Dakota, Mercy Set Up Top-Ranked Match-up

June 16, 2016

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

EAST LANSING — Kendahl Dunford started summer softball last year with a team that wasn't operating at full strength.

While Dunford was beginning her travel season, some of her teammates were still busy trying to win MHSAA championships with their high school teams.

Dunford's own postseason dreams with her Macomb Dakota team ended in the Pre-District round for the second straight year, despite a 30-6 regular-season record.

"It was not a good feeling," Dunford said. "We had some girls (from the summer team) who were still here. We were like, 'Wow, we could've really been here.' Now this year, being here, it's the best thing ever."

Dunford's high school season will extend to the last possible game after she pitched top-ranked Dakota to a 4-2 victory over Midland in the MHSAA Division 1 semifinals on Thursday at Michigan State University.

The Cougars (38-2), who hadn't won a District since 2000 and had never advanced beyond Regionals until this season, will face Farmington Hills Mercy at 10 a.m. Saturday for the Division 1 title at MSU's Secchia Stadium.

"It's surreal," senior second baseman Sarah Fringer said. "I never thought we were going to get here. We have such a great team. Not getting out of Districts the past couple years has been really tough. Finally being here is an amazing feeling."

It was Fringer who made the defensive play of the game to thwart Midland's final threat.

The Chemics (36-8) had runners on first and second with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, trailing 4-2. Nicole Miiller hit a grounder to the left of Fringer, who made a diving stop, got up and made the throw to first to end the inning.

"It was really huge," Fringer said. "They had runners on first and second with two outs. I was just trying to do anything I could to keep the ball in front of me and not let a run score. I just saw the ball coming and got it. It was a huge relief. We only had three more outs left after that. It was really a big confidence booster that we really had it. We really were going to get the win."

Fringer's play left Midland wondering what could have been.

"We squared it up quite a few times," Midland coach Robin Allen said. "Some of the times when we did, they made a nice play or it went right at them. If that second baseman doesn't make that diving play, that's a whole new ball game. It might have got in the gap. If that gets in the gap, we might have scored two there."

Against Dunford, teams don't get many opportunities to put runs on the board. She retired the Chemics in order in the seventh, ending the game with back-to-back strikeouts. Dunford had nine strikeouts total, allowing six hits and no walks.

Dunford, a junior who has verbally committed to Florida International, entered the game with five straight shutouts. She had allowed only one run over 37 innings in six tournament games, as Dakota outscored its opponents 53-1.

Dakota struck first when Kattie Popko doubled and scored on a single by Claire Hamlin in the second inning.

The Cougars built a cushion in the third, scoring three unearned runs. With one out and nobody on, Corbin Hison reached first base when third baseman Zoe Manary threw high to first base. With two outs, Kelcie LaTour singled home Hison to make it 2-0. After a single by Dunsford, Julia Salisbury stepped up and lined a double to the fence in left-center field to score two runs.

"I just imagine that I'm going to hit it out to left field," Salisbury said. "Before I bat, I look to left field and say, 'I'm driving it out there.' That's what I thought when I hit that."

Dunford's scoreless inning streak ended at 35 in the fourth inning, as Midland cut the Cougars' lead in half.

Pitcher Maya Kipfmiller singled with one out to begin the rally. Julia Gross then hit a ball that eluded the center fielder and rolled to the fence for a triple. Gross headed home when the throw to third was wild. It appeared she would be easily cut down at the plate, but the throw home sailed high.

"We had a little defensive hiccup there," Dakota coach Rick Fontaine said. "I don't think we've made that many errors in the entire postseason. We got them out of the way on one play, so I guess that was a good thing. Defensively, we've been great all year."

Midland went down 1-2-3 in the fifth and seventh innings, failing to score in the sixth because of Fringer's diving stop and throw on the grounder by Miiller.

Dunford had two of Dakota's six hits off of Kipfmiller, who walked four batters, none of whom factored into the scoring.

Kipfmiller and Gross had two hits each for Midland.

"We have one senior," Allen said. "We're a young team, but they don't play like they're young. They all play like seniors. They've been around the program for a long time. It's a special season. It's something these girls will remember the rest of their lives. I'm really excited for them. It's memorable."

Click for the full box score

Farmington Hills Mercy 9, Mattawan 6

Cari Padula came just a foot or so away from hitting a grand slam down the right field line in the second inning. 

She had to settle for a three-run double to left after her long foul ball, but she isn't complaining. Padula's hit highlighted a five-run uprising that carried No. 2 Mercy (42-2) into the championship game for the second time in school history. The 2002 team lost in the Division 1 Final, 4-0 to Portage Northern.

"It would have been awesome if it went out," Padula said of the near-miss to right. "I just knew I needed to recoup. I took a deep breath. I have this little saying. I say, 'See ball, hit ball.' That's exactly what I did." 

Padula had a run-scoring single as part of a three-run sixth inning, giving her four RBI.

"I was really happy for Cari," Mercy coach Alec Lesko said. "Cari walked away from our last game thinking she didn't contribute enough, but she had a couple sac flies. Today she missed a grand slam by about a foot and came down the other line for a bases-emptying double. We're excited for her. She's a senior, and she's been a great leader. I'm glad she had a chance to do something big today." 

Fourth-ranked Mattawan (32-9) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning before Mercy responded with the five-run second. After Mercy extended its lead to 6-2 in the third following a 54-minute rain delay, Mattawan cut the deficit to 6-5 with two runs in the third and one in the fifth.

Anna Dixon's second double and third hit of the game ignited a three-run sixth inning that gave Mercy some breathing room. Mattawan scored a run in the sixth, but couldn't get closer. 

"We gave up too many, but we fought hard and never gave up," Mattawan junior Joanna Bartz said. "We just tried to play our game and fell short."

Andrea Elmore allowed nine hits and struck out eight for Mercy. Shannon Gibbons was 3 for 4, nearly getting a fourth hit in the sixth, only to be denied by a diving catch by left fielder Sarah Hillsburg.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Macomb Dakota celebrates its first MHSAA Finals berth in softball. (Middle) A Farmington Hills Mercy runner rounds third base during her team's Semifinal win.

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.