Monroe St Mary Repeats, Pitch Perfectly

June 18, 2016

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.

Click for the full box score.

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.

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.)