Millington Finishes Championship Run with 2nd-Straight Walk-Off Win

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

June 18, 2022

EAST LANSING – Dylan Holmes arrived at second base and crumbled to her knees as her teammate, Trinity Fessler, crossed the plate.

In a matter of an inning, the Millington senior’s emotions went from devastation to jubilation.

Holmes delivered a walk-off double as the Cardinals defeated Evart 3-2 in eight innings in a thrilling Division 3 Final at Secchia Stadium.

It was the second straight walk-off victory for Millington, which defeated Algonac in the Semifinal on Friday by scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“We’ve worked for this since we were 8 years old,” Holmes said. “It’s awesome to finally have it pay off. When I got to second base, I was just shook. It was over, and we did it. We won a state championship.”

Holmes, a shortstop, made a crucial error with two outs in the top of the seventh inning that allowed Evart to score the game-tying run and send it to extra innings.

She quickly made amends with the big knock that gave Millington its second Division 3 title over the last four years.

Millington/Evart softball“It was a great feeling to know that even though I did make those errors that my team was behind me cheering me on,” Holmes said. “It was awesome to do that for my team, and I went up there knowing that I needed to get a base hit for my team and advance the runner.”

Fessler, a senior, led off the inning with a single and scored from first base on Holmes’ key hit.

“I was sending her no matter what, and I didn’t care where the ball was,” Cardinals coach Greg Hudie said. “Trinity is the fastest girl on the team, and it was a chance I was willing to take.  I was going to make them make a great throw.

“Dylan had two costly errors, and I’m very grateful that she was able to come through and help the team out in a positive way and win the game.”

Senior Ashley Ziel picked up the win after striking out nine in eight innings of work.

“This just means everything,” said Ziel, who also had two hits. “Two straight walkoffs on two separate days just shows the grit and determination of our team and how we pulled it together and got the win today.”

Ziel was one of Holmes’ biggest supporters.

“She had a tough go in the field, but I told her, ‘You're going to get this right now,’ and she did,” Ziel said. “She hit that base hit and saved the day.”

Millington won despite committing an uncharacteristic five errors. 

“Obviously, not our best game,” Hudie said. “I don’t think we had a game this year where we had three or more errors, so we didn’t play clean ball. But we played together and finished it out somehow.” 

Millington struck first in the bottom of the third inning when Kendall Payne scored on a sacrifice fly from Lilia Sherman.

Evart tied it in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly and throwing error that scored Brooklyn Decker, who walked to open the inning.

Fessler singled to open the sixth inning and then scored the go-ahead run on a double by senior Emma Dickie.

Evart rallied to tie it in a wild top of the seventh inning.

“They just worked their tails off and persevered,” said Wildcats coach Amanda Brown, whose team was searching for its first Finals title. 

“We were down, then we were tied and it was amazing. They kept their grit, and they did a great job. I'm really proud of them, and it was a fun game to watch. It was competitive, and that's all you can ask for.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Millington catcher Trinity Fessler puts the tag on Evart’s Calli Duncan during Saturday’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Ashley Ziel fires a pitch for the Cardinals.

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.)