Cros-Lex Climbing with Coach's Return

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 15, 2019

Devyn Gordon grew up watching dominant Croswell-Lexington softball teams. 

She looked on in awe as players like Kylee Barrett and Megan Guitar – who both went on to star at Wayne State University – led the Pioneers to the Division 2 Semifinals in 2014.

So when Bob Young, the coach who was at the helm during that stretch, announced he was coming back to take over the Cros-Lex program for Gordon’s senior year, she was delighted.

“I was actually very excited, because I always grew up kind of idolizing him and his players – they had always been so successful,” said Gordon, who plays third base for the Pioneers. “For him coming back for our senior year, it kind of brightened us up. We were all very excited.”

Young is back in charge at Cros-Lex after a brief three-year retirement. He originally left, in large part, to spend more time watching his grandchildren play their baseball and softball games. When the job was set to be filled for the third time since he retired, however, he decided to come back. 

“I thought I could help the program, help the system, that’s why I came back,” Young said. “(Retirement) was good. I have three grandkids in their 20s now, but the little ones, I have eight grandkids that are 11 years old or younger, and six of them live here in the Croswell area and are all playing ball. I wanted to be able to attend functions and not be strapped in with practices and games. It made sense to me to leave at that time.”

Young coached the Pioneers for nine seasons during his first stint, leading the program from 2007-2015. Over his final six seasons, Cros-Lex won five District championships, advanced to three Regional finals, and qualified for one MHSAA Semifinal. He also helped his sons, Andy and Scott Young, as they coached Cros-Lex to the 2011 Junior League World Series title.

“I definitely think (Cros-Lex) was a staple for softball in Michigan for high schools,” Cros-Lex senior first basemen Lena Stillson said. “They worked so hard, and they definitely benefitted from it. You would think of Cros-Lex, and softball came to mind immediately.”

Stillson and her teammates want to get back to that, and this season has been a good start. The Pioneers are 19-6 and confident as they close in on the postseason.

“We’ve had a pretty good season so far, and we’ve improved so much,” Cros-Lex senior catcher Haley Matthews said. “With every game, we’re learning more and improving more.”

The players agreed it was Young’s knowledge that played a big part in that, but his message has been a simple one.

“I definitely think he’s brought more confidence, and taught us that it’s all about fundamentals,” Stillson said. “If you don’t have fundamentals, you’re not going to grow. He definitely forces us to get better and think about the game itself.”

A staple of Young’s previous teams – outside of an all-state pitcher in Guitar – was great defense, and their ability to get players on base and put pressure on defenses. He’s working toward that now.

“We’ve won a lot of close games,” Young said. “We hit the ball OK, and our pitching is pretty accurate, but we don’t have a lot of speed. I’d like to bunt a lot more, so we work on bunting quite a bit.

“We’ve been learning, and we keep learning in every practice. They’ve surprised me, I think. We’re doing better than I thought we would. We’re, by no means, an elite team. But we’re doing OK.”

Young said the team bought into his coaching immediately, even though he had never coached any of them at anything other than a clinic.

“I knew a lot of these girls, I just didn’t have them in high school,” he said. “I think they all pretty much know that I know what I’m talking about. I think that’s a credit to them. Every one of them has been so open-minded and ready to learn and do as I asked them to do. They’ve been terrific. We haven’t had any issues at all, and that makes a difference. I ask them to do something, and they put their best foot forward and do the best they can.”

It’s Young’s past success that created that instant credibility, the players said, and he’s done a lot to prove their confidence in him was warranted. Now they’re confident they can compete for something they haven’t won since he left – a district title.

“Having a winning record coming off the past couple years, it’s definitely been a confidence boost for us,” Gordon said. “We know that our record shows that we’re pretty good. I think we’re using that confidence every time we go to the plate, step into the pitcher’s circle or onto the field.”

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) Croswell-Lexington softball coach Bob Young talks things over with two of his hitters during an early-spring game. (Middle) Young works with a possible future player at a community clinic. (Photos courtesy of the Croswell-Lexington softball program.) 

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

By Geoff Kimmerly 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:


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.