Savvy Seniors Lead Frankenmuth to Final

June 11, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Senioritis always weighs on a spring coach’s mind. It can drain the potential from the best of MHSAA championship contenders.

Frankenmuth softball coach Brad Walraven discussed that possibility once with his team, which includes seven recent graduates. And then he forgot they ever had the conversation. 

That’s how focused the Eagles have been this spring. And they were thankful for veteran composure Thursday during the final innings of the first Division 2 Semifinal at Secchia Stadium.

Carleton Airport had advanced to Michigan State with an epic extra-inning comeback against Portland in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, and looked to be mounting another with Frankenmuth up two runs in the sixth inning. But a heads-up play and a clutch strikeout from their ace ended the rally and the only threat faced by the Eagles in a 4-0 win. 

“One little thing can cost you this ballgame when you get to this point. You have to literally focus one pitch at a time … or else you could just blow up,” Frankenmuth senior pitcher Amariah Wright said. “I’m really proud of my team for staying focused all the way through.”

Frankenmuth (37-3-1), ranked No. 10 at the end of the regular season, will face No. 1 Wayland in the Final at 10 a.m. Saturday. Both teams have an MHSAA title to their credit – Wayland’s coming in 2006 and the Eagles’ in 1991. 

Since finishing Division 3 runner-up in 2011, Frankenmuth reached the Regional round both in 2012 and again last season. But both times the Eagles fell shy of returning to the season's final week.

Led this time by a strong senior class including six who start, Frankenmuth built on a league championship with wins over honorable mention Saginaw Swan Valley and No. 6 Escanaba over the last two weeks.

Airport trailed Portland by four runs in the seventh inning of its Tuesday Quarterfinal. The Jets came back to down the Raiders 5-4 with a walk-off double in the eighth inning.

Frankenmuth led by 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth Thursday when Carleton Airport put runners on first and second base with one out. A fly to left field dropped in for another single just in front of senior Alyssa Jarlock. The hit could’ve loaded the bases. 

Instead, Jarlock made perhaps the most astute play of the game. Bypassing the usual toss in to second, she threw to third base and threw out the advancing runner for the second out of the inning.

Wright then struck out the next batter, and the Eagles added a few more runs to put the game away in the seventh.

“That’s what senior leadership does,” said Walraven, a veteran himself of 36 seasons and nearly 1,100 wins to rank as the second-winningest softball coach in MHSAA history. “The one thing you have to worry about with seniors is sometimes they phase out at the end of the year (with) a lot of activities with school. This group stayed focused the whole time, and they talked to the underclassmen. Everybody’s always prepared and ready to play.

“It’s a little bit of the coaches. But it’s mostly on the girls.”

Frankenmuth scored its first two runs in the third inning, with the lone hit of the rally an RBI-single by Wright. Senior Makenzie Sipes, who had reached base on a fielder’s choice, moved to third on the single and scored the second run as part of a double steal that forced a throw to second base and opened up home. 

Senior Kayla Brooks scored in the seventh inning after a single, and Jarlock came around for the fourth run on a ground out after reaching base on an error and stealing second base.

Wright finished with nine strikeouts and walked only one batter. She gave up four hits and only one over the first five innings. Airport junior Emily Bindus also was sharp, giving up only one earned run for the Jets (36-5), striking out nine while giving up only three hits and walking two. 

The win was Frankenmuth’s 12th straight.

“Last year was just kinda like a building year. This year finally the team is just strong. It’s so exciting to watch us just go,” Wright said. “I’ve been wanting this since my freshman year, and now we’re finally here and it’s insane. I love it.” 

Click for the box score.

Wayland 11, St. Clair 0 

Wayland had unfinished work after getting back to the Semifinals last season but falling in 10 innings to Livonia Ladywood. The Wildcats entered this postseason ranked No. 1 in Division 2 as arguably the most impressive team in Michigan this season regardless of division – and only added to that reputation Thursday.

They led 4-0 before St. Clair (23-13) got a chance to bat in the first Semifinal in that school's history. 

Wayland (35-2) added seven more runs in the fifth inning to finish the game for senior pitcher Mallory Teunissen, who struck out more than half the batters she faced – nine of 15 – and allowed only two hits.

“I made sure I said let’s score on the first thing so we don’t have to wait and have stress,” said Teunissen, who also was 2 for 3 at the plate. “My sister Morgan came up and had a hit, and everyone followed, and we scored, and it just made the stress level for everybody and me so much easier.” 

Wayland was playing in its third Semifinal in four seasons. But there was shock and sadness instead of celebration after as coaches and players were told of the death of Bill Merchant, father of assistant coach Nicki Cardosa and brother-in-law to head coach Cheri Ritz, earlier Thursday after an apparent car accident.

Merchant also was Wayland’s junior varsity boys basketball coach. His four daughters all played large roles in the Wayland program – Jessica and Macy appear in the MHSAA record book – and then at the college level, and Jessica, Macy and Brittini coach in the Big Ten. His wife Deb Merchant has coached tennis for Wayland. 

“(I told the players) that we have another angel in the sky, because my dad was killed in a car accident too,” Ritz said. “I was the AD at Wayland, and it was after a basketball game. He was helping me and got in a car accident, so our family has been through this before.

“But we have another angel in the sky.” 

Senior shortstop Hailey Houck had two hits, scored two runs and drove in one for Wayland. Sophomore catcher Leigha Morse also had two hits and three RBI, and senior third baseman Morgan Winger and freshman designated player Sydney Urban both drove in two runs.

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Frankenmuth’s Amariah Wright prepares to unload a pitch during Thursday’s Division 2 Semifinal win. (Middle) A Wayland runner grabs for the plate while being tagged by St. Clair catcher Sydney Griffor.

Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.