Escanaba Delivers Memorable D2 Encore

June 15, 2019

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Two rarities happened in the first inning of the MHSAA Division 2 softball championship game Saturday at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium.

The first was Escanaba all-state pitcher Gabi Salo allowed a walk against Stevensville Lakeshore. The second was Salo gave up a run.

Salo entered the championship game with a 25-2 record, 0.24 earned run average and 337 strikeouts and just 21 walks.

If that’s not enough, she had given up only six earned runs all year.

She gave up three runs – two earned – in the championship game, but contained the Lancers enough to secure a 7-3 victory that clinched the Eskymos’ second straight Division 2 title.

“I thought I had my best stuff today,’’ said the junior pitcher. “I thought I went out strong.

“This means so much. Our school went without a state title from 1981 until last year. For us to bring home another one, I don’t have words. This one feels even better than last year.’’

The Lancers surprisingly struck early when Salo surrendered a two-out walk and Meghan Younger drove her home on a double just out of the reach of the centerfielder. It was just the seventh earned run Salo had given up this season.

She finished Saturday with 11 strikeouts while allowing seven hits. Escanaba finished the spring 34-3, while Lakeshore ended 33-11.

Salo helped her own cause in the second inning with a game-tying sacrifice fly, scoring Lexi Chaillier, who had walked, stolen second base and was sacrificed to third.

Escanaba took advantage of two walks and a bounce out to first by Chaillier to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning.

Younger was able to solve Salo with two singles and a double, but her teammates mostly were stifled until the sixth.

Meanwhile, Escanaba loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth inning with one out on a walk and singles by Heather Bergstrom and Carsyn Segorski. Chaillier popped out, but Nicole Kamin and the Eskymos took advantage of a fly ball dropping out of an outfielder’s mitt that allowed three runs to score and gave the reigning champ a 5-1 lead.

A four-run cushion with three innings left was all Salo needed.

Lakeshore put together a threat in the top of the sixth inning on a single by Younger and fielder’s choice and error by Salo.

Shelby Grau singled, but rightfielder Chaillier threw out a Lakeshore runner at home to negate a potential run. However, Anna Chellman came through with a two-run single to left field to make it 5-3. Salo got out of trouble with a strikeout with two runners on.

“Originally, I was going to throw it to first because I’ve gotten a few girls out at first on those kinds of hits,’’ said Chaillier. “I saw the girl running from third, and I knew I had to go home with it.’’

Said winning coach Gary Salo: “(Chaillier) better be on some all-state teams. I’m going to be upset if she isn’t. She does everything for us. That was a great throw.”

Escanaba sealed the win in the bottom of the sixth inning when a Lakeshore wild pitch allowed two runs to score.

“All week we just kept saying we’re three wins away from going to Wienerlicious (restaurant in Mackinaw City) … (then) we’re two wins away,” Gary Salo said. “We’re going to go back home and celebrate there. We haven’t been home all week.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba's Georgia Lehto connects with a pitch during Saturday's Division 2 Final. (Middle) The Eskymos' Gabi Salo fires toward the plate. 

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

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.)