Hope Rained Eternal During 1978 Finals
May 31, 2018
By Ron Pesch
Special for Second Half
“If the weatherman is in a co-operative mood, Michigan’s high school athletes, both boys and girls, will wind up another competitive school year Saturday,” wrote Detroit’s premier high school sports scribe, Hal Schram, 40 years ago just prior to the staging of the 1978 MHSAA softball and baseball state finals weekend.
“Let’s hope we get them in on schedule”, said Bob James, director of athletics for the Warren Consolidated Schools and a member of the MHSAA Representative Council. “I’ve been in high school sports for 35 years, and can’t remember a spring with more postponements and cancellations.”
Despite highest hopes, weather would, again, be a factor on the final weekend of the prep season. Games were scheduled for eight locations around the Lower Peninsula, with rain postponing Class B and Class C contests in softball and Class B and Class D in baseball.
In the 1979 yearbook, Impressions, published by East Detroit High School, staff celebrated school’s past half-decade of accomplishment and history:
“Girls have been playing softball at East Detroit now for almost 50 years, although it was called the girls baseball team until the mid-sixties. The teams have always done very well, many of them went undefeated, but none of them ever did as well as the 1978 squad.”
Roxanne “Rocky” Szczesniak, who would later earn All-American honors at Wayne State University, tossed a four-hitter and smashed a three-run homer as the Shamrocks eliminated defending Class A champion Portage Central, 6-3, in the day’s opening Semifinal, played at East Detroit’s Memorial Park. It was only the second defeat in 52 games for Portage Central, coached by Tom Monroe.
Waterford Township slipped past Flint Carman, 1-0, in 10 innings in the day’s second Semifinal, then capitalized on six errors by East Detroit in the title game to grab the Class A softball championship, 4-0. In the first inning, Mari Latozas doubled home a run to open the scoring for the Skippers. Waterford then added unearned runs in the third and fifth to seal the win. Coached by Joe Alsup, the Skippers finished the year at 25-3. He would post a 197-39 record in nine seasons at the school before it closed following the 1982-83 school year. Twenty years later, Alsup’s Waterford Kettering team earned the 1998 Class A softball crown. Today, he ranks fourth in all-time softball coaching victories in Michigan.
In Class B, Fenton cruised to their first of three straight titles with an 8-5 win over South Haven at Belknap Park in Grand Rapids on Monday, June 19, the game rescheduled because of the weather. Pitcher Barb Barclay posted her 24th win without a loss and boosted Fenton’s season mark to 28-1. Barclay was instrumental in the win at the plate as well with a triple and a single, while scoring three runs for the Tigers. With two outs in the third inning, Fenton rallied with four straight hits to open up a 2-1 lead. South Haven again jumped in front, 4-2, in the fifth, but Fenton bounced right back, again rallying with two down to open up a 7-4 lead.
“This was our biggest challenge of the season,” said Fenton coach Dave Lazar. “For a young team, South Haven is pretty good. They’re scrappers.”
It was South Haven’s second consecutive trip to the Finals. In 1977, the Rams lost to Grosse Ile, 5-3. South Haven would return to the Finals for a third straight time in 1979, again falling to Fenton.
Earlene Seeley, who would later play college ball at Ferris State, reached first base on a bunt, stole second, then scored on an error to give Shepherd a 1-0 lead over New Lothrop before rain forced delay at Brookwood Park in Clare on Saturday. Pitcher Deb McAvoy, who had hurled three and a third innings of no-hit ball, completed the first no-hitter in MHSAA title game history as Shepherd grabbed a 2-0 victory in the Class C championship on Monday. It would be six more years before a second no-hitter was tossed in the Softball Finals. Since McAvoy’s gem, 14 additional no-nos have been thrown in the MHSAA softball title game.
At Robinson Park in Ionia, Laingsburg swept to a 6-1 win over Central Lake for the Class D softball title. Junior Robbin Sawyer, who upped her record to 17-0 on the season, tossed a two-hitter in the Wolfpack’s 15-2 Semifinal win over Owendale-Gagetown and then held Central Lake to a single hit in the title game. Sue Hurst went 3 for 3 at the plate in the championship game, including singling home a run before scoring on the front end of a double steal, all in the first inning. Carrie Kooster tripled twice in the Semifinal, driving in six runs to lead the Wolves.
