D1 Softball: Hudsonville a Big Hit

June 15, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Hudsonville had scored at least 10 runs in 16 games this season heading into Friday’s Semifinals at Bailey Park. Simply put, the Eagles can hit.

But their performance against Garden City might’ve redefined just how well.

Hudsonville had 18 hits, with at least one from 10 batters, in a 13-3 win over the Cougars that put the Eagles back in the Division 1 Final for the third time in four seasons.

They had scored only two runs in the Regional final win over Muskegon Mona Shores, and a mere four against Swartz Creek in the Quarterfinal.

“It was just motivation. We knew we were a good hitting team, and we wanted to come out here and show what we have,” Hudsonville senior catcher Bethaney Murphey said. “I think we adjusted to the strike zone. It was pretty big, and that made us more aggressive. We just went after it.”

Hudsonville (39-3) will face reigning champion Mattawan in Saturday’s 3 p.m. Final. The Eagles won both the 2010 and 2009 championships before the Wildcats took the title last spring.

Murphey and junior shortstop Danielle Freeman are both hitting better than .500 this season, and they were the toughest outs again Friday. Murphey had three hits and drove in a run, while Freeman also had three hits, drove in three runs and scored twice.

Garden City senior pitcher Kelsey Susalla, a University of Michigan signee, also had three hits. But despite eight strikeouts, she had a tough time cooling the No. 4 Eagles’ bats.

“It takes us once or twice through the line-up to get going. But once we get going, we catch fire,” Hudsonville coach Tom Vruggink said.

Senior third baseman Hillarie Werda added two hits and two RBI for Garden City (29-5). Eagles freshman Lexi Agers gave up one run over six innings pitched to get the win. Click for a full box score.

Mattawan 5, White Lake Lakeland 4

The No. 3 Wildcats (33-10) scored early and held off a late rally to return to the championship game.

Mattawan led 5-0 after three innings. But the No. 6 Eagles (36-7) scored twice in the fourth and seventh innings, and the potential tying run was on second base before starting pitcher Stacy Thompson re-entered the circle and got the final two outs of the game.

Thompson and junior first baseman Abby Stoner both had three hits and combined for three RBI. Seven Lakeland players hit safely, and junior Kelly Merkle drove in two runs. Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hudsonville junior Danielle Freeman looks down to home plate as she prepares to score during Friday's Semifinal. (Middle) Mattawan senior Sara Griffith prepares to connect with a pitch in the Wildcats win over White Lake Lakeland.

She's Back: South Lyon Ace Bradshaw Returns for Another Title Pursuit

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 11, 2024

SOUTH LYON — Two words likely won’t sit well with a lot of Division 1 softball teams around the state this year. 

Greater DetroitShe’s back. 

Or to play on the words of former Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger after a Sugar Bowl win in 2019, and others who before and since have added dramatics to the phrase: “She’s baaaaaaaaaaaack.”

“She” is South Lyon senior pitcher Ava Bradshaw. And if anyone who follows high school softball in the state happened to forget that name, let’s do a little refresher. 

Back in 2021, Bradshaw burst onto the scene in her first year of high school and played like a freshman …. in college. 

Bradshaw was a dominant two-way force both pitching and hitting, so much so that behind her, South Lyon won its first MHSAA Finals title, in Division 1. 

In the championship game against Allen Park, Bradshaw threw a three-hit shutout, striking out nine and walking one in a 5-0 South Lyon victory. She also had two RBI.

“I didn’t realize how crazy what we did was,” Bradshaw said. “We really did make that run.” 

Bradshaw was even better as a sophomore and seemed destined to lead South Lyon to a repeat. 

However, a first inning against Mattawan during which everything that could go wrong seemingly did started a 3-1 Quarterfinal loss that stunningly ended those 2022 aspirations. 

But hey, no problem. Bradshaw had two more years to win another championship, right? 

Bradshaw, middle, celebrates with teammates after they won the 2021 Division 1 championship at Secchia Stadium.Then came the summer prior to her junior year, when Bradshaw suffered a torn ACL during her travel ball season. She was hoping to come back at some point last year as a junior, but understandably didn’t want to push anything too hard, especially since by that point she had committed to play in college for Duke. 

This year, it would have been understandable if Bradshaw would have just wanted to sit out her senior year, enjoy the countdown to graduation and simply gear up for the next chapter. 

But Bradshaw was having none of that.

“In high school ball, every day I’m practicing and I’m playing with my friends, playing for my town and for my school,” she said. “That’s an honor, and I have so much fun. I couldn’t imagine not playing my senior year. That would be so sad. When I look back on my high school experience, some of the biggest memories I have come from softball. I couldn’t imagine not finishing what I started.” 

So Bradshaw is indeed back and not only fully healthy, but stronger and hungrier than she ever has been during her high school career. 

Bradshaw said going through rehabilitation for her injury last year has made her better physically. 

“I was forced to do certain movements and exercises that I never would have done had I not been forced to go to (physical therapy),” she said. “I became a more well-rounded athlete. I improved flexibility and mobility.” 

In her first game this season, Bradshaw struck 12 of the 15 batters she faced and went 4-for-4 at the plate. 

“We just plugged her right in,” South Lyon head coach Dave Langlois said. 

Not having Bradshaw last year actually could end up making South Lyon even better this year. 

“I think we were the only ones to score a run on the state champs, Hartland, in our Regional,” Langlois said. “We were one hit away with a young, inexperienced team for the most part. Those kids got to get experience in crucial times (without Bradshaw) when they may not have gotten (it).”

South Lyon probably still would’ve been formidable if Bradshaw decided not to play this year. But adding her back to a talented roster of underclassmen who are a year older and better?

It’s no wonder why “she’s back” might be the most terrifying two words for softball teams not named South Lyon this spring. 

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) South Lyon’s Ava Bradshaw makes her move toward the plate during a game against Flat Rock this spring. (Middle) Bradshaw, middle, celebrates with teammates after they won the 2021 Division 1 championship at Secchia Stadium. (Top photo by Conner Lipke; middle photo by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)