Grosse Pointe South Shortstop Fearless, Tireless on Field, Brilliant in Classroom

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

May 13, 2022

That Shannon Dame won't go on to play scholarship softball at the college level won't have a bearing on the impact she's had on the program at Grosse Pointe South the last four seasons.

And besides, playing softball collegiately was Plan B. Plan A has always been deciding what university would offer Dame the best opportunity academically. While Dame is a darn good softball player, few can match her accolades as a student.

Dame never has earned less than an A in high school, sports a 4.44 GPA, scored a 35 (out of 36) on the ACT and a 1560 (out of 1600) on the SAT. Dame didn't miss a question in mathematics and science, which makes perfect sense. She has been accepted at the University of Michigan and will enter the school of engineering with plans to major in biomedical engineering. She earned a partial academic scholarship to U-M and also was awarded a National Merit Scholarship.

“I took a bunch of AP (advanced placement) science courses (at South),” she said. “I just love math and science. I always have.”

Athletically, Dame played three sports (softball, basketball, volleyball) before concentrating on softball and her academics beginning with her junior year.

Grosse Pointe South softballFrom the first day as a member of coach Bill Fleming's varsity team, Dame has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to be the best player and teammate she could possibly be. Whether that meant staying after practice to work on her fielding or mentoring younger players, like sophomore second baseman Lilly Stidham, Dame has given her all.

“I was aware of her before (her freshman season),” Fleming said. “She was the quietest kid I'd ever known. It was 'yes coach' or 'no coach,' and that was it. Even then she'd come to practice early, and she'd stay late. She's very focused. She's a person who if you tell her something once you wouldn't have to say it again.

“What sets her apart is that she works so hard. She's constantly asking me to stay after practice to hit her ground balls. She's made herself a better player. I've coached football, wrestling and softball since the mid-90s, and through all of those years and teams I've coached she's worked harder than any player I've had.”

Dame started at second base as a freshman before Fleming moved her to shortstop and the leadoff spot last season. COVID-19 led to the cancelation of the 2020 season, but Dame was able to play travel ball during that summer.

She batted .481 last season and was hit by pitches 20 times, placing her second on the MHSAA record book single-season list. She's currently batting .512 with an on-base percentage of .596, with 18 runs scored despite missing six of South's 22 games. On April 21 in a game against Port Huron, Dame suffered a knee injury that caused some consternation.

“There was a pop up and we had some miscommunication,” she said. “I reacted to the ball coming down, and when I went for it my knee kind of twisted.

“It was pretty nerve-racking. I waited five days for the (MRI) results and had to wait two or three more to get cleared (to play). It's a bone bruise. It's getting better, and I don't feel (the pain) much now.”

Grosse Pointe South softballDame credits hitting coach Molly Clexton with her improvement at the plate. Dame has the tendency to crowd the plate – thus all of hit-by-pitches – and Clexton encouraged her to back off a bit. This and other tips have made Dame one of the top leadoff hitters in the Macomb Area Conference.

“(Clexton) helped me with the bat angle,” Dame said. “I wasn't always quick with my hands, and she helped me with my bat speed. And she really helped me with my confidence. I was nervous as a freshman. Even my friends noticed a difference with me at the plate.”

Every player had to deal with the COVID season, and Dame just tried to make the best of it.

“I'd play catch with my brother (Brian), my dad or my mom,” she said. “My parents bought me a net so I could practice hitting in the backyard. Even though I missed that (sophomore) season, I did play travel during the summer. With that extra time I was able to work on my hitting. It was the part of my game that I was lacking in confidence.”

While many players might have taken a step back after missing out on 2020, Dame displayed tremendous improvement heading into her junior year.

“She's fearless,” Fleming said. “She doesn't give any of the plate away. She's not a slap hitter. She's disciplined. What she does is use what we call a quick bunt. As a right-hand hitter, she wants to get out of the box quickly. She's a singles and doubles hitter, and she told me this year she wants to hit a home run.”

Another goal is to win an MHSAA Division 1 District title. Dame has not been a part of a District-winning team, and to accomplish that South most likely would have to defeat its biggest rival, Grosse Pointe North. South has had an up-and-down season but sits 13-9 after losing to Warren Regina on Thursday.

“We're a good team,” Dame said. “As a team, we need to get our heads into the game. We've made too many mental mistakes.”

Dame does plan to continue playing the sport in Ann Arbor. She hopes to join U-M's club program. 

Tom Markowski primarily covered high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. He also is a former correspondent and web content director for State Champs! Sports Network. Contact him at tmarkowski@statechampsnetwork.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Grosse Pointe South shortstop Shannon Dame prepares to defend her side of the infield. (Middle) Dame has started for the Blue Devils since her freshman year. (Below) Dame stands in ready for the next pitch. (Photos courtesy of the Grosse Pointe South softball program.)

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.