Flashback 1981: Softball Showcase Makes Ranney Park Home
By Ron Pesch
May 28, 2021
After years of grouping the championship games by classification across various diamonds in the state, talks about creating a new format for both the Michigan High School Athletic Association baseball and softball championships began following the 1980 spring tournaments.
“Baseball and softball coaches have been complaining about spreading the tournament sites throughout the state,” according to an article in the Lansing State Journal. “They feel if football championships can be held at the Silverdome and basketball at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, why not showcase their sports (at a single location).”
“The coaches are certainly in favor of the four-class finals at the same site and were looking into it,” said Vern Norris, executive director of the MHSAA in June 1980. “There are several exceptional sites right now.”
In September, the Association announced that the 1981 Baseball Finals would be held at Central Michigan University’s Alumni Field, and that the Softball Finals would be played at Lansing’s Ranney Park, a sports complex that featured nearly $70,000 in recent renovations. Rain delayed all four championship games, scheduled for Saturday, June 13. Instead, they were played on the following Monday.
Class A: Lansing Eastern 8, Warren Cousino 0
Lefty Sally Sohn allowed just three hits as Lansing Eastern shut down once-beaten Warren Cousino, 8-0. It was Sohn’s 17th win on the year without a defeat. Diane Gentry, previously unbeaten in 19 games, took the loss.
Eastern pounded out 13 hits, scoring once in the first inning and twice in the second for a quick 3-0 lead. Leftfielder Sue Spagnuolo, who went 4 for 5 at the plate, piled up a double and three singles in the championship game, drove in one of the runs in the second inning, and then followed with two more RBI in the third. Senior Kelley Keyton, who led the team in batting with a .412 average and six home runs, singled in two more runs in the third. Playing first base, she was one of three sisters, including Lesley Keyton (second) and Michelle Keyton (third), who occupied the infield for the Quakers. Sophomore shortstop Rachel Dexter added three hits and was outstanding defensively. The team’s final run came in the fifth.
Dexter, Lesley Keyton and Gentry would all later become teammates at Michigan State, while Sohn would carve out an outstanding career at Ferris State. Spagnuolo would attend Alma College, earning all-MIAA honors and setting multiple Scots records on the basketball court.
In eight postseason contests, Eastern outscored its opponents 79-9, with the Cousino win marking the only tournament shutout. In 1995, the Quakers’ team was honored with induction into the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame.
Class B: Saginaw MacArthur 8, Eaton Rapids 4
Saginaw MacArthur’s Liz Alfano held Eaton Rapids to four hits, all coming in the fifth inning, to lead her team to an 8-4 win over the Greyhounds. MacArthur, which lost its 1980 Regional Final to eventual Class B champion Fenton, finished the season with a 20-5 record.
The Generals opened up a 6-0 advantage early in the contest.
After walking in her first at bat, Pam Carpenter scored the game’s opening run on a Greyhounds throwing error in the bottom of the first inning, and then doubled in two runs in the second. A bloop single by Alfano in the third pushed across another run. That was followed by a single by Jenny Scoggin that scored two more runs, giving MacArthur its lead.
Alfano hadn’t allowed a hit through the first four innings before a bad hop on a grounder in the top of the fifth allowed Eaton Rapids to score a run. Trailing 6-1, the Greyhounds filled the bases with nobody out. MacArthur’s second baseman Cindy Devers came up big defensively, turning a double play on a grounder by tagging the runner headed from first to second before making the easy toss to first. While the runner at third scored, it appeared that “MacArthur might escape without further damage, “ according to Mike Thompson of the Saginaw News.
“However, an infield error allowed a third run to score. Another error, followed by a base hit, produced another run and cut MacArthur’s lead to 6-4.
With “the tying runs in scoring position … Generals Coach Sue Skulley made a trip to the pitching rubber.” Skulley knew Eaton Rapids had a reputation as a strong comeback team, and hoped a little break might help Alfano on this hot, muggy day.
‘“It was nearly 90 degrees out there,’” said Skulley. “’She was tired and she let up a little.’”
Following the mound visit, Alfano got the third out of the inning on a fly to right field.
Devers scored in the fifth and Carpenter scored again after notching a triple in the sixth to seal the victory.
Alfano finished with a 16-3 win-loss mark on the year. Eaton Rapids ended with a 14-9 record as Denise Miller was tagged with the loss.
