By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This weekend, for the first time, the MHSAA Softball Semifinals and Finals will be played at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium.
But although the tournament’s new stage might be unfamiliar to most, many of the 16 finalists should feel at home playing in championship-deciding games.
Reigning Division 4 winner Kalamazoo Christian is back for more, as are 2013 Division 1 runner-up Bay City Western and Division 3 runner-up Unionville-Sebewaing. Clinton, Gladstone and Livonia Ladywood all played in MHSAA championship games in 2012.
For the first time as well, Semifinal play will begin Thursday and continue Friday with all four Finals on Saturday. Below is this weekend's schedule, followed by a look at each contender.
Semifinals – Thursday
Portage Central (41-3) vs. Utica Ford (30-8) - 10 a.m.
Romeo (31-7) vs. Bay City Western (39-3) - Noon
Wayland (42-1) vs. Livonia Ladywood (28-13) - 3 p.m.
Croswell-Lexington (30-1) vs. Stevensville Lakeshore (33-9) - 5 p.m.
Semifinals – Friday
Gladstone (28-2) vs. Coloma (34-9) - 10 a.m.
Unionville-Sebewaing (39-0) vs. Clinton (34-4) - Noon
Vestaburg (27-8) vs. Kalamazoo Christian (27-16) - 3 p.m.
Fowler (26-6) vs. Rogers City (32-6) - 5 p.m.
Finals – Saturday
Division 1 - 11:30 a.m.
Division 2 - 9 a.m.
Division 3 - 5 p.m.
Division 4 - 2:30 p.m.
Tickets cost $7 per round or $15 for an all-tournament ticket that includes admission to baseball games. Radio broadcasts of all games can be heard online at MHSAAnetwork.com. All games will be streamed live online at MHSAA.TV and viewable on subscription basis.
All statistics below are through at least the regular season, with most through teams' Regionals or Quarterfinals. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)
BAY CITY WESTERN
Record/rank: 39-3, No. 4
Coach: Rick Garlinghouse, 10th season (324-77-3)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association North
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2013.
Players to watch: Hannah Leppek, jr. P (32-1, 0.70 ERA, 290 K, .507 16 2B, 13 HR, 58 RBI); Meredith Rousse, jr. SS (.549, 61 R, 12 2B, 46 RBI), Kaylynn Carpenter, jr. CF (.508, 51 R, 10 2B, 49 RBI), Blair Miller, jr. LF (.441, 41 R, 25 RBI).
Outlook: Bay City Western is back in the Semifinals for the third time in four seasons and after its first championship game appearance a year ago – it fell just shy of the MHSAA title, losing 2-1 to Mattawan after leading through five innings. The Warriors graduated only three players after 2013, with Leppek a returning all-stater and Rousse and Carpenter honorable mentions last season. Western has won 20 of its last 21 games, with its only losses this season to honorable mention Clarkston, Division 2 No. 6 Bullock Creek and Division 3 No. 7 Sanford Meridian.
Record/rank: 41-3, No. 3
Coach: Tom Hamilton, first season of second tenure (75-7)
League finish: First in Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference East
Championship history: Class A champion 1977, runner-up 1975.
Players to watch: Lea Foerster, sr. OF; Gina Verduczo, sr. P (Stats not submitted.).
Outlook: Portage Central eliminated reigning Division 1 champ Mattawan (9-2) during the District tournament and is in the Semifinals for the first time since 2009. Its only losses were early to Mattawan, then to Division 2 No. 1 Wayland and Division 2 No. 4 Stevensville Lakeshore – although Central beat Lakeshore in the other five games the teams played against each other this spring. Foerster and Verduczo were all-staters last season. Hamilton formerly coached the team in 2010 and also coached Portage Northern to championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Record/rank: 31-7, No. 2
Coach: Dave McIntyre, fifth season (138-37)
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Taylor Weaver, sr. P (24-1, 0.60 ERA, 261 K, .469); Danielle Szajna jr. 1B (.440, 23 R, 23 RBI); Kayla Noch, jr. C (.430, 14 2B, 27 RBI); Morgan Gardner, soph. SS (.463, 32 R, 32 RBI, 16 2B).
