HARRISON TOWNSHIP – Now that Brooke Nadolny has set the state record for career home runs, the senior from Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse is taking aim at the national record.
Nadolny, 18, entered this season with 54 home runs, one behind 2018 Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard graduate Julia Kennedy. On April 9, Nadolny tied the record in the Lancers’ opener, a 4-2 victory over Warren Cousino. Four days later Nadolny hit No. 56 to break it in an 8-5 victory over Marysville. She added No. 57 during the second game of that doubleheader.
That’s three home runs over the first five games of the season, and she needs 19 more to set the national record. Kasey Flores, a 2018 graduate of Eastlake High in El Paso, Texas, owns that achievement with 75.
At this point, if Nadolny does set the national record it shouldn’t be a surprise. She hit 22 home runs with 57 RBI as a sophomore, and last season drove a state-record 26 with 58 RBI. Lydia Goble, a senior last season at Schoolcraft, also hit 26.
Nadolny is amazed by what’s taken place over the past two-plus seasons. She said she doesn’t try to hit home runs. Her objective is to hit the ball hard – and if it goes over the fence, all the better.
“It was exciting,” she said of setting the state record. “It was never in my mindset setting the state record. We didn’t think I’d get this close. I realize it’s rare for someone to get so many home runs. I can’t believe it’s me, that it’s happening to me.”
We need a look at history to give some perspective on the recent power surge in this sport. The pace at which home runs are being hit is at an all-time high. Prior to 2012 only one player, Melinda Van Gillis of Pentwater, had hit 18 home runs in a season. Since then 11 players have hit 18 or more, and a couple have accomplished this feat twice.
Some coaches and hitting instructors say there are two main reasons for the increase in home run production. One is that more players are taking full swings rather than employing the slap-hitting style many others continue to use. The second is a rule change that took place in 2011 that increased the distance from the pitching rubber to the plate from 40 to 43 feet. But even with that change, it took time for the batters to make an adjustment.
For her part, Nadolny doesn’t picture herself as a home run hitter – although there have been few in this state who could be considered at her power-hitting level.
She hit only six home runs as the starting second baseman as a freshman but, stepping back, that’s a good showing for a hitter making the transition from middle school softball to a varsity squad playing in Division 1. Nadolny stood 5 feet, 4 inches then, but experienced a growth spurt (adding three inches; she stands 5-7½ now) between her freshman and sophomore year – and her numbers took off.
She’s not had what might be described as formal or specialized training. She’s never had a hitting instructor, and she said she learned the basics while attending a hitting camp at age 6.
“I’m more experienced now,” she said. “I’m stronger. More things are coming together. I can’t pinpoint one thing. It’s everything. I’m kind of self-taught. It’s natural. It’s the naturalness of it. I’ve never changed (my swing). I’ve seen videos of softball players, (but) I really haven’t changed anything.
“I don’t think about hitting a home run. My travel coach (Jim Beard, who is also the head coach at Macomb College) said my swing looks so effortless.”
Perhaps that is the core reason. Hitting a softball just comes naturally for Nadolny. It’s timing. It’s muscle memory.
Lisa Downey, who played softball at Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher, is in her 25th season as the head coach at L’Anse Creuse. She takes no credit for Nadolny’s power surge. Downey said athletes born with that natural ability come around every so often.
“It’s a gift,” Downey said. “She was born with an amazing talent. She has superfast hands. Her hand-eye coordination is excellent. When she hits it, it just takes off.”
Among all of these home runs have been a number of special moments. On May 17 of last season, Nadolny homered in her first two at bats against Fraser and then came to bat with the bases loaded and was intentionally walked. Also during last season, she homered three times in a game twice and twice homered in three consecutive at bats.
Perhaps her most important dinger, as far as her team is concerned, came in the seventh inning of a Division 1 Regional Semifinal matchup last season against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley at Macomb Dakota. The score was tied 2-2, and Nadolny’s homer gave the Lancers a 3-2 victory and a shot at powerful Warren Regina in the Regional Final.
Regina prevailed 12-11, giving Nadolny yet another goal.
“(That loss) was hard,” she said. “It is what it is. I want to help my team get to states.
“It would be awesome if I pass (my personal record) again and get the national record. It’s possible, but I don’t stress myself out about it.”
L’Anse Creuse was 29-8 last season and the Lancers won the Macomb Area Conference Blue title and then moved up to the White this season.
Adding to this scenario, Nadolny has added responsibilities as a senior. This is her second season serving as captain, and she’s moved up to No. 1 in the pitching rotation after being slotted at No. 2 last season behind Sammi Mills (now the starting catcher at Central Michigan University).
Nadolny knows she has to be focused this season, much more than in the past. A volleyball player her first three years of high school, Nadolny opted not to play her senior season to fully commit to softball. She signed with Wayne State University and it’s possible she’ll pitch in college in addition to playing shortstop, her position at L’Anse Creuse when she’s not in the circle. She also may play outfield at the college level.
“I’m glad she signed early,” Downey said. “There’s a lot of pressure on a kid so young. She’ll pitch more (this season), which is even more pressure.
"(Wayne State) is a good fit for her. She’s family-oriented. She wanted to stay close to home. She seems very happy now that it’s out of the way. I only have two seniors, and she’s the one I go to. The good teams are player driven, and she’s our engine.”
So far that ‘engine’ is running in top form this season. Nadolny is off to a terrific start, in the circle and at the plate. She’s 4-0 (her team is 5-0) and batting .611 with those three home runs and eight RBI.
Tom Markowski is a correspondent for the State Champs! Sports Network and previously directed its web coverage. He also covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse’s Brooke Nadolny prepares for her turn at bat. (Middle) Nadolny holds up the ball from her record-breaking home run. (Top photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers; bottom courtesy of the Nadolny family.)
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.