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 [email protected] 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.)
Evart was added to the MHSAA softball record book 23 times for achievements during an outstanding three-season run that has included a Division 3 runner-up finish in 2022.
Then-junior Katelyn Gostlin twice was included for hitting streaks, of 26 straight games during the 2022 season and 22 straight this past spring. She also was added for 23 doubles in 2022, and then-senior Addysen Gray was added for 16 doubles in 2023. Ally Theunick was added for 11 home runs this spring and 23 over her first three seasons with one more to play. Gostlin, Theunick and 2021 graduate Ryenn Baumgardner all were added for single-game accomplishments.
Among team record listings, Evart had 405 hits, 419 runs, 85 doubles, 35 home runs and 328 RBI over 39 games this spring. Gostlin has signed with Mid-Michigan College, and Gray is playing softball and basketball there this school year.
See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA softball record book:
Olivia Mikowski followed up her Maple City Glen Lake team’s Division 4 basketball championship in March with a national record this spring on the diamond. She tied the MHSAA and national records with 20 triples, over 35 games, among five record book entries she earned. She also is listed for 74 RBI this past season, while now-junior Jessie Pugh earned a listing with 66 runs scored over 37 games. Mikowski is continuing at Schoolcraft College.
Essexville Garber finished a combined 71-14 over the last two seasons and reached the Division 2 Semifinals in 2022 after winning its first Regional title since 1997, along the way achieving several record book performances for both team and individual lists. The Dukes hit 53 home runs over 41 games this past spring, tying for sixth most as senior Sarah Basket set a program record and made the individual list with 12. Basket also was added for 21 doubles in 2022, with Laney Kokaly making the doubles list that season with 16 and Ella Wagner making it was 16 this past season. Kortney Kotenko set the previous Garber home run record in 2022, making the record book list with 11. All four were seniors in 2023. Kotenko is continuing at Madonna, while Basket is playing at Lawrence Tech and Wagner at Northwood. Kokaly is playing volleyball at Northwood.
Three Rivers and now-senior Ava Forman made the single-season hits list with 75 over 41 games and the single-season doubles list for 22 last spring and also 18 over 40 games as a sophomore. Three Rivers as a team made the records for 423 hits, 101 doubles and 277 RBI over 42 games in 2023.
Armada’s Taylor Capozzo had 19 doubles in 2023 to make that single-season list, plus hit back-to-back home runs in a game against Yale, and Natalie Sauer drove in six runs in a game against Brown City. Capozzo is a sophomore this school year, and Sauer graduated in the spring and is continuing at St. Clair County Community College.
Schoolcraft’s Lauren Evans hit 31 doubles in 2023 as a junior, the second-most in MHSAA history, as the Eagles totaled 118 over 41 games – also the second-most doubles on the team list. Schoolcraft also made record lists for 436 hits and 316 RBI for the season and five home runs in a game against Battle Creek Pennfield (which included back-to-back homers by Evans). Teammate Sydney Drenth, then a sophomore, made the doubles list with 22, and senior Alayna Meade made the same list with 16. Meade is continuing at Cornerstone, and Evans has committed to sign with Saginaw Valley State.
Farmington Hills Mercy finished 29-1 in 2023, earning four record book entries along the way. The Marlins tied for second-fewest runs allowed, giving up only 16. They also made lists for 11 consecutive shutouts, 385 strikeouts and a .435 average and just missed the single-season shutouts list with 23.
Unionville-Sebewaing’s 2022 Division 4 championship season produced another series of record book-worthy accomplishments. As a team, USA set an MHSAA record with 128 doubles over 40 games and was fourth on the team RBI list with 391, while also earning entries with 44 runs scored, 485 hits and 48 home runs. Individually, then-sophomore Gabriella Crumm was added for 80 hits, 21 doubles and 11 home runs, and then-senior Laci Harris was added for 11 home runs as well plus 72 hits, 19 doubles and career totals of 31 home runs, 170 RBI, 170 runs scored and 51 doubles over 123 games despite her sophomore season of 2020 being canceled due to COVID-19. Then-junior Oliva Jubar was added for 18 doubles, and then-sophomore Ella Neumann was added for 17. Harris is continuing her career at Madonna.
Paige Ratliff finished her Battle Creek Lakeview career in the spring with 10 record book entries across a variety of categories. Most notably, she totaled 37 doubles, 30 home runs and a .520 career average over three seasons and 108 games. She’s continuing at Lake Forest College (Ill.).
Hudson then-freshman Taylor Kopin opened her high school career in the spring by scoring 65 runs to make the individual record book. In doing so, she also helped Hudson make the team record book list with 417 runs scored over 39 games.
Haslett’s Payden Whitmore earned her school’s first softball record book entry since 2007 by hitting 12 triples over 38 games in the spring. She’s a junior this school year.
Mancelona has a pair of softball players who reached career lists last season with more to play. Now-senior Ella Jones was added for 20 doubles as a sophomore in 2022 and 19 this spring, and made the career doubles list with 39 and a season to play. Now-junior Ella Schram was added for her 13 triples as a freshman and .650 average this spring, and she’s on the career triples list with 23 and will qualify for the career average list if she keeps hitting at this pace over her next seasons.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart hit the second-most triples in MHSAA history on the way to the Division 4 Semifinals in the spring. The Irish piled up 48 over 43 games, led by freshman Mairin Wheaton, who hit 12 over 42, respectively.
Reed City made the team record lists with 78 doubles and 252 RBI over 39 games in the spring, and a pair of standouts also were added. Morgan Hammond, then a freshman, and then-sophomore Paityn Enos both were added for single-game RBI, plus Enos was added for 72 hits and 20 doubles and Hammond was added for 22 doubles.
Manton now-junior Adriana Sackett earned her first record book listings in the spring. Twice she hit back-to-back home runs in games, and she also was added for 11 homers total over 26 games.
A trio of Ravenna standouts put up a series of record book-caliber totals over the last two seasons, including some of the highest-ranking all time. Emma Gillard graduated in the spring with nine record book entries, including for 85 runs (fourth most) and 13 triples (tied for 20th) this past season, and she made career lists with 200 runs, 27 triples and a .532 average over 111 games and three years. Emma Herremans is just a junior but has 11 record book listings after two seasons including for 25 doubles (11th-most) as a freshman in 2022 and a .652 average and 73 RBI this past spring, and she’s already on career lists for doubles and triples. Kara Postema graduated this spring with six record book entries, including season and career records for times hit by pitch (23 and 49, respectively), and she also made career lists with 36 doubles and 153 RBI over 111 games and three seasons. Gillard is continuing at Ferris State and Postema at Cornerstone.
PHOTO Evart's Riley Brigham connects during her team's Division 3 Final against Millington in 2022.