Fear Not; Caledonia Continues Record Run

June 11, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Everything about Thursday afternoon should have been at least a little intimidating for Caledonia and pitcher Samantha Gehrls. 

The Fighting Scots were playing in their first MHSAA Semifinal. They were facing a Farmington Hills Mercy team that had hit 27 home runs.

Did you know Gehrls is only a freshman? 

Could’ve fooled everyone at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium. Gehrls threw pitches that showed she was downright fearless, holding the Marlins’ big bats at bay in leading Caledonia to a 5-2 win and its first appearance in an MHSAA softball championship game.

The Scots will take on Warren Regina at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I went in with the mentality that we’re here right  now. The farther you get in the tournament, the better the hitters are going to be,” said Gehrls, who struck out eight and walked one. “I just have to face the fact and know that I can’t be intimidated because my team needs me. Obviously, it’s definitely in back of my head, ‘I can’t hang this over the plate.’ (I was) just trying to stay concentrated on each and every pitch.” 

Mercy did get nine hits as both teams drove balls all over the park. Marlins sophomore Nicole Belans hit a home run that stayed inside the fence; Caledonia senior McKenzie Butgereit drove her homer over it and also had a double as her team tallied nine hits as well.

Butgereit scored the first run of the game off that double in the second inning, when senior Danielle Oracz doubled her home. Caledonia (34-4) scored two more runs in the fifth inning when senior Ashley Miller tripled in a run and then scored on an error, and then one more each in the sixth and seventh – on Butgereit’s home run and then Miller singling and scoring, respectively. 

That set the most daunting scene Gehrls would face all day.

Mercy (27-4) had gotten its two runs on Belans’ drive in the sixth inning, and the score stood 5-2 with Caledonia needing three outs to advance. Gehrls struck out the first of the seventh inning, but Marlins senior Alex Sobczak and sophomore Sophia VanAcker followed with singles. The tying run came to the plate – junior Abby Krzywiecki, she of a .594 average, 12 home runs and 56 RBI this spring heading into the week. 

“I’m thinking ‘Oh my gosh, we have to get this girl out.’ I don’t even really know,” Gehrls said of the thoughts spinning through her mind at that moment. “I focused on every single pitch. … And I knew that once we get this batter, we’ve got to focus on the next. If we get this girl, we’re one step closer to getting that win.”

The titanic matchup could be repeated on this field a year from now. But round one went to Gehrls, who kept the ball on the outside of the plate to draw a fly out to third base. The next batter flew out to second base to end the game. 

“She’s well beyond her years as a freshman,” Caledonia coach Tom Kaechele said of Gehrls. “She’s strong. She lives in the weight room. She’s just a great basketball player. She’s just a great athlete, and I’m fortunate to have her on my team.

“Her older sister (Alexa) went on to play at Saginaw Valley (State University), and she leans on her too. But I think one of the neatest things is my junior pitcher who is out in centerfield has been a great mentor to her. Taylor (VanZytveld) has pitched in some big games. … Sami asks her for advice all the time. There’s no competition, no jealousy, nothing like that, and that is so huge on a team when you have two kids, an older one and a younger one, that depend on each other.” 

Miller, Butgereit, Oracz and junior Lexi Lieske all had multiple hits for Caledonia. Belans, Sobczak and VanAcker did the same for Mercy.

Click for the box score.

Warren Regina 7, Mattawan 1 

Regina’s players chanted, “We’re still hungry,” after leaving the field at Secchia Stadium. They have room left for one more highlight from a season quickly filling up with them after an empty start.

The Saddlelites will play for an MHSAA title for the first time since 2007, and despite opening this season 3-11. 

Regina unloaded seven runs during the fifth and sixth innings to stay alive for one more game after Mattawan scored its only run in the fourth inning. 

The Saddlelites had 12 hits – with nine came over the final three innings.

“We’ve been really working on our bunts and working on the little things, because in the beginning we weren’t doing the little things, which really is helping us now,” said Regina senior Riley Hison, who singled in the go-ahead run. “We’ve been working on our hitting too. We’ve been doing a lot more drills and more fundamentals than what we usually do.”

Hison had two hits and three RBI total, and seniors Gina Munson, Marissa Tiano and junior Kristina Carlson all also had two hits apiece. 

Tiano was near-flawless from the pitching circle, giving up only four hits without walking a batter. Junior Amber Mazahem had one of those hits for Mattawan (30-13) and drove in the lone run.

Regina moved to 26-16, with 11 wins over its last 14 games. 

“We might as well win states now,” Hison said. “We’ve come this far.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Caledonia's Samantha Gehrls unwinds toward the plate during her team's Division 1 Semifinal win Thursday. (Middle) A Regina hitter connects for one of the team's 12 hits.

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:

Softball

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.