Escanaba Follows Ace to Historic Finish

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 16, 2018

EAST LANSING – South Haven managed three hits Saturday, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say Escanaba sophomore Gabi Salo was unhittable in the MHSAA Division 2 softball championship game.

But the University of Wisconsin recruit was pretty close.

Salo threw a second straight shutout at Secchia Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University, striking out 13 and not allowing a walk in Escanaba’s 5-0 win.

“I definitely think she’s the best pitcher that we’ve faced this year,” South Haven coach Wilma Wilson said. “We’ve faced some really good pitchers, but she was just living on the edge with every little thing and painting the corners and working the zone that the umpire was giving her. So no, we have not faced anyone like her this year.”

The MHSAA title was the first in program history for the Eskymos (31-3), who were making their third straight appearance in the Final Four, and first title game appearance since 2003.

“It feels amazing,” Salo said. “The last time Escanaba brought home a state championship was 1981 (in Class A football), and to bring home another one is really cool.”

To clarify: The Eskymos frequently claim MHSAA Finals titles in sports where the peninsulas play in separate divisions. But Saturday’s victory clinched Escanaba’s first championship in a statewide tournament since that 1981 football win – although the softball team long has been considered among the state’s elite regardless of peninsula.

Salo set the tone early Saturday, striking out 11 of the first 13 batters she faced, including the first eight. She did this despite a 25-minute rain delay that began two strikes into the second at-bat of the game.

“We just kept ourselves up and went out there and played like we were playing,” Salo said. “It didn’t bother us.”

Salo, who also shut out Eaton Rapids in the Semifinal on Thursday, finished the season with an earned-run average below 0.40.

“She was absolutely incredible,” Escanaba coach Jamie Segorski said. “It’s hard, you know, because we’ve come to expect it. She does it continuously. The bigger the game the better she pitches, and it’s a credit to all the work she puts in. Nobody works harder; nobody works longer. As a matter of fact, when she leaves here today, she’s going to be playing this weekend in Ohio. She doesn’t take breaks; she just plays.”

Escanaba catcher Dakota Cloutier knew coming into the game that her pitcher was going to be tough to hit – although she comes into most games with that feeling.

“She was on another level today,” Cloutier said. “She was pitching harder and pulling through all her pitches more than she ever has before.”

The game ended with a Salo strikeout, this one on a called strike, and one the umpire took a second to signal.

“When you’re waiting for changeup to float in there like that on that last pitch, I think (the umpire) was even surprised,” Segorski said. “That was a great pitch. It just takes a second to get the call, and we were all waiting and watching, and it was awesome.”

Salo was given all the run support she needed in the first inning, as Madison Griffin drove in Lexi Chaillier with a double.

While South Haven pitcher Hayley Kreiger was strong after that, the Eskymos were able to push across two unearned runs in the fourth inning with two outs, as Nicole Kamin scored on an error and Cloutier drove in Savannah Barron with a double.

Escanaba added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as Heather Bergstrom, Barron and Cloutier hit back-to-back-to-back doubles with two outs.

“It was awesome,” Segorski said. “It’s a relaxed feeling for the hitters when they go up there and we have a nice lead. All they have to do is go up there and square the ball, and they did it. For Heather Bergstrom to come in as a pinch hitter and drive that one to right center was fantastic, and for Savannah Barron to end her high school softball career with a double and drive in an insurance run for us is an amazing feeling for her. It goes all the way through. Just a bunch of amazing kids who did an amazing thing.”

Kreiger finished with nine strikeouts of her own, allowing seven hits, one walk and three earned runs.

“She’s been our workhorse, and she’s the one we’re going to match up against anybody,” Wilson said. “Give them kudos, though; they had some nice line-drive hits and put the ball in play better than we did. “Hayley’s been there for us all year, and even came up with a nice hit there in the last inning to end her high school career. She’s been on the varsity for four years and been just a key player for us for four years. That’s the kind of player you build around, and our senior group in general is just a great group of athletes that work hard and are super gritty.”

South Haven, making its first championship game appearance since 1979, finished 32-9.

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Gabi Salo struck out the first eight batters she faced and gets her 13th strikeout here to finish Escanaba's 5-0 win.

PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba players celebrate their first MHSAA softball championship Saturday at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Eskymos shortstop Taylor Gauthier applies a tag to a South Haven runner.

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.)