Outlook: After falling by just a run to eventual champion Mattawan in last season’s Semifinal, Romeo has stormed back to Finals weekend with wins over No. 1 Canton, No. 6 Lake Orion and No. 9 Fenton during the tournament. Weaver and Szajna were all-staters last season and Gardner was an honorable mention, and total the top six hitters from that Semifinal lineup are the same as what should take the field this weekend – including centerfielder Geordin Craun at the top and third baseman Erin Barg in the six spot.
Record/rank: 30-8, honorable mention
Coach: Matthew Joseph, fourth season (86-42)
League finish: Third in MAC Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Gabby Schefka, sr. C; Alex Sorgi, jr. CF/P; Nikki Sorgi, fr. P/IF (Stats not submitted.).
Outlook: Utica Ford is making its first Semifinal appearance after making its first Quarterfinal just a season ago. Schefka and Alex Sorgi earned all-state and honorable mention, respectively, in 2013 and have keyed the team’s taking the next step – they and Nikki Sorgi also fill the top three spots in the lineup. Ford has increased its win total every season since Joseph took over the program.
Record/rank: 30-1, No. 9
Coach: Bob Young, eighth season (196-70)
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Megan Guitar, jr. P (21-1, 1.77 ERA, 179 K, .392, 4 HR, 41 RBI); Kylee Barrett, sr. SS (.446, 8 HR, 37 RBI); Rebecca Oden, fr. OF (.392).
Outlook: Croswell-Lexington’s lone loss was late to Utica, and it stormed back by outscoring two District opponents by a combined 31-6 and then edging Frankenmuth and No. 8 Saginaw Swan Valley to win its first Regional championship. The Pioneers have been on the verge, however, with this their fifth straight season with at least 30 wins and fourth in five seasons winning their District. All nine starting hitters are batting at least .330.
Record/rank: 28-13, No. 7
Coach: Scott Combs, seventh season (236-53)
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League Central
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2012, runner-up 2009.
Players to watch: Haley Lawrence, sr. SS (.420, 46 R, 18 2B, 39 RBI); Erika Selakowski, soph. 2B (.410, 41 R, 21 2B, 57 RBI); Hallea Garcia, sr. 1B (.415, 40 R, 22 2B, 8 HR, 58 RBI); Christina Meyer, jr. OF (.402, 55 R, 31 RBI, 10 3B, 48 SB); Rozlyn Price, soph. P (240-8, 2.60 ERA, 235 K).
Outlook: Ladywood is making this a regular trip, heading to the Semifinals for the fourth straight season and fifth in six years. Lawrence is a returning all-stater and Selakowski earned an honorable mention last season, and they are big bats in a lineup that earned valuable experience during last season’s run. So did Price, who also earned all-state honorable mention after pitching the Blazers into the Semifinals as only a freshman.
Record/rank: 33-9, No. 4
Coach: Denny Dock, 25th season (834-168-1)
League finish: Second in Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Haley Thibeault, sr. P/IF (26-6, 1.09 ERA, 210 K, .471, 14 2B, 10 HR, 57 RBI); Julia Carpenter, soph. CF (.413, 22 SB);. Alex Forsythe, sr. SS (.375, 52 RBI).
Outlook: Lakeshore has won five Regional titles in six seasons and is back in the Semifinals for the first time since winning back-to-back Division 2 titles in 2010 and 2011. The Lancers returned by avenging last season’s Quarterfinal loss to Tecumseh, the eventual champion last spring. Thibeault was an all-state second baseman a year ago but has taken over the majority of pitching duties in addition to leading the team in hitting.
Record/rank: 42-1, No. 1
Coach: Cheri Ritz, 19th season (636-129)
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2006.
