Escanaba Finds Home as Softball Champ

June 26, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Relative to the other 15 softball teams playing in the MHSAA Semifinals two weekends ago at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium, the Escanaba contingent was far from home.

Escanaba not only advanced to play in its first MHSAA championship game since 2003, but returned home to the Upper Peninsula with its first MHSAA Finals title in the sport – and first in any sport with a unified tournament (both peninsulas together) since the football team won Class A in 1981.

The Eskymos gave up two runs total over six postseason games, shutting out Eaton Rapids 2-0 in a Semifinal and South Haven 5-0 in the Division 2 championship game to earn the honor as the final MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for 2017-18.

“It had been so long since we’d had a group down here, I think it was kinda nerve-wracking for them to be down on that field,” said Escanaba coach Jamie Segorski of the 2016 team, the first to return to the Semifinals since that 2003 Division 1 runner-up. “The last couple of years we’ve been fortunate enough to get down there, develop a comfort level, and we’ve come up with a nice schedule that’s convenient and comfortable and helped the girls stay with their norm.

“We expect to make it down there. Will we make it every year? Absolutely not. The competition is fierce. But in their minds, they know they can do it.”

Escanaba finished the spring 31-3, its only losses to eventual Division 3 runner-up Millington, Division 3 semifinalist Clinton and Rice Lake of Wisconsin. All three defeats were by just a run.

The Eskymos, as noted, also had advanced to the 2016 and 2017 Division 2 Semifinals, and they entered this playoffs ranked No. 3 by the state coaches association. So opening with District wins of 4-0 over Cheboygan and 11-1 over Petoskey wasn’t shocking. But a 10-0 shutout of No. 8 Muskegon Oakridge followed by a 12-0 shutout of Remus Chippewa Hills in the Regional certainly grabbed some attention.

Escanaba followed those with a 9-1 Quarterfinal win over annual power Saginaw Swan Valley, before finishing the run with two more shutouts – and a combined postseason scoring edge of 53-2.

Sophomore Gabi Salo without question is one of the best pitchers in the state. She came in in relief during the 2017 Semifinal loss to Richmond, but returned to Secchia to throw 14 shutout innings, giving up a combined seven hits and one walk with 20 strikeouts. She has added four mph to her fastball over the last year, dialing up 66 during the final inning against South Haven. For the season she finished 21-3 with a 0.40 ERA and 287 strikeouts in 156 innings pitched – and she’s already set to play at University of Wisconsin after graduation.

Her nearly unhittable performance was matched by plenty of hitting from her teammates. Junior rightfielder Lexi Chaillier hit .510 with eight home runs and 27 stolen bases from the leadoff spot. Senior second baseman Claire McInerney (.439, 16 SB), senior shortstop Taylor Gauthier (.400, 37 RBI) and senior third baseman Madison Griffin (.430, 6 HR, 46 RBI) filled in the next three places in the lineup, respectively. Eight starters entered the final week of the season batting at least .371, and all nine starters this season had at least one home run. Freshman Nicole Kamin batted fifth both games of Finals weekend and finished the season hitting .526 over 13 games, while going 10-0 with a 1.26 ERA from the pitching circle.

Gauthier and McInerney were three-year starters in the middle of the infield, and the rest of the team’s seniors all came up for the 2016 tournament run and had made all the trips to MSU. The team is well-traveled during the regular season as well, frequently heading downstate and into Wisconsin to find tough competition. The Eskymos find plenty at home too, as Delta County also includes Gladstone and Rapid River – ranked No. 8 in Division 3 and No. 9 in Division 4, respectively, heading into the postseason.

Football is king in Escanaba, and basketball rules the girls sports scene across the Upper Peninsula. But Eskymos softball came home as first-time-in-a-long-time champion, toppling history, clichés about the weather and any remaining misconceptions that teams traveling over the Bridge will sooner or later run into a rocky road.

“It’s fun to watch the girls develop that grit – being from the U.P., they always feel like they’re not looked at like everybody else, like they’re not as good, like how can they be good when they have snow until July,” Segorski said. “I think it really helps determine that higher sense of determination to win games.

“They’ll bask in the glory. They’ll enjoy it. And the younger girls were able to see what happened, see the fun and what we got done, and they’ll come in next year very determined.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2017-18
May: Brownstown Woohaven baseball - Report
April: Detroit Catholic Central boys lacrosse - Report
March: Brighton hockey - Report
February: Marquette girls and boys skiing - Report
Sterling Heights Stevenson competitive cheer - Report
Cadillac boys bowling - Report
November: Ottawa Lake Whiteford football - Report
Beaverton volleyball - Report
Shepherd girls golf - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba gets ready for its turn at bat after holding South Haven to another scoreless inning during the Division 2 Final. (Middle) Lexi Chaillier lines up a pitch during the championship game.

Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.