Regina, Howell Advance with Late Rallies

June 13, 2019

By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – There’s no such thing as ugly when it comes to advancing in the MHSAA softball playoffs.

Warren Regina manufactured the game-winning run in a most unusual way Thursday afternoon against Bay City Western. And the Saddlelites aren’t going to apologize to anyone after their 4-0 victory over the Warriors in a Division 1 Semifinal matchup at Secchia Stadium.

Senior Marisa Muglia led the seventh inning off with a single to get things going for her Saddlelites (29-11). The next batter, sophomore Mia Konyvka, dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Western made the play at first base, but freshman Jenna Holt, courtesy running for Muglia, pressed the issue, rounding second and heading for third. The throw to third base ricocheted off Holt and went into Regina’s dugout. A dead ball was called, allowing Holt to score what would be the winning run.

“To be honest, I’ve done that many times before,” said Holt, who actually overran second base before deciding to just head to third. “I just knew that, with my speed, I could cause chaos. I don’t even know what was going through my head. All I remember is sliding into third and hearing, ‘The ball is dead.’ And I was awarded home.”

Regina head coach Diane Laffey saw the chaos play out in front of her while coaching third base. She was a little nervous, to say the least.

“I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, why did she overrun the base?’” said Laffey, with a smile on her face. “She does it a lot, and we keep reminding her. She played JV most of the season, and they can get away with it on JV. She’s been out a couple times doing it since we’ve brought her up. So I’m like, ‘Jenna, they’re going to throw and get you out.’ Fortunately they threw behind her, and the throw to third got away and we lucked out.”

Muglia pitched a complete-game, two-hitter to pick up the victory for the Saddlelites, who will face Howell in the title game on Saturday. She did not hesitate when asked if it was her best pitching performance of her career.

“Most definitely,” she said. “My riseball and my curveball were major components (for me) today.”

For the first six innings, it was a pitchers’ duel, with Western junior Adaline Ziehmer matching Muglia pitch for pitch. Ziehmer allowed five hits and two earned runs while taking the loss.

Regina added three more runs in the seventh, with sophomore Miranda Nicholas driving in a pair on a slap single down the left field line. Junior Jacqueline Jozefczyk added an RBI single to complete the scoring.

“The girls had a great six and a half innings, and I don’t want to say the wheels fell off, but we’re used to putting runs up on the board,” Western head coach Kris Popp said. “It looks worse than it is, but we just didn’t score. If we could have put some runs on the board right off the bat like we usually do, put some pressure on the other team, and it makes a huge difference in the game.

“(Muglia) did a good job keeping us off balance. She threw well. She was making us hit pitches that we’re not used to swinging at.”

Western finished the season 31-6.

Click for the full box score.

Howell 9, Clarkston 6

Juniors Skye Grant and Molly Carney weren’t about to let a chance to get to the Division 1 championship game get away from their team Thursday night. Each had clutch hits as the Highlanders scored three runs in the top half of the seventh inning to pull out a victory over Clarkston, ensuring their team a spot in Saturday’s final game against Warren Regina.

“The way the whole thing set up in that last inning was that they had the middle of their lineup coming up, and we had the bottom of our lineup coming up,” said Howell head coach Ron Pezzoni, who will see his program play for its first Finals championship. “And Skye, Molly, sometimes your unlikely players come up clutch. Skye has been getting big hits for us all year, some big RBIs. And Molly, we keep putting her out there and she’s getting hits. Those at bats were huge for us.”

With one out and the game tied 6-6, Grant doubled, scoring pinch runner Avery Pruss, giving her team the lead. Carney, the next batter, drilled a base hit to right field, scoring sophomores Maddie Springer and Jane Anderson to give the Highlanders (36-3) some breathing room. Grant and Carney were a combined 0-for-4 heading into those last at bats.

Howell jumped out to a 6-1 lead through its half of the fourth inning. Senior Maddie Gillett, who finished 3-for-4 in the win, had a clutch two-run single in the third to help get things going for the Highlanders. Senior A.J. Militello, sophomore Avery Wolverton and Springer each added two hits in their team’s win.

Pezzoni was still in shock after the game had ended, but he had nothing but respect for the Wolves and the effort they put into the game.

“Clarkston is a great team, as deep as any team around,” Pezzoni said. “We knew, even when we were up 6-1, that it wasn’t going to be easy, that we were going to have to get a lot of tough outs. Fortunately, we did.”

Senior Anna Skvarce, junior Sierra Kersten and sophomore Sam Wycoff all had two hits to lead Clarkston (36-3). Juniors Hannah Cady and Nyah Ansel each scored a pair of runs in their team’s loss.