Players to watch: Sam Merren, sr. OF (.500, 12 2B, 37 SB, 48 RBI); Mallory Teunissen, jr. P (34-1, 1.09 ERA, 252 K, .313); Sierra Mutschler, sr. SS (.523, 16 2B, 11 HR, 83 RBI); Britt McLain, sr. C (.432, 22 SB, 36 RBI).
Outlook: Wayland is back in the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons with an all-state pitcher in Teunissen – but also a talented lineup averaging 12 runs per game. Merren, Mutschler and McLain all also were all-staters a year ago, and they are only three of seven regulars hitting .400 or higher. Mutschler’s RBI qualify as fourth-most for one season in MHSAA history. The Wildcats have won 39 straight games since falling to Hudsonville Unity Christian in their only loss, and have given up only five runs during the tournament including a 7-0 shutout of Unity Christian in the Quarterfinal.
Record/rank: 34-4, honorable mention
Coach: Kim Phillip, second season (65-10)
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (2011 and 2012), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Ashleigh Donahey, soph. DH/DP (.500, 55 R, 18 SB, 35 RBI); Kristin Forest, sr. 3B (.477, 52 R, 12 HR, 16 2B, 67 RBI); Elizabeth Barkel, sr. 1B (.454, 36 R, 33 RBI, 12 SB); Megan Burton, soph. P (21-3, 1.34 ERA, 120 K).
Outlook: After missing the Semifinals last season, Clinton is back for the fifth time in six seasons and first time under Philip, who formerly coached Saline and was the assistant at Clinton before taking over the program a year ago. The Redskins are especially strong on the base paths, with 94 stolen bases in 102 attempts entering the week. Only an honorable mention in the final coaches poll, Clinton earned an 8-0 win over No. 10 Napoleon in the Regional Final to highlight this run.
Record/rank: 34-9, honorable mention
Coach: Wendy Goodline, 15th season (389-158-1)
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference West
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Makenzie Moody, sr. C (.381, 6 HR, 40 RBI); Jenna Faultersack, jr. SS (.418, 56 R, 10 2B, 22 SB); Emily Najacht, sr. P (25-7, 0.97 ERA, 266 K, .378, 39 RBI).
Outlook: Coloma is making its second Semifinal appearance in three seasons after winning its third straight District title and playing in Division 2 last season; the Comets beat No. 8 Springport 6-2 in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal to return. Coloma prepared by facing many of the best from the Kalamazoo area during the regular season, earning a win over Division 4 Semifinalist Kalamazoo Christian and falling to Portage Central, Stevensville Lakeshore and out-of-area Lake Orion among larger ranked opponents. Faultersack was a Division 2 all-stater last season, and Najacht earned an honorable mention.
Record/rank: 28-2, No. 3
Coach: Ashley Hughes, first season (28-2)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Jess Beaudry, sr. 1B (.353, 20 RBI); Tinner Sharon, sr. P/3B (.458, 12 SB, 18-1 pitching, 0.92 ERA, 160 K); Lexi Hongisto, jr. SS (.532, 31 RBI, 13 SB).
Outlook: Gladstone has played in the MHSAA Final three of the last 10 years, also finishing runner-up in 2012 and champion in 2004, and won its 12th straight Regional last week. First-year coach Hughes was part of a Quarterfinals team as a player in 2003 and took over this spring after three seasons as an assistant. The Braves have given up only three runs during the tournament, and not more than one in any game. Beaudry was an all-state selection last season.
Record/rank: 39-0, No. 1
Coach: Steve Bohn, third season (116-9)
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference West
Championship history: Three championships (most recent 2009 in Division 4), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Stephanie Neuman, sr. 2B (.513, 14 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI); Breanna Dinsmoore, jr. C (.404, 35 RBI); Erica Treiber, jr. P/1B (.514, 14 2B, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 17-0, 0.07 ERA, 173 K); Allison Hoppe, sr. CF (.417, 22 RBI, 11 2B).
