Senior Ace Adding to Whiteford Legacy

May 17, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

OTTAWA LAKE – You could call Lindsey Walker a 10th-year senior for the Ottawa Lake Whiteford softball team.

Walker is one of seven seniors on a 20-3 Bobcats softball team that has climbed to No. 2 in the coaches association Division 4 rankings and is a win away from clinching its second Tri-County Conference title in three years.

The pitching ace began learning the finer points of fast-pitch softball from veteran Whiteford coach Kris Hubbard when she was in the second grade.

“I would come in the mornings for pitching lessons,” Walker said. “I’d show up before school, we’d go in the high school gym while she was coaching JV girls basketball. She’d walk back and forth and teach me how to pitch at the same time.

“She taught me the basics, how to warm up and some of the mechanics of pitching. It was all new to me then.”

With Hubbard’s help, Walker has blossomed into a star in the circle for the Bobcats. She’s already holds Whiteford career records for games pitched, decisions, innings-pitched and wins (82) and she’s within a couple starts of setting the Bobcats’ record for strikeouts. She’s also an outstanding hitter and has made a remarkable impact on Whiteford’s hitting record book, too. She is the Bobcats’ all-time leader in at bats, hits, doubles, RBI and home runs.

“She’s going to have a lot of records,” Hubbard said of the 5-foot-10 Walker. “She’s a good player.”

Besides pitching mornings for Coach Hubbard, Walker began playing travel softball at a young age. When she was still in elementary school, Hubbard invited her to be a manager for the varsity. It’s a time-tested method for Hubbard, who has coached the Bobcats for all 41 years of its softball existence. She brings on multiple managers to begin training them for the varsity squad at a young age. By the time they reach the varsity as a player, they are engrossed in the program, knowing the ins and outs of how things are done the Bobcat way.

Walker has been solid all four of her seasons in the circle, but there was a time when she considered giving up pitching.

“I was in the fifth grade, and I was about to give up pitching,” Walker said. “I couldn’t throw a strike. Everything was crazy. She just told me to keep going and that I would get my location, and my accuracy was going to come with time. She pushed me.”

Walker batted .429 as a freshman and hit .371 as a sophomore when Whiteford reached the Division 4 championship game. She hit .513 last year with eight home runs and 14 doubles. The Bobcats made it to the Quarterfinals. Although she won 15 games as a freshman pitcher, it was her sophomore year in which she showed her dominance – winning a school-record 29 times.

Walker recently committed to play in college at Ave Marie University in Florida. She wasn’t sure she wanted to pitch in college until just before this softball season began and she realized if she didn’t, this would be her final season of the sport.

“I just don’t want it to end,” she said. “I realize how much I would miss it.”

This season the Bobcats have steadily climbed up the state rankings as the senior-laden team looks to embark on yet another tournament run under Hubbard. The Whiteford coach already has announced this year will be her final one as the Bobcats’ head coach. She has more than 855 wins and three MHSAA Finals championships with six title game appearances during her career.

Senior Karsyn Berns-Moore leads the team with a .561 average and has six triples. Baylee Baldwin is hitting .455 with 36 runs scored, and Milly Iott is hitting .434 with 10 doubles and 27 RBI. Pinch-runner deluxe Anna VanBrandt has scored 35 times, one off the team lead, despite having just eight at-bats.

“You can do so much with speed,” Hubbard said.

In the circle, Walker is 15-3 with a 1.62 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 95 innings pitched. She’s also hitting .434 with six home runs and 36 RBI. Other seniors on the team include Madison Durden, Jessica Link and Katie Lipp. All seven seniors on the club’s roster are four-year regulars.

Hubbard credits the deep crew of assistant coaches for helping the Bobcats this season. That includes former Whiteford baseball coach Matt VanBrandt and his wife, Audra VanBrandt, a former Temperance-Bedford softball coach; ex-Whiteford volleyball coach Sandy Clark and the newest member of the Whiteford coaching staff, John Morningstar. Morningstar coached Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central to three straight Division 3 championships from 2015-2017 and became an assistant at Whiteford this year.

“It helps when you have so many former head coaches,” Hubbard said. “We are really hitting the ball this year.”

