By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING — The best Division 3 softball teams still haven't found a way to solve Meghan Beaubien.
Unfortunately for them, they'll have to undertake that frustrating task for one more year.
Beaubien threw only the second perfect game ever in an MHSAA championship softball game, as Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central repeated as Division 3 champion with a 6-0 victory over Grandville Calvin Christian on Saturday at Michigan State University.
The junior star, who committed to the University of Michigan her freshman year, struck out 15 of the 21 batters she faced. She was perfect in 12 innings of the semifinal and championship games this weekend.
"Winning the state championship is just great," Beaubien said. "I can't even describe it. A couple of years ago, nobody would have ever thought our team would be here. Especially winning it back-to-back means a lot. It's a perfect game. That's always good, but it's more important that we win a state championship. I want to give my team the best chance there is to do that. Not letting anyone on base, that works out pretty well."
The only other perfect game in an MHSAA championship game was thrown by Tricia Van Der Slik of Kalamazoo Christian against Saginaw Swan Valley in the 2002 Division 3 Final.
It was the 15th no-hitter ever in an MHSAA Final — and the second of the afternoon on the Secchia Stadium diamond to go with one by Richmond's Erin Shuboy in the Division 2 title game.
"I guess I just knew," Beaubien said. "It's always a perfect game until someone gets a hit or gets on base. I knew no one got on base, because otherwise I'd be thinking, 'They hit it here last time; I'm going to pitch them here.'"
Beaubien will eventually be a Wolverine, but has proven to be extremely comfortable pitching on high school's biggest stage at MSU. In four games on the Spartans' field the last two years, she hasn't allowed a run, has three no-hitters, has given up only two hits and has struck out 58 of 81 batters in 26 innings.
"You've got to be able to perform under pressure," Beaubien said. "I love the pressure. I feel like I can do a really good job in that situation. I just go out and do my best, and it works out."
Although the Kestrels (28-5) had a comfortable lead and nobody got on base, there was still some drama in the seventh inning.
The only time the perfect game was seriously threatened came when Calvin Christian sophomore Sarah Elderkin hit a grounder up the middle with one out in the seventh. Second baseman Peyton Bollenberg backhanded the ball and threw it to first base, where Liz Caldwell stretched out, made the catch and kept her foot on the base to barely beat Elderkin.
"It was a good play by second," Elderkin said. "You always have that feeling like, 'If I could only run harder,' but we had a great game. I feel like we all had some good hits. That team is very good. I think we're just blessed to have the ability to face a team like that. (Beaubien) is very good. She has a bright future ahead of her, I know that. They're a very good all-around team."
The two infielders involved in the play were very much aware that they were trying to protect a perfect game.
"It looked like Meghan was going to catch it," Bollenberg said. "It was just one of those things where I had a feeling it might come to me. I decided I'm going to go for it. I backhanded it and threw it."
Caldwell had to fully extend to remain on the base.
"All that was going through my mind was, 'You have to stretch, stretch now,'" Caldwell said. "I realized I needed to do my part, hold it and squeeze it."
While six Kestrels were part of last year's championship team, Bollenberg and Caldwell were not.
Bollenberg, a junior, injured her shoulder before the start of last season, so she served as the team's manager.
"I wish I could've played, but God didn't choose that for me," Bollenberg said. "It was definitely exciting to watch the girls do what they do. I knew this was going to be my year."
Caldwell wasn't even on the varsity this year until late in the season. Coach John Morningstar said she was one of four "bubble" players who were kept on the junior varsity to ensure the Kestrels at least had a lower-level team.
"I knew my part," said Caldwell, a sophomore. "I knew I was going to have to cheer on the team and really work people hard. I wasn't expecting to play at all, but I'm just really honored that I got a chance to."
After the bang-bang play at first, there was one more moment of temporary drama, as Calvin Christian’s final batter took the count to 3-1 with two outs. It was only the second three-ball count Beaubien had the entire game. The at bat ended with a swing-and-miss strikeout on a full count.
St. Mary broke a 0-0 tie by producing four straight singles and two runs to begin the bottom of the third inning. Beaubien hit a two-run single through the hole between the first and second basemen to open the scoring.
"The first time I was up, I got out," Beaubien said. "She was pitching me in. I wasn't really prepared for that. I hit a weak liner and got out. My second time up, I knew that's where she was going to throw me. I got my hands inside on that pitch. I pulled it through the other side and got her in."
The Kestrels broke it open with a three-run fifth. Once again, Beaubien was in the middle of the action. She started the rally with a one-out single, scoring on a double by Kenna Garst. Grace Mikesell made it 5-0 with a two-run single up the middle.
It became 6-0 in the sixth when Abbey Johnson scored on an error.
Calvin Christian finished with a 33-11 record.
PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary begins to celebrate as the final strike is called of the Division 3 Final. (Middle) Meghan Beaubien unloads another pitch on the way to a perfect game.
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.