Rogers City Makes Dream Come True

June 14, 2014

By Kelsey Pence
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Nikki Radke and Morgan Hall couldn’t have dreamed up a better senior season.

Rogers City has been out for revenge ever since Kalamazoo Christian eliminated the Hurons in last year’s Division 4 Semifinal.

Radke and Hall played a big part in making that dream come true Saturday as the Hurons beat the Comets 3-2 in to earn Rogers City its first MHSAA softball title.

“It’s my senior year, and I couldn’t have ended it any better way,” Hall said.

Kalamazoo Christian (28-17) scored first, in the first inning, but Rogers City responded in the third.

Logan Fleming and Courtney Streich both reached on Comets errors, and Sarah Meredith brought Fleming home with a single to left field. The Hurons (34-6) left three on base – but took the lead in the fifth inning.

Hall reached base and Alexa Quaine doubled down the third-base line to score her for the go-ahead run.

The Comets had a chance to put up another run in the sixth inning, but left two stranded.

“We have a fantastic infield, and the defense was there again today,” Hurons coach Karl Grambau said. “We knew they were going to put it in play and we were ready for it, and Nikki was just incredible.”

Radke pitched a complete game, striking out three, walking none and giving up five hits.

“Nikki is a great pitcher and a really underrated pitcher,” Grambau said. “She doesn’t strike out a lot of girls because the girls put a lot of balls in play.”

Meredith walked to start the seventh inning and Hall brought her home with a double to left field to give the Hurons a 2-run lead.

“It turned out the be a game-winning hit, and I could never have expected that and I am honored to have that opportunity now,” Hall said. “I am just glad Sarah ran her butt off to get in.”

Hall’s hit was indeed a big one as Kalamazoo Christian found some magic with two outs left in the bottom of the seventh inning.

After Radke struck out the first two batters, Cara Knasel double to deep right field. Erica Block then singled to left, which put up another run for the Comets and pulled them within one of the lead.

“I really wasn’t nervous at all,” Radke said. “I lived in the moment and realized it was my last softball game ever. It got a little nerve-racking once they scored that run.”

Madison Locker connected on the next pitch, but it was caught in left field to end the ballgame.

“Our motto was to believe and achieve, and we definitely went in believing and we ended up achieving,” Radke said.

Hall praised her senior classmate.

“Nikki has been four years in the making,” Hall said of Radke. “She has dedicated her summers and her winter to pitching. She got us here last year and took us farther this year. We can never thank her enough.”

Rebekah VanDam took the loss for the 2013 champs, striking out four, walking three and giving up eight hits in seven innings of work.

“We knocked them out of the tournament last year, so it was kind of a revenge factor for them,” Kalamazoo Christian coach Terry Reynolds said. “They played hard against us earlier this year, and they repeated that again today. They played great defense, just wonderful defense.

“The pitcher kept us off-paced. She really didn’t surprise us with anything; we just couldn’t touch her. We couldn’t get that key hit when we needed it.”

Grambau said the win is one for the community.

“It’s unbelievable for us and northern Michigan to get this victory,” he said. “Last year we got shut out and then we beat them earlier this year in a tournament. We knew it was anybody’s game, and we are just happy to get this win. It means so much for our program and for our girls.”

Click for the full box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Rogers City players are cheered on by their fans after winning the Division 4 championship at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Hurons centerfielder Cassie Brege throws the ball in during Saturday’s Final.

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.)