By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Rozlyn Price’s gutsy performance Thursday afternoon at Secchia Stadium had less to do with how far she’s come in the last year as it was about how far she’s come over the last month.
A year ago, the then-freshman Price pitched the Blazers back to the MHSAA Division 2 Semifinals. But this spring hardly began the way she and Ladywood expected – the Blazers started 8-8, and as recently as May 17, Price walked 17 batters over just more than five innings in the Detroit Catholic League championship game.
Coach Scott Combs said there was a stretch when he didn’t feel he could put his ace in the pitching circle. But he never gave up on her.
“I was struggling a lot in the beginning of the season. My confidence was not there,” Price said. “I’m so thankful having my team behind me, cheering me up after every pitch. Whenever I get down, they always try to pick me up.
“Coach Scott worked with me a lot. He said, ‘Just calm down; just stay focused on the batter, and you’ll be fine.’”
Confident again, Price made a number of gutsy pitches Thursday to lead Ladywood back to the Division 2 Final with a 4-3, 10-inning win over top-ranked Wayland at Secchia Stadium. The No. 7 Blazers (29-13) will face No. 4 Stevensville Lakeshore in Saturday’s championship game at 9 a.m.
Price walked only two batters in the Semifinal and struck out six, including Wayland’s leadoff hitter with bases loaded and her team up 2-1 in the sixth inning. She also stranded a Wildcats runner on third base in the bottom of the ninth.
It was a far cry from her early-season struggles and 12 losses that became more forgettable with Thursday’s win.
“She could not throw a strike, and we worked and worked psychologically to get her to relax,” Combs said. “She was trying to muscle everything, trying to blow it by everybody. … She’s got all the ability in the world, and she’s a great hitter too, but she just needed to learn to focus and relax, and she did.”
Price did hit as well, doubling in her team’s first two runs. Sophomore rightfielder Rachel Hendrickson, batting ninth, tripled in junior Morgan Larkin in the seventh inning and then scored the game-winner in the 10th on senior shortstop Haley Lawrence’s single.
All three were in the lineup last season when Ladywood fell 8-0 to Tecumseh in a Semifinal. Tecumseh went on to win the championship.
This was Ladywood’s fourth straight trip to the Semifinals, and Saturday’s championship game will give the Blazers the opportunity to win their second title in three seasons – although the lineup is almost completely different than the one that won two years ago.
“It’s just crazy, the difference in the team last year to the team this year,” Price said. “I myself, I feel like I had a lot more confidence in this game than I did last year, or even in the games at the beginning of this season.”
Junior centerfielder Christina Meyer and Lawrence joined Hendrickson with a pair of hits. Every one of Wayland’s starters hit safely, led by senior catcher Britt McLain, senior rightfielder Elyssa Oostdyk, junior pitcher Mallory Teunissen and junior first baseman Morgan Teunissen with two hits apiece.
The Wildcats finished 42-2. Click for the full box score.
Stevensville Lakeshore 7, Croswell-Lexington 4
A couple things annually are expected from the Stevensville Lakeshore softball team: The Lancers will win at least 30 games and contend for the Division 2 title.
They won their 30th game this season in the District Final. And they’re back in an MHSAA championship game – even if they didn’t feel the same outside expectations this spring after a rough start.
“Our first game we lost to Edwardsburg, and we’re like, ‘Oh man.’ Portage Central beat us five out of six times,” Lakeshore senior pitcher Haley Thibeault said. “We didn’t start at the top like we have been. We started at the bottom and literally just shot up. We peaked exactly at the right time.”
The Lancers (35-9) kept the tournament momentum rolling with five runs in the first inning against Croswell-Lexington. They pushed the score to 6-0 in the fifth inning.
Croswell-Lexington (30-2) showed plenty of sparks scoring a pair of runs in both the sixth and seventh innings – but was a hit or two short in both of turning the tide completely.
Junior pitcher Megan Guitar had two hits and scored a run for the Pioneers. Senior shortstop Kylee Barrett drilled a home run in the seventh inning.
Sophomore leftfielder Rachel Riedel had three hits including two triples and drove in three runs. Freshman second baseman Hunter Thibeault and sophomore rightfielder Sidney Weaver both had two hits.
Lakeshore’s return to the championship game is its first since winning back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.
“Everyone has been saying we’re not as good as last year’s team, or our team is young. (You don’t like) to hear that because we want to go as far as we can,” Haley Thibeault said. “I’m so proud because we’re defying all the odds to come this far. Maybe it doesn’t seem like that to other people, but it’s internal victories to us, moral victories.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Livonia Ladywood’s Rozlyn Price fires a pitch during her team’s 10-inning Division 2 Semifinal win over Wayland. (Middle) Lakeshore shortstop Alex Forsythe throws to first during her team’s Semifinal win.
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.