“I’m just really proud of (my players),” Clarkston head coach Don Peters said. “I told them it was an amazing comeback and shows their grit and determination. I guess we were trying out how to stop them, and they were trying to figure out how to stop us. And they did a little better job.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Warren Regina’s Jenna Holt, right, is greeted after scoring her team’s first run Thursday evening. (Middle) Howell players celebrate during their Semifinal win.

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

May 7, 2024

Bill and Julia Turner have not only put in a lot of miles on the road, but they’ve also put a lot of miles in on the softball field.

Greater DetroitBefore Olivia Turner was hitting the cover off the ball and becoming Michigan’s career RBI leader for the Grass Lake softball team, Bill and Julia were taking her to the field for batting practice.

“I always wanted to go to the field, and my dad would take me and my mom would shag balls in the outfield,” Olivia said. “They’ve spent countless hours, especially traveling around the country. They’ve been my biggest support system. They are awesome.”

Her Warriors teammates are grateful, too. Last week Turner became Michigan’s all-time leader in runs batted in, surpassing Taylor Light & Life Christian’s Kelly Kennedy, who held the record with 304 RBIs from 1991-94.

“It was crazy to think I beat a 30-year-old record,” Turner said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I’m just super thankful.”

Having her name on the state record book for softball is nothing new to Turner. She barely missed the state mark for RBIs in a season last year when she had 102 and is the state’s all-time career doubles leader already.

Grass Lake head coach Roger Cook said Turner never talks about hitting home runs or driving in runs – just about being a teammate.

“I’m going to tell you, she’s one of the most modest people you’ll ever talk to,” Cook said. “She just talks team, team, team. She always has since I’ve known her. She has never said one thing about a home run or a base hit.”

Turner, who plays third base, has been around the Grass Lake program for a long time. When her sister Madeline was playing for the Warriors before heading off to play at Findlay University in Ohio, Olivia would tag along.

“I just wanted to be at the field, be around softball,” she said.

Turner first picked up the game when she was on an 8-and-under team.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records.She started as a pitcher, but quickly converted to infielder, where she has played with Grass Lake and various travel teams. She also plays volleyball and basketball for Grass Lake, but softball is her sport.

“We’re all one family,” she said. “I love that you get to play with girls that you may not be friends with at school. It shows you who you are. Softball gives you a lot of life lessons – dedication, teamwork, how to work with others.”

She loves to hit, too.

“Every at-bat, even if there is no one on base, I want to get on base,” she said. “I’m always going up to the plate doing it for my team, not for myself. The RBIs are pretty cool. My team gets on base for me. All of the girls are phenomenal.”

Cook said he sometimes gets worried that opponents will just pitch around Turner. But because of who is in the lineup in front of and behind her, he doesn’t have to worry about that.

“We have Rylee Fitzpatrick, Emily Brown, then Olivia,” Cook said. “After Olivia we have (junior) Bree Salts, who has committed to Central Michigan. It’s hard to pitch around her. When we get to some of these big games, teams will have to throw to her.”

Last year’s Division 3 runner-up Ottawa Lake Whiteford has faced Grass Lake multiple times over the past couple of seasons, and coach Matt VanBrandt is plenty familiar with the damage Turner can do.

"You'd better have a plan when you are pitching to her,” VanBrandt said. “She’s a dangerous hitter. She’s someone you need to think about before the game starts.”

Turner hit .714 last season with 30 doubles and those 102 runs batted in. For her career, she’s belted 48 home runs and knocked in 309 runs after Saturday’s tournament. She’s never hit below .535 for a season and is nearing 100 career doubles.

Grass Lake currently is 22-1 and leading the Cascades Conference.

“It’s crazy to think I am actually a senior now,” Turner said. “Now that it is my senior year, I just want to work hard and play for my team. We’ve had great seniors the last couple of years. It’s crazy to think this is my last season.”

Turner will attend Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. She chose Bradley because of its nursing program.

“Academics has always been first for me,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus. It’s not too big or too small. The staff there is great.”

Before taking her swing to college, Grass Lake wants to make a deep tournament run this season. And the more games the Warriors play, the more RBIs Turner is likely to add to her record.

“Olivia has one of the smoothest, most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen,” Cook said. “She’s one of the girls you want up there at bat with the game on the line. She can do it all. If you need a single, she’ll get you a single. If you need a walk-off, she can do that, too.”

Doug DonnellyDoug 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) Grass Lake’s Olivia Turner focuses on a pitch coming her way. (Middle) Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records. (Photos courtesy of Pictures by Marisa and the Grass Lake softball program.)