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June 16, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Everyone who follows high school softball in Michigan expected another dominating Meghan Beaubien performance in Friday’s first Division 3 Semifinal.

But few expected a pitchers dual – broken up only by Beaubien the hitter as Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central earned the opportunity to play for a third straight MHSAA championship.

Beaubien allowed just two hits and struck out 15 Shepherd hitters at Secchia Stadium, and also led off the sixth inning with a triple before scoring the game’s lone run as the top-ranked Kestrels escaped the Bluejays and their pitcher Haley Peska 1-0.

Peska, who no-hit No. 4 Millington in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, allowed only five hits and struck out six in just about matching the state’s most celebrated hurler of the last three seasons.

“We’ve played a lot of really good teams on our way here this year," Beaubien said. "This is a great example of it – Shepherd’s a team that nobody thought would be in the mix at this point, and they just played a great game and almost beat us.

“(But) the experience of being here has helped us mentally and with our confidence.”

Monroe St. Mary (26-3) will next face No. 3 Napoleon in Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. Final.

Maybe not the best news for Michigan State’s softball program – Beaubien will continue her career at University of Michigan – but the St. Mary’s ace has given up four hits total in 33 innings pitched at Secchia over the last three seasons. In fact, Friday’s was the first Semifinal in three seasons that she didn’t throw a no-hitter.

Not that giving up two hits made her any less dominating. That was made plain both in the sound the ball made pounding catcher Kenna Garst’s glove on her many fastballs, but also when she ended the game with a strikeout on a floating change-up that no one in East Lansing was expecting.

She’ll finish her high school career with an ERA well south of a run per game and passed 1,300 career strikeouts a while ago.

“This whole run was like, ‘OK, any game could be your last game.’ I know that,” Beaubien said. “Now I know for sure. Tomorrow is my last game. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. It’s a little weird. I just want to go out there and make my last game of my career end with another state championship.”

The combination of two superb pitching performances made this one fly by in a mere 77 minutes. Freshman rightfielder Samantha Michael did have two hits in two at bats for St. Mary, with junior shortstop Kelsey Barron doubling in that lone run and junior third baseman Danielle Michael notching the team’s other hit.

Senior centerfielder Ryanne McKenna and junior shortstop Kianna Andrews had the hits for Shepherd (25-19), and of course Peska made the most memorable impact for a Bluejays team playing in its first Semifinal since 1997.

“They’ve got two coaches over there (Bobb Servoss and assistant Terry Lynch) that know a lot about the game … and in this game it’s all about keeping hitters off-balance,” St. Mary coach John Morningstar said. “You’re never letting anyone sit on something, and if all you’ve got is speed in this game it’s going to be a long season. Kids will catch up to that hard ball. Moving it around the way (Peska) does, she’s very effective. She had us chasing a lot of pitches that we wouldn’t normally swing at.”

Click for the full box score.

Napoleon 16, Gladstone 0

Not that more proof was needed on top of a 36-4 record. But Napoleon’s seniors showed again Friday they’re ready for one last matchup with the St. Mary ace.

As freshman, they were part of a team that downed Beaubien and St. Mary in a Regional Final. But she and the Kestrels came back to eliminate the Pirates in a Quarterfinal in 2015, and Napoleon didn’t make it out of the District a year ago.

“We have been looking ahead, and saying we’re going to end up meeting Meghan, we're going to meet her,” Napoleon senior shortstop Paige Kortz said. “And just talking and scouting, hearing scouting reports. Of course they probably have with us (too), but just going ahead and figuring out what their weaknesses are, and we’re going to try to hit them tomorrow.”

They seemed to hit everything Friday, especially during the first inning. Napoleon jumped out to an 8-0 lead and finished the game with 19 hits over five innings.

Senior outfielder Kallie Pittman was 4 for 4 and scored two runs, while senior second baseman Ashton Jordan was 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and four RBI. Senior third baseman Haley Rose also was 3 for 4 and scored three runs, while Kortz, senior centerfielder Dylan Wiley, senior catcher Rachel Griffin and junior designated player Caitlin Pace all had two hits. 

Senior Sydney Coe, in addition to driving in two runs, allowed only three hits in the circle and struck out six Gladstone batters. Senior centerfielder Alyssa Polley, sophomore third baseman Sydney Herioux and junior rightfielder Kaitlyn Hardwick hit safely for the Braves (34-10).

This was the fourth Napoleon team to make Quarterfinals and the first to make Semifinals, meaning of course that Saturday’s championship game also will be a first.

“Especially having eight seniors,” Kortz said, “we at the beginning of this season were determined to be Lansing bound. And determined to make school history.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary’s Samantha Michael rounds a base during Friday’s win over Shepherd. (Middle) Napoleon’s Sydney Coe takes a swing during the second Division 3 Semifinal.

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)