Muskegon Oakridge Surging Again, but with Switch to Heavy-Hitting Style
By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com
May 5, 2022
Don’t expect much “small ball” from the Muskegon Oakridge softball team.
While veteran Oakridge coach Joe Coletta has fielded speedy teams in the past that terrorized opponents with stolen bases and bunting, this year’s edition manufactures runs the old-fashioned way – by swinging for the fences.
“We don’t have any girls at the top of the order that are going to steal bases – I’ll just let everybody know that,” said Coletta with a smile, after his team improved to 13-0 on Wednesday with two come-from-behind wins over visiting West Michigan Conference rival Ravenna, which also entered the showdown unbeaten.
“We’re not a speed team; we’re a long-ball hitting team. We have to be patient at times, but the long ball can change the game in a hurry.”
It certainly took some patience Wednesday, as Ravenna junior ace Emma Gillard baffled the Eagles early with her changeup, leading many in the crowd to wonder if they were witnessing a changing of the guard in WMC softball.
Then came the fifth inning.
The Oakridge “Smash Sisters” went to work and scored 11 runs, turning a scary 5-0 deficit into a comfortable 11-5 lead. The Eagles did it with not one, not two, but three over-the-fence home runs in that pivotal inning.
The lead basher for the Eagles is senior second baseman Jasmine “JJ” Pastor, who struck out in her first two at-bats Wednesday before getting her team on the board in that big inning with a two-run homer over the left-centerfield fence.
“I knew what happened the first two at-bats, and I knew it was time for me to step up,” said Pastor, a Muskegon Community College commit who is batting .444 with a team-high six home runs and nine doubles.
Pastor’s shot opened the floodgates, with the biggest hit of all coming from junior catcher Andrea Romero-Serrano (who bats sixth in the lineup), who belted a grand slam to give the Eagles a 6-5 lead. The final long ball of the inning came from sophomore first baseman Madison Clark, a lefty who pulled one over the rightfield fence for her team’s final runs in an 11-6 win.
The Eagles’ power is not contained to the top of the batting order, either, as eight of the nine starters have hit out-of-the-park home runs this spring.
Oakridge, which is ranked No. 7 in Division 2, had to rally again in second game, falling behind 6-3 heading into the sixth inning.
That was when the bottom of the Eagles’ batting order sparked another rally. Freshman Brenna Cabrera and sophomores Ahria Doornbos and Mallori Whipple all singled, leaving the bases loaded for Pastor.
After swinging wildly at a pair of lethal changeups from Ravenna freshman Addison Gillard, Pastor was ready for the third off-speed pitch, waiting on it perfectly and smashing a game-changing grand slam. Oakridge would add a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh for a 9-6 win.
Kaelinn Jozsa, a sophomore shortstop, leads Oakridge with a .600 batting average and three home runs. Other leading hitters are senior Brooklyn Galdeen (.467, two home runs), Clark (.412, two home runs) and senior centerfielder Delaney Ruel (.410).
Galdeen is the Eagles’ ace pitcher, with seven wins. Josza has five wins, and freshman Kylee Willea earned a gutty win in her first start of the season in Wednesday’s nightcap against Ravenna.
Oakridge now has a leg up as it seeks its sixth-straight WMC title. The Eagles have been the premier softball program in the Muskegon area over the past decade, winning seven District titles under Coletta. The highlight was a four-year stretch from 2016 to 2019, when the Eagles won 30 or more games each season.
Coletta said that Pastor, one of three seniors in the Oakridge starting lineup along with Galdeen and Ruel, was more vocal than he’s ever seen her at practice leading up to Wednesday’s showdown. Pastor said she was motivated by last year’s matchup with Ravenna, when the Bulldogs snapped the Eagles’ incredible 65-game conference winning streak in a doubleheader split, leading to a shared league championship.
“It’s just great competition between us and always back-and-forth,” said Pastor, whose father, Red Pastor, has coached her for many years in travel softball and is the Eagles’ longtime assistant coach. “Knowing that we have Ravenna right there, coming after us, pushes us even more.”
The two teams are likely to square off again in Saturday’s Greater Muskegon Athletic Association County Tournament, where Ravenna (16-2) will certainly be out for revenge.
One of the nice aspects of the budding softball rivalry between the two neighboring school districts is that they will go their separate ways in the postseason, with Oakridge in Division 2 and Ravenna in Division 3.
For Coletta, a three-sport athlete at Ravenna who has now won 280 games in 14 years as the Oakridge softball coach, the softball diamond is just the latest stage for one of the state’s best prep rivalries - which has been part of his life since he was a little kid.
Coletta served as the longtime offensive coordinator at Oakridge under Jack Schugars, the winningest football coach in Muskegon-area history. The Oakridge-Ravenna football rivalry ran red-hot during those years, particularly a 15-year stretch from 1994 to 2008, when the Bulldogs won four state titles and the Eagles won three.
“When I came over here to coach football, the rivalry was very intense,” said Coletta, who returned as softball coach this spring after stepping down in 2019. “I really enjoyed that rivalry, and now it’s going to be just like that for a while in softball – we both have some great young players. If you’re a competitor, this is exactly what you want.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Muskegon Oakridge senior second baseman Jasmine Pastor connects at the plate. Pastor is batting .444 this season with eight home runs and nine doubles for the Eagles, who are 13-0 and ranked No. 7 in Division 2. (Middle) Head coach Joe Coletta, left, and assistant Red Pastor have built the Oakridge softball program into one of the best in West Michigan. (Photos by Sherry Wahr.)
Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.