Grandville, Dakota Follow Veterans' Leads

June 15, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – A powder puff football game was not going to keep the Grandville softball team from making history this season.

Ellie Muilenburg made sure of that. The Bulldogs had big plans, but needed her to keep them.

Sporting a white head band, maroon hair bow and black plastic brace on her left knee, Muilenburg took the pitcher’s circle for Grandville’s first MHSAA Semifinal since 1982.

Less than a year after tearing a knee ligament, seven months after surgery to repair it and about 30 games after she returned to the circle, the Bulldogs’ senior ace allowed two hits and struck out nine in a 2-1 win over Clarkston at Secchia Stadium.

On Saturday, Grandville will play for its first MHSAA softball title.

“After my ACL injury, I thought it was going to be a really tough battle coming back, and it was. But I’ve come back stronger than I’ve played my whole career,” Muilenburg said.

“It was mentally, emotionally, physically draining. But I knew I could do it for my team. We’ve been saying since day one this was the state championship team. We knew we could make it.”

The Bulldogs (32-7), an honorable mention in the final regular-season poll, will face top-ranked Macomb Dakota (35-2) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Muilenburg also helped pitch Grandville to league and District titles last season and is a four-year varsity player. But she suffered a knee injury during a powder puff football game in the fall and had surgery just five months before her softball team’s first games of this spring.

“There were times when she’d go, ‘I’ll be back,’ and I’d go, we’ll see,” Grandville coach Troy Ungrey said. “Ten games in she said, ‘I’m testing it out next week.’ When she said she was ready to go, of course I said, ‘Yes!’” 

Muilenburg did indeed return for the team’s 11th game, a 14-3 win over Holland West Ottawa where Ungrey noticed “she had a smile on her face like the first game she threw for us” freshman year.

With Thursday’s win, Muilenberg moved to 17-1 since her return. But a young Clarkston team nearly put Grandville’s good times to an end.

With only one senior on the roster, the Wolves (32-10) – also a rankings honorable mention – matched zeroes with the Bulldogs through five innings. Grandville scored its runs in the top of the sixth, both on errors. Clarkston came back in the bottom of the inning and loaded the bases, scoring on freshman Sierra Kersten’s sacrifice fly with two outs – but Muilenburg came back to get a swinging strikeout to end the rally. She also got the final out on strikes before being engulfed by her teammates.

“As a pitcher, it’s really a mental game. And so mentally, I just have to think I’m better than you – I’m going to get this; this is my game,” Muilenburg said. “And so I just turn around and throw how I do.”

She struck out nine and gave up only two hits, while Clarkston sophomore Olivia Warrington didn’t yield an earned run and struck out six while allowing four hits.

Click for the full box score.

Macomb Dakota 6, Mattawan 3

Dakota was in a similar spot as Grandville last season, making a championship game for the first time before falling to Farmington Hills Mercy in the Final.

It’s been tough for the Cougars this spring to not look ahead to mid-June. But putting up four runs in the first inning Thursday provided a deserved reward for their self-discipline leading up to that point.

“All year, it’s been come back here, do work and stay focused,” Dakota junior centerfielder Olivia Patton said. “Each game, we knew that each inning counted and everything matters … (but) we knew that we wanted to come back here all season.”

Patton had one of the hits and scored the second run of that first-inning rally, which included senior first baseman Julia Salisbury driving in one, senior pitcher Kendahl Dunford doubling home two and sophomore catcher Sam DiCicco knocking in the fourth.

For the game, Patton, junior shortstop Corbin Hison and senior leftfielder Kattie Popko all had two hits. Patton’s second was a triple.

Fifth-ranked Mattawan (32-8) did get to Dunford for one run in the first inning and two in the third. But she retired the final 12 batters in order, giving herself and a number of contributors from last season another chance to win the program’s first title.

“The first time we were here was very nerve-wracking, and obviously it still is,” Patton said. “But knowing we can do it, and staying positive, is very helpful.”

Mattawan junior pitcher Emily Koperdak also had two hits and scored twice. Senior third baseman Joanna Bartz drove in two runs.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grandville's Ellie Muilenburg unloads a pitch during Thursday's first Division 1 Semifinal. (Middle) Dakota's Lauren Bobowski rounds third base on the way to scoring one of her team's six runs.

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.