Owosso Softball Rallies for School's 1st Finals Title
By Perry A. Farrell
Special for MHSAA.com
June 19, 2021
EAST LANSING – Owosso High School sports hadn’t done much on the state finals level over the last couple of years – until Saturday.
Surviving two Marysville homers and two errors, junior pitcher Macy Irelan kept the Vikings at bay enough to lead the Trojans to an 8-5 victory that clinched the Division 2 softball championship at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium.
The championship was Owosso's first MHSAA Finals title in any sport.
Irelan won all 37 games for the Trojans (37-3) this season, but none bigger than Saturday’s.
“We fell behind, but we wanted to come back to show we deserved this,’’ said Irelan, who had an 0.55 ERA coming into the game. “It was a good team win. How the game worked out and how it went, we were going to do our best.’’
No-hit through two innings with four strikeouts, Marysville’s hitters looked like they were in for a long morning against Owosso’s Irelan.
That all changed in the third inning when pitcher Kirsten Smith helped her own cause with a three-run homer.
“I can’t tell you how many years this game took off my life,’’ said Owosso coach JoEllen Smith, who has led the program to 808 wins since taking over in 1983. “That was a huge emotion. Then we had a couple of plays that went against us. Our kids muscled through it. Postseason has been huge for us. They’ve never given up.’’
Owosso got on the board first on an RBI double up the centerfield gap by first baseman Reyn Tuttle in the first inning. Jamie Maier stretched the lead to 2-0 on a blast over the centerfield field fence to lead off the second.
Irelan had the Marysville hitters under control until the third inning. She gave up singles to Brandi Bassett and Avery Woodard before Smith stunned Owosso with a three-run homer over the centerfield fence to give the Vikings a 3-2 lead.
“Give Owosso credit; their pitcher is tremendous,’’ said Marysville coach Ryan Rathje. “We got some hits off her and put the ball in play. Owosso has some strong bats throughout their lineup. They were able to come up with some key hits, and they had some good defensive plays.’’
Marysville (31-7) – making its first championship game appearance since 1991 – continued to pound the ball, getting a homer from Callie Perrin to make it 4-2 in the fourth inning. Avery Wolters followed with a double. An error made it 5-2 and it would’ve been worse, but the Vikings had a runner thrown out at home.
Owosso began its comeback in the bottom of the fourth inning, leading off with three-straight singles followed by Madyson Rainey’s hit driving in a run to make it 5-3. Irelan came through with a double to center to tie the game at 5-5 with Marysville still looking for the inning’s first out. Owosso then took a 6-5 lead on a bounce-out to complete the four-run rally.
The Trojans added two more runs in the fifth inning. Kendall Anderson doubled and scored when Sydney Somers laced a singled to center. A throw trying to catch Somers at second went into the outfield, and she eventually scored as well.
Marysville led off the seventh inning with consecutive hits to put runners at first and third. But Irelan got two pop flies and a strikeout to seal the victory.
PHOTOS: (Top) Owosso catcher Karley Kincaid gets a tag down as a Marysville runner reaches for the plate. (Middle) The Trojans celebrate after the last out of Saturday's Division 2 Final.
Bedford Sophomore Powers Up with 23 Homers, Just Getting Started
By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com
June 7, 2023
TEMPERANCE – Here’s a warning for softball teams facing Temperance Bedford the next couple of seasons: Intentionally walking Aubrey Hensley only gives her more confidence.
The Kicking Mules sophomore just finished her season with 23 home runs in 39 games, shattering school and Monroe County records. She remembers the home runs from the season that ended in the Division 1 District Finals, but she also remembers the walks.
“Our first game of the season, my first at-bat, I didn’t even get a swing in,” Hensley said. “As a hitter, it plays with your mind, but it also gives you confidence. If I go to the plate and they aren’t even willing to pitch to me, that gives me even more confidence. The next time up, I’m really going to look for my pitch.”
Hensley saw plenty of pitches she liked this season. She hit just a tick below .500 (61 hits in 124 at-bats), with seven doubles, five triples and nearly two dozen homers. They were pretty much split between the newly renovated Kicking Mules field in Temperance and road games.
Her most memorable home run was at Ypsilanti Lincoln.
“I usually have pretty good games at their field,” she said. “This year I hit a home run and hit the building which is behind the fence. That was a good one. I liked that watching and hearing that one hit.”
Hensley grew up in Toledo and moved across the state line in fifth grade. By then she was already involved in northwest Ohio travel softball programs.
“Softball kind of came naturally for me,” she said. “I loved to go to the field with my mom (Amanda) or my brother or just hit off the tee. I just have a mentality that I’m a good hitter and I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
Prior to her freshman season, Mules coach Marla Gooding, a first-grade teacher at Bedford, sent Hensley into the weight room.
“I was not expecting to hit home runs going into my freshman season,” Hensley said. “I didn’t really know what to expect.
“When I was little, I wasn’t always a power hitter. I would hit a few doubles or triples and get into the ball some. I worked and put in time in the weight room, especially going into the freshman year. I think that really contributed to my home run hitting. Coach had us in the weight room during the season a little bit. It helps to develop your body to be a power hitter.”
With the power in place, Hensley began concentrating on swinging through the ball.
“I don’t expect to hit a home run every time, but I go up to the plate thinking it’s possible,” she said. “I’m swinging to get through the ball and just drive it somewhere. I’m not hitting for contact. If you just go up hitting for contact, you are swinging lighter, and if it doesn’t go far, you start doubting yourself. I just go up and swing to drive the ball.”
Countless hours hitting off the tee and facing batting practice pitchers helped her fine-tune her swing.
“I don’t like to get down on myself, because then it snowballs onto the field or another at-bat,” she said. “Short memory is one thing we really wanted to work on this year. I think I applied that more. It’s difficult sometimes if you aren’t getting the pitches that you want or aren’t producing. I just try to go up there with some swag and get the job done.”
Gooding called her a dream to coach.
“She’s a power-five softball player,” she said. “And the greatest kid ever. Seriously, a workhorse and team-first mentality.”
On the field, she is the Bedford catcher. She didn’t commit an error all season.
Hensley was a pitcher at a young age but loved the transition to behind the plate.
“When I got behind the plate, I loved it,” she said. “It’s like being a general out there controlling the whole field. I get to see everyone and everything. I put in a lot of work when I was little. I started with the basics and just advanced from there. I’m pretty dedicated to being the best I can behind the plate for my pitcher.”
Hensley will balance her summer of babysitting, playing basketball for the Mules in June and a busy summer travel softball season that will take her around Ohio, Kansas and Tennessee. She helped the Kicking Mules set a school record for wins with 23 and win a District title in basketball last winter.
Hensley isn’t the only Bedford softball player to show power this season. As a team, Bedford hit 51 home runs, including 12 by teammate Payton Pudlowski. That is one of the reasons Hensley isn’t simply intentionally walked time after time.
“We have some solid pieces behind her, and the two girls in front of her got on base all of the time,” Gooding said. “It was hard for other teams to do that.”
With 23 home runs this season, Hensley’s put her name among the top five all-time single seasons in state history. The record is 29 by Kali Heivilin from Three Rivers in 2021.
With 34 career home runs, she is almost in the top 25.
Hensley isn’t concerned about records right now, except for one thing. She wants to put up a number that, by the time she graduates, is out of this world.
As she tells it, “I want to push the record so far that no one can touch it by the time I’m done with my career at Bedford.”
She might already have.
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Bedford’s Aubrey Hensley prepares to drive a pitch this season. (Middle) Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. (Photos by Christine Kwiatkowski.)