Next Group Takes Place Among USA Greats

June 13, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING — The softball coaches at Unionville-Sebewaing don't need to waste much time talking about tradition to their incoming players.

Nearly every athlete who comes into the program has already witnessed that tradition first-hand.

Many of the current players watched from the stands at Bailey Park in Battle Creek while the Patriots competed in MHSAA semifinal and championship games. As young girls, they idolized the teenagers who wore the red, white and blue of Unionville-Sebewaing.

Just as some young girls currently look up to junior Nicole Bauer, who pitched a one-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over Kalamazoo Christian in the MHSAA Division 4 championship game Saturday at Michigan State University.

It was the fourth MHSAA title for the Patriots, who have played in seven Finals in the past 10 years. They won it all in 2006, 2007 and 2009 before losing three close Finals in 2011, 2013 and 2014. They have played in at least the quarterfinal round for 12 straight years, making the Semifinals 11 times.

"I was just so in awe of them and how great they were," Bauer recalls of her early impressions of Unionville-Sebewaing softball. "I just knew I wanted to be on that field some day."

Recalling their own childhoods, the Patriots (38-3) were mindful of the likelihood that future Unionville-Sebewaing stars were watching from the stands at Secchia Stadium on Saturday.

"Before the game, our speech was 'Play for that little girl that we were that was sitting in the stands just like the little girls are here today,'" Bauer said.

And, thus, tradition is handed down from one class to another. 

"One of the things I'm proud of is all of these girls are homegrown USA kids," Patriots coach Steve Bohn said. "It's like the Yankees. Hey, we win championships. When you go there, you know that's the expectation. That's the expectation they have, because that's all they've seen. Everybody's worried about being the one team that doesn't get here. Nobody wants to be that team."

For all of the Patriots' success, none of the current players had won an MHSAA championship — until Saturday.

"I came down to Battle Creek to watch them play, watch them win and sometimes fall short," senior third baseman Madison Zimmer said. "I was really determined to get another state championship."

It was a title game that oozed with tradition, as the Patriots' opponent was a Kalamazoo Christian squad trying to match the record for MHSAA softball championships. The Comets have seven titles, one fewer than Waterford Our Lady.

Kalamazoo Christian (29-15) reached its third straight MHSAA Final, despite a roster comprised of eight sophomores, two freshmen, two juniors and only two seniors.

"These girls are JV kids playing varsity," Comets coach Terry Reynolds said. "Coming here and playing in the semifinals and state championship, it shows the girls what they can do. We got here. Now we've got to do something about it. We're already talking about next year. This group wants to be back next year. They'll be stronger and work harder."

The Comets couldn't solve Bauer, who allowed only one base runner. Aliyah Lemmer led off the fifth inning with a single after the first 12 batters were retired in order. After that, Bauer got the final nine batters in a row, striking out Lemmer to clinch the championship.

"I felt very confident," Bauer said. "I knew if I kept it in the field that my players would make outs for me."

The Patriots scored their five runs with a three-run fourth inning and a two-run fifth. 

Zimmer lined the first pitch she saw for a two-run double to left-center field to open the scoring in the fourth. After going to third on a wild pitch, Zimmer scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Katie Engelhardt.

"It was huge, because we had runners on and we needed to get them in," Zimmer said of her double. "Nicky did a great job. She held them until we could hit; that really helped." 

The Patriots built their lead to 5-0 when Bauer lined a two-run single to left with two outs in the fifth.

"We didn't have a lot of opportunities," Bohn said. "We didn't swing the bats real well. That hit Maddie Zimmer got, that first one you get across the plate, especially the way Nicky was throwing, that's huge. That's the one hit we had to get. That loosens everybody up, and the other ones start to happen." 

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Unionville-Sebewaing batter connects during Saturday’s championship game. (Middle) USA’s Sara Reinhardt beats a throw to second base.

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.