Multiple Aces Pay Off as Comets Reign

June 15, 2013

By Bill Khan

Special to Second Half


BATTLE CREEK — Most softball teams ride one dominant pitcher and hope for the best.


It never hurts to have an insurance policy, however, because even the best pitchers have an off day.


Splitting the pitching duties between two girls all season paid off for Kalamazoo Christian on Saturday in a 16-6 victory over Ubly in the MHSAA Division 4 championship game at Bailey Park.


When Ubly’s first seven batters reached base in a six-run third inning, senior Stephanie VanderLugt was pulled in favor of junior Bekah VanDam.


It was hardly a desperate move for the top-ranked Comets.


VanDam didn’t allow a run in four innings, giving up three hits and striking out three.

Coming into the game, VanDam (15-3) pitched 114 2/3 innings in 20 games.


VanderLugt (18-4) pitched 127 1/3 innings in 22 games, starting every game after Districts.


“I went with Stephanie because it was one game at a time, and we went with her strengths over Bekah’s,” Kalamazoo Christian coach Karla Reno said. “I had to make a decision between the two. Bekah knew her job was to be ready to go in on relief if needed, and go in and throw hard and throw low. That’s exactly what she did.”


While both players are accustomed to pitching regularly, one rarely has to relieve the other. VanDam was playing third base when she got the call to enter the pitching circle.


“It’s unexpected, for sure, but I came in ready to go,” VanDam said. “My adrenaline was going. Normally either one of us is on; she struggled.”


If VanderLugt was upset about her pitching performance, she didn’t let it show when she came to the plate. She finished 2-for-3 with four RBI, including a two-run single that broke a 6-6 tie in the bottom of the third. She finished with a team-high 46 RBI.


“I knew Bekah could do it,” VanderLugt said. “I knew she’s tough.


“I had to get that out of my mind, because if that stayed with me, I never would’ve performed well. I had to suck it up for the team.”


Kalamazoo Christian pounced on Ubly, scoring six runs in the first inning. The Comets’ first six batters reached base.


That’s usually an insurmountable lead in championship softball, but Ubly stormed back with six runs in the third, tying the game on a two-run single by Hailey Kubacki. VanDam entered after Kubacki’s hit, retiring three in a row to end the inning.


“Nerves took over right away, and you could tell that,” Ubly coach Courtney Dekoski said. “The girls never lie down. I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of them.”


Kalamazoo Christian took the lead for good with three runs in the third inning. The Comets scored twice in the fifth and ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule with five in the sixth. A sacrifice fly by VanderLugt scored the final run.


Kalamazoo Christian’s run total is the second-most in an MHSAA Final and the 22 combined runs also rank second. Both marks were set in Byron’s 17-10 victory over Kalamazoo Christian in the 1976 Class C title game.


“It was crazy,” VanderLugt said. “They took advantage of what we did wrong, and we did the same for them. I give them a lot of credit for battling when we got up so early.”


Tori Sides was 3-for-5 and scored three runs for the Comets (33-7). Kara Gjeltema and McKena Razenberg were both 2-for-4 with two RBI.


Kubacki was 2-for-2 with two RBI for Ubly, which hadn’t won a Regional until this season.


Click for a full box score.


PHOTOS: (Top) A Kalamazoo Christian runner slides into third base during her team's 16-6 victory. (Middle) Comets hitter Bekah VanDam prepares to make contact with a pitch while teammate McKena Razenberg (4) warms up in the on-deck circle. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 4, 2023

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.