More Big Moments Ahead as Midland's Schloop Caps Career District Sweep

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 5, 2024

Grace Schloop has thrown the final pitch in four straight District Finals for the Midland softball team. But that doesn’t mean the lead-up to them got any easier.

Bay & Thumb“Absolutely not,” the Midland senior said. “I think, as I get older, I get more nervous for these games. As an upperclassman, there’s more expected of you. You have to do what people have seen you do, and you don’t want to fail.”

This past Saturday, Schloop did again what people have seen her do her entire career, striking out 14 batters in Midland’s 7-2 Division 1 District Final against arch-rival Midland Dow, adding to her school record total and keeping her senior season and tremendous Midland softball career alive.

Schloop has been a four-year star for the Chemics, re-writing the record books both as a pitcher and a hitter. Her 801 career strikeouts tops Midland’s list, as does the 294 she’s accumulated this season. She’s also set the school mark for home runs in a career (29) and season (11 as a sophomore) for the Chemics.

This spring, Schloop is hitting .426 with a .496 on-base percentage, 13 doubles, three home runs and 40 RBI for Midland. In the circle, she has a 1.01 earned-run average to go along with those 294 strikeouts in 145 1/3 innings pitched. She had a 19-strikeout game against Division 3 No. 4 Evart, which is also a school record.

“We knew there was a lot of talent there and that she had a high ceiling,” Midland softball coach Matt Starling said. “But I don’t know if we saw this coming. She worked her way to becoming the pitcher that she is. We knew she was going to be good, but this good – I’d love to tell you we knew this was going to be a thing. She’s put in the extra time to be this good. She’s really earned this.”

Schloop entered high school as someone the Chemics were almost immediately counting on to deliver, as – thanks to the pandemic wiping out the previous season – they didn’t have a pitcher on staff who had recorded an out in a varsity game.

Luckily for her, she had help when it came to transitioning to a higher level: her older sister Gabby, who was a senior on that 2021 team.

“I knew that it was very intense, and that I was going to have to take on a very different role than I had in middle school,” Grace Schloop said. “But I had my sister there with me, and I kept looking to her, and I had one of my best friends there, and they had so much faith in me. I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today had I not had (Gabby), or the other senior, Taylor Sanborn. They were both very intense and hard-working, great athletes. To be able to look up to that, we were able to push ourselves to be like them. I wanted to be like how they were.”

Schloop makes her move toward the plate. Gabby Schloop is playing shortstop at Northwood, while Grace has signed to play at Saginaw Valley State. The two are scheduled to meet next season.

“We have had many dinner talks – rivalry dinner talks – already,” Grace said. “The games are scheduled to be played at Northwood, and we have discussed it many times. Throughout the entire winter, I pitched to her, so she pretty much knows my weakness, and I know her weakness. She thinks I’m going to hit her. But I’m not going to.”

While her big sister has been away, Grace has taken on the task of being a role model for younger players, something she doesn’t take for granted.

“I help do pitching lessons with the little girls, and people around me say they look up to me,” she said. “It makes your heart so warm. That’s probably the coolest thing ever, that people look up to you.”

She’s providing an excellent example, not only with her in-game performances, but the work that goes into them. When Schloop entered high school, she was a power pitcher. Now, she has a full arsenal of pitches to get hitters out.

“She’s certainly a power pitcher, for sure, but she’s developed her secondary pitches now,” Starling said. “She has an element of changing her speed and has just become more refined with her pitches. Her movement has improved a lot since her ninth-grade year. As a ninth-grader, she could throw the ball hard, and you really can’t teach that. Her development of the other skills has been off the charts.”

The result has been plenty of wins for the Chemics, including the four-straight District titles, which was the goal; and the long list of records, which is a nice addition.

“Half of them, I didn’t even realize I was close to until it happened,” Schloop said. “Sometimes, I’d go home after a game and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was me. I did that.’ It feels very out of body. I’m just there to pitch and do what I need to do.”

Next on the to-do list is a matchup with Saginaw Valley League rival Grand Blanc in Saturday’s Regional Semifinal. The teams split their season series and shared the conference title along with Dow. 

While Schloop is sure to be dealing with those same nerves heading into Saturday, history tells Starling that she’ll be more than ready for the moment.

“Her competitiveness, as with all kids when they get older and mature, she certainly has it,” Starling said. “She seems to relish those big moments.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Midland pitcher Grace Schloop begins her windup during a game this season. (Middle) Schloop makes her move toward the plate. (Photos courtesy of the Midland athletic department.)

Unionville-Sebewaing Softball Ties Finals Record with 5th-Straight Championship

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING – Leave it to standout senior catcher Gabby Crumm to ensure her school’s spot in the state record books.

Unionville-Sebewaing was doing its thing in Saturday’s Division 4 championship game, slowing pulling away from first-time finalist Holton – until Crumm stepped up to the plate in the fourth inning.

Crumm launched one of her signature shots over the centerfield wall, a two-run homer that keyed a six-run inning for the Patriots, who then cruised to an 11-1 victory in six innings at Secchia Stadium.

It was USA’s fifth straight Finals championship, dating back to pre-COVID in 2019, and tying the record for consecutive titles with Kalamazoo Christian, which won five Division 3 titles in a row from 1996 to 2000.

Emma Monette (9) drives a pitch for the Red Devils. “It’s really bittersweet right now,” said Crumm, a four-year starter at catcher who will play at Saginaw Valley State. “USA softball has meant everything to me, and it’s shaped me in so many different ways.

“I’m sad that it’s over, but it couldn’t have ended in a better way.”

USA, which finished 31-11 and was the top-ranked team in Division 4 entering the postseason, showed its experience in the first inning – getting girls on base and putting the pressure on Holton using two hits and two errors to jump out to a 3-0 lead.

The lead would stay that way until the fourth inning, when USA’s tremendous senior class stepped up and put the game away.

Shortstop Ella Neumann ripped a two-run single, which led the Red Devils to change pitchers. Crumm followed up right after Neumann with her long blast over the centerfield wall to effectively put the game out of reach.

“We struggled a little bit in the beginning, but then we cleaned it up,” said 10th-year Holton coach Kirk Younts, whose team did not have an error after the first inning. “They are a great team, and they know how to hit. We tried to mix up our pitching on them, but it just didn’t work.”

Holton (29-13-1), which was playing in its first softball championship game and looking to win the first softball Finals title for a Muskegon County school, managed just three hits against Patriots sophomore Olivia Greene.

Erin Jubar (6) rounds third base while Holton’s infielders await a throw.Greene fooled the Red Devils all game with her rise ball, striking out 10.

Greene also showed her skills at the plate, ending the game with a shot to right-centerfield which actually hit the top of the fence and bounced back into play. Even though it wasn’t a home run, it scored senior Jenna Gremel to give the Patriots a 10-run lead and clinch the title.

Gremel, who with Crumm was a four-year varsity player and four-time champion, finished with two RBIs. Senior leadoff hitter Rylie Benson was 2-for-3, and Neumann had two hits and two RBIs.

USA coach Marc Reinhardt, who finished his second season as head coach but has been around the program for many years, said it never gets old winning a state championship.

“No, it’s always a thrill,” said Reinhardt, who is assisted by Matt Prime, Tommy Betson and Bree Gordon. “I am so glad that this particular group of seniors was able to go out on top. There will be other talented players coming in, but this was a very special group.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) USA teammates welcome Gabriella Crumm (1) after her home run Saturday at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Emma Monette (9) drives a pitch for the Red Devils. (Below) Erin Jubar (6) rounds third base while Holton’s infielders await a throw.