Dansville Believes – And Achieves

June 22, 2012

It's likely that few gave the Dansville softball team a shot to win the Division 4 championship last weekend, given the two-time reigning champion sitting on the opposite side of the bracket.

But the Aggies thought they had a chance. And that’s what longtime coach Mick Ream thinks made the difference in his team’s winning its first MHSAA title.

Dansville was making its third trip to Bailey Park in four seasons. The second trip, in 2010, ended with a nine-error performance and 10-1 loss to Petersburg-Summerfield – which went on to win the championship that season and again in 2011.

Those Bulldogs had been ranked No. 1 in every coaches poll this spring. But after surviving a late Rapid River to win Friday’s Semifinal 4-3, Dansville did the unexpected in Saturday’s championship game, winning 3-2.

“We were hoping to get back to the Semis, and I thought we were good enough,” said Ream, who finished his 31st season as coach. “Things always just have to fall into place. Once we got to the Semis, I really liked Rapid River. But we were just hanging in, and we did the same thing in the final game.

“With our success the last four years, and more than that, we leant ourselves to expectations. They’ve risen, not only by me, but by people in the community.”

The Aggies are recipients of the final team Second Half High 5 of the 2011-12 school year. 

The championship was the first for a Dansville girls team and the third MHSAA team title for the Aggies in any sport, joining the wrestling teams that won MHSAA Class D Finals in 1980 and 1981 when Ream’s brother Dan was an assistant coach.

Although Dansville also draws from the rural area surrounding it, roughly 500 people live within the village limits. Families have known each other for years, and Ream retired from teaching in 2010 after 34. He also has coached in the football, baseball, volleyball and girls basketball programs and watched two sons become coaches – Aggies girls basketball coach Eric Ream and his brother Greg, who coaches the boys basketball team at Desert Ridge High in Mesa, Ariz.

Mick Ream's softball team was led by some who knew well how he runs the show. Seniors Rebekah Guy, Alison Schlicker and Addie Price all played four years of varsity. Junior Evy Lobdell has been a mainstay in the lineup since her first year of high school as well.

Lobdell and Guy have eight school records between them, and Price and sophomore outfielder Hailey Mays each posted one of the seven total set by this season’s team. Guy returned to the all-state team as a catcher after hitting .422 and five home runs with an 8-1 record and 1.38 ERA pitching. Lobdel also was selected after hitting .500 with 54 RBI, as was sophomore pitcher Meagan Kelley, who went 23-4 with a 1.56 ERA and 204 strikeouts. Mays and senior outfielder Paige Galbreath both earned honorable mentions.

The high school itself has just shy of 300 students. But on top of having strong crowds all season, 200 supporters showed up for Thursday’s victory parade that included three fire engines, the band and player introductions.

The parade was just the start. The village proclaimed that every July 20 will now be known as Dansville Varsity Softball Day. Calls and letters have been coming in from people Ream hadn’t had contact with for years.

Former Bath coach Marc Kibby – who led the Bees to the Division 4 championship in 2002 and now coaches at Lansing Community College – called to say “welcome to the club” and remind Ream that the Aggies will always be listed among champions on the flag pole near the Bailey Park softball complex entrance.

“One thing I got loud and clear from everybody: there’s just a certain way we did things, and we didn’t waiver from it, and I think it paid off,” Ream said. “It paid off with how the kids represent the school, how they act when they go on the field and when they go off the field. I think that’s the starting point. And I always felt that if you get to know and care about them more as people than players, my philosophy is that they respond to that.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Dansville players celebrate after Friday's 4-3 Semifinal win over Rapid River that earned them the school's first softball Final appearance. (Middle) Junior Evy Lobdell hits a drive during the Semifinal win. (Click to see more photos from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)