Boasting an outstanding pitching staff, coach Marv Rettenmund’s Flint Southwestern squad rolled through the regular season, then battled its way through the tournament before downing East Kentwood, 7-1, to win the first, and only, Class A baseball title in Flint-area history.
"Sometimes, you have pretty good players, and when you have them, you'd better cash in," Rettenmund told the Flint Journal 30 years later.
Blessed with a “1-2 punch of senior left-hander Ruben Luna (14-0 with a 0.82 earned-run average) and senior right-hander Risto Nicevski (9-1, 0.72),” Southwestern dropped only three of 35 games, (all by a single run) before rolling to 16 straight victories. Tournament play was “capped by five close games,” including a scare in the Semifinal, before the championship matchup.
Luna and Nicevski combined for a one-hitter in the title contest, played at Memorial Field in Wyandotte. Earlier in the day, Luna fanned 12 batters in a three-hit, 1-0 shutout of Plymouth Canton. Third baseman Bob Cardenas singled home designated hitter Al Weatherford in the fifth inning for the game’s only run.
"That was one of the toughest teams we played," said Rettenmund. Plymouth Canton’s Russ Mandle led off the seventh inning with a booming double between the gap in left and centerfield, but was gunned down when trying to stretch it to a triple. “We made a perfect relay — (left fielder Dale) Bennis to (shortstop Matt) Diment to Cardenas.
"That was a once-in-a-lifetime ballclub."
Tom O’Dowd allowed a single hit in Jackson Lumen Christi’s 10-6 victory over Spring Lake in Class B, played at Aquinas College’s Kimble Field in Wyoming. The game, rescheduled to Monday after Saturday’s rain, saw six errors mar Spring Lake’s dreams of a title. Three of Lumen Christi’s first four batters reached base or advanced on errors, and all scored as the Titans jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead. Dave Schonhard notched the game’s only RBI, doubling in a pair of runs in the second inning to increase the lead to five. O’Dowd, selected in the 12th round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the spring, claimed 14 strikeouts, but dealt with control problems, walking 13. Trailing 10-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Lakers took advantage, gaining four walks and notching their only hit to pull within four before O’Dowd was relieved and the side was retired.
“We ran into a heckuva pitcher,” said Spring Lake coach Don Rohn following the game. “He throws the ball well. He’s probably the fastest right-hander we’ve seen all season.”
The win capped a stellar school year for the Titans, who won the Class B football crown in the fall and the Tier II hockey title in the winter.
Delayed by heavy rain, Bay City All Saints pounded out 13 hits including three singles by Ed Pawlaczyk, to down Addison, 8-0, in Class C championship play at Marshall High School. Dave Shooltz allowed seven hits in five innings for the win. Randy Morse, who went the distance in the team’s 2-0 Semifinal triumph over Allen Park Cabrini, earned the save. It was the first of seven final game appearances by All Saints and their first of four state baseball titles. The seven visits to the championship game has been equaled by Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and exceeded by Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher, with eight. Blissfield leads the list with nine trips to championship games, and tops all schools for baseball state titles with seven.
With two outs in the top of the 10th inning, Saranac’s Steve Metternick doubled in two runs to break a 1-1 deadlock as the Redskins topped Frankfort 4-1 in the Class D title showdown. The game, played at Alumni Field on the campus of Central Michigan University, had been interrupted on Saturday at the top of the third, with Saranac leading 1-0. Southpaw Craig Coulson earned the win for the Cinderella squad, going all the way. The sophomore hurler allowed four hits, struck out eight and walked four on the afternoon. Saranac ended the season with 16 victories against 11 defeats.
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@example.com with ideas for historical articles.
PHOTOS: (Top) Shepherd’s softball team poses with its 1978 Class C championship trophy. (Middle top) East Detroit’s Rocky Szczesniak unloads a pitch for the eventual Class A champ. (Middle below) Ruben Luna prepares to deliver for Flint Southwestern. (Below) Saranac’s “Cinderella” Class D champion celebrates.
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.