'Good Enough' Turns Great as Warriors Advance

June 14, 2013

By Bill Khan

Special to Second Half


BATTLE CREEK — Hannah Leppek pitched a one-hit shutout Friday, not an easy achievement against a hot-hitting softball team playing on the opposite side in an MHSAA Semifinal.


Yet the Bay City Western junior wasn't thrilled with her performance, which just reaffirms that the great ones all have a bit of a perfectionist streak in them.


Leppek struck out eight but walked five and hit a batter, as Western beat Garden City 1-0 in Division 1 at Bailey Park.


The Warriors won on a walk-off sacrifice fly by senior Hannah Batschke.


"Actually, I didn't feel that my pitching was on, but it was good enough to obviously get the win," Leppek said. "Tomorrow I can tell you it will be on. It's going to be a big game.


"I have higher standards for myself. I just felt like my pitches weren't moving as much as they usually were, and I wasn't as accurate as I usually am. In my opinion, it wasn't a perfect shutout."


Her 19th shutout of the season put Western in the MHSAA Final for the first time and against Mattawan, which beat Romeo 3-2 in the other Semifinal.


"It's surreal," Leppek said. "I feel like it hasn't hit me yet, the immensity of it. I feel like next week I'll wake up and it will hit me: 'Oh, I was in the state championship game.'"


Western coach Rick Garlinghouse concurred that it wasn't a vintage performance by Leppek.


"She normally doesn't walk five, and she gets a few more strikeouts than that," he said. "What I'm proud of is she kept her focus, and she was still able to give us a chance to win the game."


Leppek pitched out of a bases-loaded two-out jam in the sixth when she got Julene Pummill to strike out swinging at a high pitch.


Western's best chance to score before the seventh came in the second inning when Pummill ran down a fly ball heading for the gap in right-center off the bat of Batschke with two outs and a runner on second.


The winning rally began when Kelsie Popp led off the seventh with a double. Ashtyn Decatur reached on an error on a bunt attempt and advanced to second. With the outfield drawn in, Batschke hit it deep enough to force left fielder Allie Lynn to backpedal to make the catch, giving her no chance of throwing out Popp at the plate.


"I just want to go out and make my team proud, no matter what we do," Batschke said. "I just go out every at bat like it's an average game, not any big game or anything. I'm relaxed. It sounds bad, but I really do bad under pressure. So I just go out and have fun."


The title game will be a rematch of a 2011 Semifinal that Mattawan won, 3-0.


Mattawan 3, Romeo 2


The Wildcats reached the championship game for the third straight year on the strength of a three-run fifth inning.


Romeo took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth before Mattawan erupted for the winning rally.


Emma Toner started the inning by reaching base on an error, then scored the tying run on an error. A single by Kyla Nickrent broke the tie, and a double by Abby Stoner made it a 3-1 game.


"Sometimes it's just the second or third time through the lineup that it will happen," Mattawan coach Alicia Smith said. "I knew it was going to happen, because we put base runners on in every inning but the fourth. They were there in scoring position. We were just one hit away from breaking it open. It was just a matter of time."


Romeo scored a run in the sixth, but was set down 1-2-3 in the seventh by Allie Havers. Havers allowed only three hits, struck out 10 and didn't issue a walk.


Mattawan won the Division 1 title two years ago, outscoring three opponents by a combined 27-0 in the final round, before losing 2-1 to Hudsonville in last year's title game.


"In 2011, it was fairly easy for that group," Smith said. "They breezed right through the tournament and never had any close games. These kids have to battle every game, every inning, every pitch. It makes it very special."


Click for full box scores.


PHOTOS: (Top) Bay City Western rightfielder Madison Brewer holds up the ball as evidence off a catch in the Warriors' 1-0 win over Garden City. (Middle) A Mattawan hitter makes contact during the Wildcats' Semifinal win over Romeo. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)