EAST LANSING – Before Rudyard senior Morgan Bickel stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tied Semifinal against Holton on Friday, she got some advice from her coaches in the dugout that seemed a bit perplexing.
“My coaches were like, ‘Just hit a home run and we win,’” said Bickel, who entered that at-bat with just two home runs on the year. “I just kind of laughed it off. I was just looking for solid contact. Something off of the barrel.”
Seconds later, Bickel indeed made contact off of the barrel and went from laughing off the advice of her coaches to walking it off for Rudyard, blasting the game-winning home run over the fence in right to give Rudyard a stunning 9-8 win.
Holton held a 7-1 lead with two outs in the fifth and before the Bulldogs improbably rallied to advance to their first Final on Saturday.
“We haven’t been down 7-1 and come back (this year), but we know we are a team that can score runs,” Rudyard head coach Stephen Davis said. “We never once panicked.”
Rudyard (28-5) started its rally in the fifth inning when No. 7 hitter Tori Tremblay and No. 9 hitter Chesney Molina each walked to set the stage for leadoff hitter Paige Postma, who injected some life into her team by hitting a three-run home run with two outs to left-center to cut Holton’s lead to 7-4.
Each team scored a run in the sixth inning, and then Rudyard scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 8-8.
Molina walked to start the inning to turn the lineup over, and then with two outs, Bickel and Meagan Postma each hit RBI singles to cut Holton’s lead to 8-7.
Karlee Mayer then hit an RBI double to right-center just out of the reach of Holton’s diving right fielder to tie the game at 8-8.
In the top of the eighth, Holton loaded the bases with one out, but Bickel got out of the jam with a groundout and subsequent force at home, and then a strikeout.
After a scoreless eighth, Bickel retired Holton in order in the top of the ninth to set up her heroics.
“It was just funny at that moment that the coaches said to hit a home run, and I ended up doing it,” Bickel said.
Holton (35-7) seemed to be in cruise control after building a 7-1 lead, scoring a single run in the first, four runs in the second and single runs in the third and fourth.
But ultimately, some untimely walks and not producing enough offense in the late innings proved too costly.
Abigail Fowler and Madison Bosset each went 3-for-5, Gianna Reed went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI and Ryann Robins had three RBI to lead Holton.
“Hats off to them,” Holton head coach Kirk Younts said. “They hit the ball. It was a tight game, and they are a good team. They battled, and so did we. We had some chances to score, and we didn’t.”
Unionville-Sebewaing 9, Bridgman 2
Reigning champion Unionville-Sebewaing left no doubt from the beginning, jumping out to a 4-0 lead during the first inning and adding three more runs in the second to take a 7-0 lead en route to a 9-2 win.
USA advanced to meet Rudyard in what will be the fourth Finals appearance for the Patriots since 2015.
“Putting four in the first inning kind of allows the girls to relax a little bit and slow the game down,” USA head coach Isaiah Gainforth said. “Coming back in the second inning and getting three maybe was even bigger.”
Laci Harris went 4-for-4 with two RBI and three runs and Gabriella Crumm went 3-for-3 with four RBI to lead a 10-hit attack for USA.
The offense was more than enough for USA starter Brynn Polega, who struck out 10 and didn’t give up an earned run in tossing a three-hitter.
Hannah Johnson had the lone RBI for Bridgman (39-3), which made its first appearance in the Semifinals.
“They knew what to expect,” Bridgman head coach Elaine Starbuck said of USA’s experience playing in later rounds of the playoffs. “Nerves I’m sure got the best of us. We gave up a few passed balls that allowed them to score, and their hitters are solid.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Rudyard’s Chesney Molina (12) slides safely into second base during her team’s victory Friday at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Unionville-Sebewaing’s Macy Reinhardt (5) keeps her eyes on a drive during her team’s Semifinal win.
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.