Gladwin Slugger Clears Fence at Record Rate

June 2, 2016

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

GLADWIN — The outfield fence looked so far away, so unreachable whenever Gladwin senior Dayna Fennell stepped to the plate as a youngster.

And it was — back then.

"It was in high school the first time I hit one over," Fennell said. "When I was in Little League, I thought, 'I don't understand how people have the strength to hit one over.' When I hit my first home run, I was very surprised."

Nobody is surprised when Fennell clears the fences these days. In fact, it's almost disappointing for Gladwin players and fans when a game goes by and she doesn't hit a round-tripper.

With her 19th home run of the season last Saturday against Linden in a tournament at Ogemaw Heights, Fennell broke the MHSAA single-season record shared by Pentwater's Melinda Van Gillis (1979), Williamston's Camri Grace (2014) and Romeo's Madison Jones (2015).

The home run hit the top of the fence in left-center field and rolled over.

"I didn't even think it went over," Fennell said. "I just thought it would be a solid double. I thought it bounced inside the fence. Then I heard everyone cheering. I looked at the umpire while he was doing the whole circle motion; it was a home run. I was so ecstatic."

It was also an opportunity to exhale a bit. By hitting one home run in each of the three games of the Ogemaw Heights tournament, Fennell put the record pursuit behind her as Gladwin prepares for the Division 2 District on Saturday at Cadillac.

"It was actually a relief," Fennell said. "Everywhere I went, everyone's asking me how I was doing. It was a little bit of pressure. I'm glad I finally broke it."

The possibility of breaking the record became a hot topic in Gladwin when Fennell hit eight home runs in her first eight games. Before spring actually felt like spring, she eclipsed the school record of six that she set last year.

"I think I had 11 or so and thought there was no way I could hit eight more," she said. "Everyone was like, 'You've only got eight more.' I'm like, 'Yeah, I probably won't get it.' I never thought I was going to come close to it."

Fennell has tied or broken the school record in all four of her seasons with the Flying G's, equaling the modest former standard of three as a freshman and bumping it to four as a sophomore. With 32 career homers, she is tied for 10th on that MHSAA all-time list.

"My parents live 30 minutes away," Gladwin coach Jill Keefer said. "People are asking my dad about her. I'll be at the gas station, and people will say, 'I want to see her hit one out.' She's putting Gladwin on the map, in a sense, in softball."

Fennell has done a good job of handling the attention she's received for chasing and breaking the record, her coach said.

"She's very humble about it," Keefer said. "She just wants to play softball and wants to win. She's very passionate about the game. If she broke it, she broke it. Yes, she wanted to do it once she got that close to it. There was a little more hype the closer she got. People put pressure on her as she got close, even her teammates — 'C'mon, hit one today!' There were a few teams that didn't pitch to her, too; you had that factor. Now she's focused on winning Districts."

Fennell is a three-sport athlete, also playing volleyball and basketball for Gladwin. But no matter what sport was in season, she found a way to put in the work necessary to more than double her previous career home run total.

"Softball is my number one sport, my favorite sport always," Fennell said. "I had time to fit it in. I make time for it. Even if it's an hour, I go in and hit and do whatever I have to do. During the winter time, I was in the gym every weekend with my dad (Gladwin assistant coach Steven Fennell). I practiced hard when I went. I did extra reps."

Fennell is averaging one home run every 6.5 at bats. With 19 homers, 11 doubles and a triple among her 57 hits in 123 at bats, she has a whopping 1.032 slugging percentage. She has driven in 65 runs and is hitting .463. She has struck out only nine times, walking 16.

The fences on Gladwin's home field are 200 feet from home plate, but it's not as if Fennell is benefitting from a short porch. Nine of her home runs are at home and 10 have been on the road. She has come within inches of tacking on a few more home runs to her record total.

"We were at (Midland) Dow last Tuesday," Keefer said. "She hit the fence twice, and it was a 225-foot fence. If she'd been on our field, they would've been out. (Tuesday at Standish-Sterling) she hit the fence again, and it was a 214-foot fence."

Fennell is more than just a slugger. Playing primarily shortstop, she has a .900 fielding percentage. The versatile Fennell has also pitched and played catcher.

"She's a smart player," Keefer said. "She sees the field very well. She sees runners very well. She can pitch, she can catch, she can play anywhere in the field. I'd put her in the outfield, too. She has such a strong arm."

Fennell will continue her playing career at Delta College.

"They have a good dental assistant program that I'm looking into," she said. "A couple of my teammates from travel ball are going there. The coach seemed really interested and said I'd have a starting spot on the team."

Before she puts on a Delta uniform, she will try to win a District championship. The Flying G's are 29-9 heading into a District Semifinal matchup with Ogemaw Heights at noon Saturday at Cadillac. In the other semifinal, a Cadillac team that received honorable mention in the last coaches' rankings will face Gaylord at 10 a.m.

"That would be amazing to win, especially with Regionals being at home," Fennell said. "That would be awesome to have our whole crowd cheering us on."

Bill Khan served as a sportswriter at The Flint Journal from 1981-2011 and currently contributes to the State Champs! Sports Network. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Gladwin's Dayna Fennell prepares to connect with a pitch during this season's Beaverton Invitational. (Middle) Fennell throws to first base against Ithaca. (Click to see more from

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.