Class C: Vandercook Lake 5, Breckenridge 4
Five walks, two hit batters, and eight errors – including a pair in the ninth inning – helped the Vandercook Lake Jayhawks (14-4) earn a surprise 5-4 win over Breckenridge (18-6).
>Vandercook Lake blew an early 3-1 lead, and with the game tied, 3-3, a lead-off triple by Breckenridge first baseman Brenda Rohn in the top of the seventh appeared to set the stage for a comeback win by the Huskies. “However,” according to Lansing State Journal coverage, “an unsuccessful squeeze play and two pop ups got Jayhawks pitcher Beth Eagle out of the touchy situation.” With Vandercook Lake unable to score in the bottom half, the teams headed for extra innings.
In the top of the ninth, Rohn, who finished 4 for 4 from the plate, notched her third triple of the day, and then scored on a two-out single by Claudia Parfitt to break the tie, 4-3.
But Vandercook Lake scored twice in the bottom of the inning to grab the title.
“Barb Boyt reached first for the Jayhawks on a throwing error then moved to third after a wild pitch and a passed ball,” stated the Jackson Citizen Patriot years later, recalling the drama. “After Breckenridge issued a walk to put the game-winning run on first, Coach Yvonne Freeman put Sherry Gilbert in to pinch run. Boyt scored on another error and Gilbert moved to second. With two outs, Paula May hit a groundball to third base and Gilbert slid under the tag for a 5-4 win.”
Freeman had only four players turn out for varsity tryouts that spring, and junked the JV squad to compile a team.
Breckenridge’s Evelyn O’Boyle, who allowed two hits on the day, was unbeaten entering the match-up and took the loss.
Class D: Portland St. Patrick 3, Wyoming Lee 2
Portland St. Patrick opened up an early 3-0 lead, then held on for a 3-2 win over Wyoming Lee before a crowd of 500. It was the Shamrocks’ 26th win on the year against two losses.
“We’ve played well all year,” St. Patrick coach Dick Willemin told the Journal correspondent Steven Waite following the game. “We got super play out of our infield today. But I’ve said all along we’d go as far as (pitcher) Jane (Rogers) took us.”
Sophomore Karen Kramer opened the St. Patrick scoring in the bottom of the first inning. In the second, Carmen Simon “walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Laurie Hoppes’ single to center,” according to the Journal’s account of the game. “(Freshman Laurie) Leik was safe on a fielder’s choice, stole second, and took third on a passed ball. She scored on catcher Doreen Schrauben’s ground out.”
Lee (21-8) rallied back in the fourth, as Tammi Melinn doubled, moved to third on a Cassie McCann single, then scored on a single by Cheryl DeLaat. McCann, who had advanced to third on DeLaat’s hit, scored “on an ensuing ‘pickle play’” as DeLaat was thrown out attempting to steal second. “Rogers got St. Patrick out of further trouble by forcing the next two batters to pop out.”
Rogers’ strong pitching combined with solid defense sealed the victory. Just a junior, Rogers allowed four hits and fanned five to end the year with a 21-2 mark. She struck out more than 100 during the season and established Shamrocks records for strikeouts in a game, season, and career, as well as wins in a season with 21 against two defeats.
A special thanks to Saginaw’s Jeffrey Cottrell at the Castle Museum and Stacy McNally at the Hoyt Library for their assistance in gathering reference materials.
Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at [email protected] with ideas for historical articles.
PHOTOS: The 1981 Portland St. Patrick softball team celebrates 40 years since its championship season during a May 20 reunion. Back row: Coach Tom Russman, Michelle (Simon) Nakfoor, Laurie (Leik) Kinne, Karen (Kramer) Trierweiler, Julie (Schrauben) May, Coach Ralph Willemin, Carmen (Simon) Stiffler, Jane (Rogers) Wheaton, Rhonda (Lehman) Goodrich. Front row: Joyce (Gensterblum) Werner, Sherri (Fox) Gensterblum, Kaye (Schrauben) Sandborn, Brenda (Schrauben) Smith. Missing: Maureen (Eddy) Devota, Renee (Vallier) Haneghan, Lisa (Cook) Barrone, Barb (Manning) Renterghem, Lori (Kissane) Rademacher, Doreen (Schrauben) Spohn, Head Coach Dick Willemin (deceased). (2) Lansing Eastern's Kelley Keyton celebrates following the final out of the Class A championship game in 1981. (3-6) Team photos from the 1981 champions. (Photos collected by Ron Pesch.)
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:
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.