Outlook: USA is making its ninth straight trip to the MHSAA Semfinals after finishing runner-up a year ago. That ERA for Treiber is not a typo – she’d given up only one earned run in 98 innings entering the week, and again teams with sophomore Nicole Bauer (19-0, 0.50 ERA) for an impressive 1-2 pitching punch. Adding in the 10-1 win over No. 9 Reese in the Quarterfinal, USA has beaten its tournament opponents by a combined score of 53-2. Neuman, Dinsmoore and Treiber all are returning all-staters.
Record/rank: 26-6, unranked
Coach: Kat Schmitt, fourth season (career record N/A)
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Tori Wirth, jr. SS; Sydney Feldpausch, jr. P (Stats not submitted.).
Outlook: Fowler is making its first trip to the Semifinals since 1997 after winning its first Regional title since 2002. The Eagles took on their share of larger schools in preparation for the tournament, with wins over Lansing Everett and Eastern, Lake Odessa Lakewood, Owosso and Haslett among others – and the playoff run included a 5-1 Quarterfinal win over No. 7 Westland Huron Valley Lutheran. Wirth earned an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore.
Record/rank: 27-16, No. 8
Coach: Terry Reynolds, first season (27-16)
League finish: First in Kalamazoo Valley Association
Championship history: Seven championships (most recent 2013), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Tori Sides, sr. CF (.521, 54 R, 24 SB); Rebekah VanDam, sr. P (18-10, 2.94 ERA, 183 K, .366, 34 RBI); Morgan Locker, sr. SS (.368, 11 2B, 47 R, 34 RBI); Kara Gjeltema, soph. C (.523, 13 2B, 10 HR, 62 RBI).
Outlook: Kalamazoo Christian’s record might seem a little off for a reigning champion returning to the Semifinals, but it also took regular-season cuts against a number of larger opponents including Division 1 or 2 ranked Portage Central, Stevensville Lakeshore and Portland and honorable mention Parchment. Former Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Hackett coach Reynolds took over the program this spring and inherited a number of standouts from last season’s run including returning all-stater Sides.
Record/rank: 32-6, No. 4
Coach: Karl Grambau, 12th season (303-128)
League finish: Second in North Star League
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 2004).
Players to watch: Sarah Meredith, soph. C (.536, 14 HR, 62 RBI); Logan Fleming, jr. 3B (.545, 15 2B, 8 HR, 45 RBI); Morgan Hall, sr. 1B (.529, 11 2B, 34 RBI); Courtney Streich, sr. SS (.441, 10 2B, 36 RBI).
Outlook: Rogers City is making its second straight trip to the Semifinals with an experienced lineup that makes it hard to pick who should stand out most. In addition to those mentioned above, junior second baseman Alexa Quaine is hitting .515 with 14 doubles and 39 RBI and also is 14-2 pitching with a 1.88 ERA. Centerfielder Cassie Brege (.362, 25 RBI) joined Meredith and Fleming among all-staters last season, when Streich received an honorable mention. Senior Nikki Radke (16-4) returns as the team’s leading winner in the circle. Rogers City beat No. 3 Posen and No. 10 Rapid River during this run and reigning champion Kalamazoo Christian during the regular season.
Record/rank: 30-8, No. 6
Coach: Dan Rons, 10th season (258-97)
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference.
Championship history: Class D runner-up 1980.
Player to watch: Jannelle Rons, sr. P (20-2, 1.46 ERA, 143 K, .557, 62 R, 16 2B, 14 3B, 11 HR, 85 RBI); Shana Fisk, sr. 2B (.379, 52 R, 28 SB); Karigan Gates, sr. C (.487, 37 R, 46 RBI, 13 2B).
Outlook: Vestaburg made its first Quarterfinal appearance Tuesday since 2007 and is back in the Semifinals for the first time since 1986. The Wolverines defeated an impressive field to return, including No. 9 Coleman, No. 5 North Muskegon and then No. 2 Ubly on Tuesday. Jannelle Rons was an all-state pitcher last season and is one of seven seniors.
PHOTO: Kalamazoo Christian’s Rebekah VanDam connects with a pitch during last season’s Finals weekend in Battle Creek. Her team is the reigning Division 4 champion.
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.