Powerful Pitching Sends Owosso, Marysville to Saturday
By Jason Schmitt
Special for MHSAA.com
June 17, 2021
EAST LANSING — Something had to give Thursday morning.
And if Macy Irelan had anything to do about it, it wasn’t going to be her and her Owosso teammates.
Irelan threw seven stellar innings, striking out eight while allowing just a single run in the Trojans’ 2-1 victory over Gaylord in a Division 2 Semifinal at Secchia Field in East Lansing.
Prior to this season, the Trojans had never made it past a Regional. Now head coach JoEllen Smith’s team is a win away from the program’s first-ever Finals championship.
“Everything beyond Regionals is a first, first, first for us, and the girls are handling it unreal,” said Smith, who’s in her 38th year leading the program. “The girls are coming in upbeat, not nervous. Today we came in and knew we were facing a younger team, and we had to show them that we’re not nervous.”
In fact, it was Smith’s game plan to put all the pressure on the Blue Devils, who were also attempting to reach their first trip to the Final. Owosso did just that, scoring a pair of runs in the second inning.
Sophomore Jamie Maier and senior Karley Kincaid opened the inning with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice bunt from junior Kendall Anderson moved the runners to second and third base, Maier scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0. Sophomore Sydney Somers then had an RBI single, scoring sophomore Brielle Sovis who was on as a courtesy runner.
“We don’t usually score early. It usually takes us two, three times through the lineup,” Smith said. “That was huge for us to get those two runs.”
They proved to be more than enough for Irelan, who didn’t allow a base runner until the fourth inning and a hit until the fifth. The junior, who has committed to Kent State University, allowed just three hits while improving to 35-3 on the season.
The only run she allowed came in the seventh inning, when the Blue Devils had the game-tying runs on base with just one out. Kincaid, the Trojans’ catcher, threw out a runner at second base for the second out. Freshman Braleigh Miller scored on the play to make it a 2-1 game.
“The run didn’t mean anything,” Smith said. “We throw through, get the out and there’s two outs with nobody on. We don’t run that play too often. Karley doesn’t throw much, so that (play) is bigger than you think.”
Gaylord had also put two runners on in the sixth inning, but Irelan pitched her way out of trouble. Blue Devils freshman Avery Parker’s one-out bloop single got things going for her team. A two-out fielder’s choice error gave Gaylord runners on first and second base. But the threat came to an end when Owosso’s Reese Thayer pulled in a deep fly to left field.
“When I get a runner on, I get up. I’m more focused,” Irelan said. “I want to get the batter out. And I know the girls behind me will make the play. In pressure situations, I work hard for my team because I know they’re working hard for me. I don’t want to let them down.”
Somers finished with a pair of hits to lead Owosso (36-3), who will now face Marysville (30-6) in Saturday’s Division 2 Final. Senior Reyn Tuttle and freshman Lexi Hemker also had two hits each in their team’s win.
The future looks bright for Gaylord, which had six freshmen in its starting lineup. That group includes the pitching duo of Avery Parker and Jayden Jones, who each had earned-run averages under one and combined for a 28-2 record this season. The pair allowed just two runs while scattering nine Owosso hits. Parker and fellow freshmen Addison Wangler and Taylor Moeggenberg collected Gaylord’s hits in the loss.
“It was a great performance for seven innings, but the jitters showed up in the second inning,” Gaylord head coach Abe Cruz said. “We fought, we fought and we fought but we just couldn’t manufacture that run until the last inning. They were there for us, we just came up one short.”
The Blue Devils have no seniors on the roster and 11 of the 15 players are just freshmen and sophomores.
“We’re looking forward to coming back already,” said Cruz, whose team finished the season 41-2. “There’s going to be more years to come, where this stage isn’t as big as it was today. We’ll get used to it. They’ll grow with maturity and be ready to come back next year.”
Marysville 7, Chelsea 1
Marysville entered the Division 2 Semifinals as the only unranked team left in the MHSAA Tournament. But the Vikings put forth a brilliant display in all three phases of the game against eighth-ranked Chelsea and earned a spot in the Final.
Aided by a five-run third inning, senior pitcher Kirsten Smith pitched a complete game, three-hitter to help her team reach its first title game since 1991. Smith struck out 11 while walking just a single batter.
“She’s got the heart of a champion inside her,” Marysville head coach Ryan Rathje said. “She’s not afraid of challenging hitters. She works nice and fast, and our defense is ready behind her. When they did put the ball in play, our defense did a great job backing her up.”
The Vikings scored one run in both the first and fourth innings, but it was a five-run outburst in the third that broke the game wide open. They had six hits in the inning, including RBI singles by senior Calle Perrin, juniors Kaitlyn Cain and Anna Oles and an RBI double by freshman Avery Wolters. Marysville stretched its lead to 6-1 and never looked back.
“The difference was that five-run inning,” Chelsea head coach Jeff Connelly said. “They did a great job. They put the ball in play, and their pitcher did a fabulous job of keeping us off balance all day. The shots we did hit, they were always right at people.”
Junior Kate Westmiller had three hits and Wolters and Perrin each had two to lead Marysville (31-6), which will face Owosso at 10 a.m. Rathje said he’s excited to have an opportunity to face the Trojans, but knows it’ll be a challenge for his team to face Owosso’s Irelan in the circle.
“Their pitcher is terrific,” Rathje said. “From everything I saw, they’re a really solid team at the plate, with a dominant pitcher and a great defense. We’re definitely looking forward to that matchup. You’ve got to be able to play all three phases of the game. We’re definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
Chelsea finished with a 37-5 record. Junior Margaret Olaveson collected a pair of hits to lead the offense.
“Our kids didn’t quit. We had one rough inning, or it’s a different game,” Connelly said. “We came in with the attitude that the girls have done as much in our community as we’ve done in 15 years. It was kind of our goal to get the program back, and the kids did it.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Owosso’s Macy Irelan winds up during her team’s Division 2 Semifinal win over Gaylord on Thursday. (Middle) Marysville’s Emma Curtis enjoys a moment during her team’s Semifinal victory.
Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.