D1 Semis: Pitchers Hit Big for Finalists

June 12, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Portage Central senior Gina Verduczo was maybe a tad bummed as she recalled in detail two walks she gave up Thursday morning. After all, she’d walked at most 10 batters this entire season. 

But the Mustangs’ ace also was a little surprised to find out some of her personal highlights in what might be the most memorable game of her high school career – until Portage Central plays again in Saturday’s MHSAA Division 1 Final.

Verduczo threw a no-hitter and drove in the game’s only run in the sixth inning as Portage Central advanced to its first championship game since 1977 with a 1-0 victory over Utica Ford. 

She’d glanced at the Secchia Stadium scoreboard a few times. But apparently she missed the “0” in Ford’s hits column indicating her near-perfect performance from the pitching circle.

“My dad was a baseball player; he was a pitcher, and he taught me to focus on the job and hand and not look at what you’ve done,” Verduczo said. “You still have six more outs to go, three more outs to go. Obviously, down to the end, she could’ve gotten a hit. I still had a job to do.” 

Portage Central (42-3), ranked No. 3, will try to finish that job against No. 4 Bay City Western in the championship game at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Verduczo finished the Semifinal with 11 strikeouts and allowed only those two runners who reached on bases on balls. She closed the game by striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh inning. 

As Mustangs coach Tom Hamilton pointed out, Verduczo also knows the disappointment of falling in such a tight game. Portage Central was top-ranked in Division 1 heading into last season’s tournament, but lost to eventual MHSAA champion Mattawan on a walk-off home run in the District Final.

“If there’s a person we’ve got on this team (that) we want on that mound, she’s got that bulldog mentality,” Hamilton said. “This is her moment to shine. 

“She’s been in games like that where she’s been on the other end. So it’s nice to see her be on this end of it.”  

Portage Central senior outfielder Lea Foerster singled with one out in the sixth inning, and after moving to second on senior Taylor Snyder’s sacrifice came home on Verduczo’s single to right field.

Verduczo had a pair of singles, the only batter in the game with multiple hits. 

“We’re excited for the last seven innings,” Verduczo said, referring to Saturday’s Final. “This was one of our goals, and we’re happy to be part of it.”

Utica Ford freshman Nikki Sorgi also was impressive in the circle, allowing only six hits and walking one batter in her team’s first Semifinal appearance. Ford finished 30-9. Click for a full box score. 

Bay City Western 2, Romeo 1

Bay City Western (40-3) returned nearly the same lineup that carried the Warriors last season to their first MHSAA championship game in team history. And the lessons learned during that run surely paid off in Thursday’s second Semifinal. 

Western fell behind 1-0 in the fourth inning when Romeo sophomore shortstop Morgan Gardner drilled a Hannah Leppek pitch over the left-field fence – the only home run Leppek has given up this season.

“I don’t like that feeling, obviously, and I wasn’t used to it,” said Leppek, an all-stater last season. “I had to teach myself really quickly how to get over it.” 

Still, with Romeo pitcher Taylor Weaver also dominating, it began to look like the Bulldogs would be advancing to their first-ever MHSAA Final instead of Western returning.

But Leppek did bounce back quickly. She doubled in the tying run and scored the go-ahead in the sixth inning, and allowed only three hits the rest of the game. 

Leppek ended with two hits in three at bats, and struck out six batters while walking only one.

“I learned (in last year’s Final) how to handle my emotions and the stress and the crowd, and everything like that,” Leppek said. “(And) my hits definitely built me back up.” 

Sophomore second baseman Kelsie Popp – whose walk-off homer Tuesday pushed the Warriors past Hudsonville 4-2 and into the Semifinals – drove in Leppek with a double.

“She’s starting to learn how to be a clutch hitter, isn’t she,” Western coach Rick Garlinghouse said of Popp. “She comes through. She protects (Meredith) Rousse, (Kaylynn) Carpenter and Leppek in our batting order, and they can’t pitch around those three with her batting fourth. We’re a pretty hard team to beat that way.”

Weaver allowed only four hits, striking out six without allowing a walk. Romeo, ranked No. 2, finished 31-8. Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Portage Central pitcher Kim Verduczo fires a pitch during her Division 1 Semifinal no-hitter. (Middle) Bay City Western pitcher Hannah Leppek unloads a pitch in the Warriors’ Semifinal victory.

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:


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.