been on the varsity team for quite a while.”

Caid hasn’t submitted information to the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association for ranking purposes because she wants to see what her team is really made of down the stretch — which includes the toughest opponents of the year.

“We did play Paw Paw and Three Rivers, but other than that, I can’t justify tooting our horn that much,” she said. “We want to make less base-running mistakes, and a couple fielding things we need to work out.

The Falcons have a critical showdown with rival Schoolcraft today, which will likely determine the divisional championship. Schoolcraft is undefeated in Valley play after Monday’s pivotal sweep of Kalamazoo Christian. Both Schoolcraft and Constantine are 8-0.

“The rest of our season is going to be tough,” Caid said. “If we can’t play with these guys, then we’re going to be up a creek when it comes to Districts. We have to play ball and choke it out like we did last year.”

Constantine’s tremendous season in 2016 fizzled out with a Division 3 District Semifinal loss to Bridgman (9-1). This year, the District tournament includes familiar opponents in Galesburg-Augusta, Comstock, Kalamazoo Hackett, Schoolcraft and Parchment.

It certainly has taken a team effort to come back strong again this year and duplicate last year’s regular-season success.

Still, Maddox’s staggering numbers stand out in the crowd, especially considering she has another year of prep ball remaining. Maddox is hitting .589, which isn’t even the best average on the team. Kallie Sears, with 42 hits on the year, is operating at a .592 clip. Maddox was hovering around .700 before struggling at the plate this past weekend.

In 86 plate appearances, she has registered 43 total hits to lead the team. Of those, seven were doubles and three went for triples. She has 53 runs batted in so far and 38 runs scored. She also had a .640 on-base percentage and a 1.260 slugging percentage. Surprisingly, Maddox has been walked just 10 times.

“I hate being walked,” she said.

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Constantine players celebrate as Kim Maddox (15) crosses the plate to score a run. (Middle) Maddox eyes an approaching pitch during a game this spring. (Photos courtesy of

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

May 7, 2024

Bill and Julia Turner have not only put in a lot of miles on the road, but they’ve also put a lot of miles in on the softball field.

Greater DetroitBefore Olivia Turner was hitting the cover off the ball and becoming Michigan’s career RBI leader for the Grass Lake softball team, Bill and Julia were taking her to the field for batting practice.

“I always wanted to go to the field, and my dad would take me and my mom would shag balls in the outfield,” Olivia said. “They’ve spent countless hours, especially traveling around the country. They’ve been my biggest support system. They are awesome.”

Her Warriors teammates are grateful, too. Last week Turner became Michigan’s all-time leader in runs batted in, surpassing Taylor Light & Life Christian’s Kelly Kennedy, who held the record with 304 RBIs from 1991-94.

“It was crazy to think I beat a 30-year-old record,” Turner said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I’m just super thankful.”

Having her name on the state record book for softball is nothing new to Turner. She barely missed the state mark for RBIs in a season last year when she had 102 and is the state’s all-time career doubles leader already.

Grass Lake head coach Roger Cook said Turner never talks about hitting home runs or driving in runs – just about being a teammate.

“I’m going to tell you, she’s one of the most modest people you’ll ever talk to,” Cook said. “She just talks team, team, team. She always has since I’ve known her. She has never said one thing about a home run or a base hit.”

Turner, who plays third base, has been around the Grass Lake program for a long time. When her sister Madeline was playing for the Warriors before heading off to play at Findlay University in Ohio, Olivia would tag along.

“I just wanted to be at the field, be around softball,” she said.

Turner first picked up the game when she was on an 8-and-under team.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records.She started as a pitcher, but quickly converted to infielder, where she has played with Grass Lake and various travel teams. She also plays volleyball and basketball for Grass Lake, but softball is her sport.

“We’re all one family,” she said. “I love that you get to play with girls that you may not be friends with at school. It shows you who you are. Softball gives you a lot of life lessons – dedication, teamwork, how to work with others.”

She loves to hit, too.

“Every at-bat, even if there is no one on base, I want to get on base,” she said. “I’m always going up to the plate doing it for my team, not for myself. The RBIs are pretty cool. My team gets on base for me. All of the girls are phenomenal.”

Cook said he sometimes gets worried that opponents will just pitch around Turner. But because of who is in the lineup in front of and behind her, he doesn’t have to worry about that.

“We have Rylee Fitzpatrick, Emily Brown, then Olivia,” Cook said. “After Olivia we have (junior) Bree Salts, who has committed to Central Michigan. It’s hard to pitch around her. When we get to some of these big games, teams will have to throw to her.”

Last year’s Division 3 runner-up Ottawa Lake Whiteford has faced Grass Lake multiple times over the past couple of seasons, and coach Matt VanBrandt is plenty familiar with the damage Turner can do.

"You'd better have a plan when you are pitching to her,” VanBrandt said. “She’s a dangerous hitter. She’s someone you need to think about before the game starts.”

Turner hit .714 last season with 30 doubles and those 102 runs batted in. For her career, she’s belted 48 home runs and knocked in 309 runs after Saturday’s tournament. She’s never hit below .535 for a season and is nearing 100 career doubles.

Grass Lake currently is 22-1 and leading the Cascades Conference.

“It’s crazy to think I am actually a senior now,” Turner said. “Now that it is my senior year, I just want to work hard and play for my team. We’ve had great seniors the last couple of years. It’s crazy to think this is my last season.”

Turner will attend Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. She chose Bradley because of its nursing program.

“Academics has always been first for me,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus. It’s not too big or too small. The staff there is great.”

Before taking her swing to college, Grass Lake wants to make a deep tournament run this season. And the more games the Warriors play, the more RBIs Turner is likely to add to her record.

“Olivia has one of the smoothest, most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen,” Cook said. “She’s one of the girls you want up there at bat with the game on the line. She can do it all. If you need a single, she’ll get you a single. If you need a walk-off, she can do that, too.”

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) Grass Lake’s Olivia Turner focuses on a pitch coming her way. (Middle) Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records. (Photos courtesy of Pictures by Marisa and the Grass Lake softball program.)