Perfection: Hudsonville Follows Winning Formula to Cap Undefeated Season

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING –  Good things typically happen when Hudsonville leadoff hitter Megan Beemer gets on base in the first inning.

That trend carried over to Saturday’s Division 1 Final – and it helped jumpstart her team’s offense.

Early runs, sparkling pitching and stellar defense proved to be key factors as the Eagles capped an unbeaten season with a 5-0 victory over Lake Orion at Secchia Stadium.

“It’s always important to get off to a good start, and I think Megan Beemer has scored in the first inning in, I want to say, 34 or 35 times of our 42 games,” Eagles coach Tom Vruggink said. “When she gets on in the first inning she’s going to steal second, maybe third, and (Tessa) Heffelbower is going to bring her in. That’s our formula, and it worked out great today.”

Senior hurler Ava Snip tossed a one-hit shutout, and Hudsonville (42-0) won its first Division 1 Final since 2012 and fourth in school history.

“To make history like today is like a dream for all of us,” said Beemer, a senior who will play next season at University of Michigan. “Me and Elly (Koopman) were on the team sophomore year and got punched in the face in the Semifinals, so this was our goal ever since then when we felt the sting of that. To come back and win it was huge for all of us.”

A Lake Orion infielder places a tag on the Eagles’ Megan Beemer.The Eagles struck early and loaded the bases in the top of the first inning.

Beemer, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, singled to open the game. She stole second, and trotted home when junior Autumn Dennis ripped a shot up the middle and put the Eagles ahead 2-0.

Freshman Lauren Luchies followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0.

“As the leadoff batter, that's my goal,” Beemer said. “To get on in the first inning because that sets the tone for the rest of the seven innings.”

Snip, a lefty, felt more relaxed after getting the early run support.

“To get three runs on the board early made me not so nervous anymore, because at the beginning I was really nervous,” said Snip, who had eight strikeouts. “My nerves went away after the three runs because my offense had me, and my defense always has my back.

“This is so incredible. I can't believe we went undefeated this whole year and that we just did it. We proved to ourselves that we could go unbeaten, and it's insane to think about.”

Beemer was proud of her teammates’ effort on the mound.

“She did so good, and she had a breakout year,” Beemer said. “She has been my best friend since middle school, so seeing her succeed in this big moment was huge.”

Lake Orion pitcher Rylee Limberger had her team’s only hit off Snip, to lead off the fifth inning, but a double play by Hudsonville ended any threat. 

Lauren Luchies makes a throw to first.The Eagles added to their lead in the sixth inning with a two-out rally. Beemer singled and then scored on a double down the left-field line from sophomore Tessa Heffelbower.

Junior Claire VanderWeels had a two-out, RBI single in the seventh.

The Eagles banged out nine hits on the day with Heffelbower and VanderWeels each collecting two hits as well.

“This is so awesome,” said Vruggink, who has won nearly 1,200 games during a 43-year career and is the fifth-winningest coach in MHSAA softball history. “We didn’t quite finish it two years ago, but this team has played unbelievable all season long and our pitching carried us. They stepped up to the pressure of an undefeated season, and I can't say more about them. They are tremendous athletes, tremendous kids.”

Lake Orion (38-6) was making its first Finals appearance in program history.

“We had a great season, and we played quite a few really good teams to get here,” Lake Orion coach Joe Woityra said. “I thought they were ready to play, but things got sped up real quick in that first inning and we couldn’t battle back like we had before. 

“Obviously, Hudsonville has a great team also, and their pitcher did exactly what she needed to do. She shut us down, and not many pitchers did that this year.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Hudsonville celebrates its Division 1 championship win Saturday at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) A Lake Orion infielder places a tag on the Eagles’ Megan Beemer. (Below) Lauren Luchies makes a throw to first.