MHSA(Q&)A: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart's Sara Hansen

July 26, 2012

By Brian Spencer
Second Half

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart's Sara Hansen helped her softball team this spring to its first MHSAA Semifinals appearance since 1994. That, in itself, was plenty to celebrate.

But she achieved some unforgettable individual accomplishments as well. Hansen tied a national record with 82 runs scored. (Click to see the national record book.) She set an MHSAA record with 100 hits. She'll carry a 56-game hitting streak -- going back to May, 2011 -- into her junior season next spring.

She's got a few other things on her mind first -- like setting her volleyball team this fall and running the point for the Irish's basketball team this winter. 

We caught up with her as she finishes up a short summer before fall practice begins Aug. 8.

How long have you been playing softball?

I’ve played softball pretty much my whole life. I started playing tee ball when I was little and moved from level to level as I grew older.

Out of the three sports you play, which of them is your favorite?

I don’t necessarily have a favorite. To be honest, it all depends on the season that I am in. I play point guard in basketball; I’m a setter in volleyball and am shortstop in softball. All of them are fun while I’m in their respective seasons.

With all the success that you’ve had with softball, what is your next goal that you wish to achieve in that sport?

I really haven’t thought about it that much, to be honest. I didn’t expect to achieve as much as I did this year. It’s been a lot of fun and makes me excited for the upcoming year. I would definitely like to get back there (MHSAA Semifinals at Bailey Park) as well as win Districts.

Have you started looking at colleges? If so, which colleges look the best to you right now?

Not too much, being that I’ll only be a junior this upcoming year. I am just wanting to focus on what is immediate rather than the future, at this moment.

Do you want to continue to play softball in college?

Yeah, I’d love to play any sport in college. Due to the fact that I’m not sure what sport is my favorite, I don’t know which one I’d like to play the most. But I’d love to compete in something at the college level.  

Who is your favorite professional athlete, and why?

I don’t really have any particular favorite, to be honest. 

What has been the most helpful lesson you’ve learned in high school thus far?

I guess to just work hard, take extra time to work on your trade, and keep learning. By doing those things, you’ll improve more every year.

While both sides of the ball are important, what do you enjoy playing the most in softball -- offense or defense?

I like the offensive side of softball just a bit more.  Both are a lot of fun, but I do like to hit. 

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

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.)