Hubbard said the seniors are still trying to get better.

“This whole senior class always wants to get better,” she said. “You usually don’t have that. Usually kids lose interest over the year. Even now, those seniors, when I send out a text saying what day I’m going to be at the school, my phone blows up. They know. They still want to get better. They’re not going through the motions. They are working on the batting tee or the catch net. They are driven, and they keep getting better. It’s nice.”

Walker said Hubbard never forgets to tell her players – and dugout full of managers – to have fun.

“She teaches you a lot about life and softball,” Walker said. “She lets you develop your own skills, but she pushes you. Some coaches just want to win. She always wants us to have fun first.”

Doug 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) Ottawa Lake Whiteford’s Lindsey Walker unloads a pitch this season. (Middle) Walker, a four-year varsity senior, will attempt to lead the Bobcats to their second Division 4 Final in three years. (Photos by Cari Hayes.)

Evart Reaches Record Book 23 Times During Run Including 2022 Finals Trip

December 26, 2023

Evart was added to the MHSAA softball record book 23 times for achievements during an outstanding three-season run that has included a Division 3 runner-up finish in 2022.

Then-junior Katelyn Gostlin twice was included for hitting streaks, of 26 straight games during the 2022 season and 22 straight this past spring. She also was added for 23 doubles in 2022, and then-senior Addysen Gray was added for 16 doubles in 2023. Ally Theunick was added for 11 home runs this spring and 23 over her first three seasons with one more to play. Gostlin, Theunick and 2021 graduate Ryenn Baumgardner all were added for single-game accomplishments.

Among team record listings, Evart had 405 hits, 419 runs, 85 doubles, 35 home runs and 328 RBI over 39 games this spring. Gostlin has signed with Mid-Michigan College, and Gray is playing softball and basketball there this school year.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA softball record book:

Olivia Mikowski followed up her Maple City Glen Lake team’s Division 4 basketball championship in March with a national record this spring on the diamond. She tied the MHSAA and national records with 20 triples, over 35 games, among five record book entries she earned. She also is listed for 74 RBI this past season, while now-junior Jessie Pugh earned a listing with 66 runs scored over 37 games. Mikowski is continuing at Schoolcraft College.

Essexville Garber finished a combined 71-14 over the last two seasons and reached the Division 2 Semifinals in 2022 after winning its first Regional title since 1997, along the way achieving several record book performances for both team and individual lists. The Dukes hit 53 home runs over 41 games this past spring, tying for sixth most as senior Sarah Basket set a program record and made the individual list with 12. Basket also was added for 21 doubles in 2022, with Laney Kokaly making the doubles list that season with 16 and Ella Wagner making it was 16 this past season. Kortney Kotenko set the previous Garber home run record in 2022, making the record book list with 11. All four were seniors in 2023. Kotenko is continuing at Madonna, while Basket is playing at Lawrence Tech and Wagner at Northwood. Kokaly is playing volleyball at Northwood.

Three Rivers and now-senior Ava Forman made the single-season hits list with 75 over 41 games and the single-season doubles list for 22 last spring and also 18 over 40 games as a sophomore. Three Rivers as a team made the records for 423 hits, 101 doubles and 277 RBI over 42 games in 2023.

Armada’s Taylor Capozzo had 19 doubles in 2023 to make that single-season list, plus hit back-to-back home runs in a game against Yale, and Natalie Sauer drove in six runs in a game against Brown City. Capozzo is a sophomore this school year, and Sauer graduated in the spring and is continuing at St. Clair County Community College.

Schoolcraft’s Lauren Evans hit 31 doubles in 2023 as a junior, the second-most in MHSAA history, as the Eagles totaled 118 over 41 games – also the second-most doubles on the team list. Schoolcraft also made record lists for 436 hits and 316 RBI for the season and five home runs in a game against Battle Creek Pennfield (which included back-to-back homers by Evans). Teammate Sydney Drenth, then a sophomore, made the doubles list with 22, and senior Alayna Meade made the same list with 16. Meade is continuing at Cornerstone, and Evans has committed to sign with Saginaw Valley State.

Farmington Hills Mercy finished 29-1 in 2023, earning four record book entries along the way. The Marlins tied for second-fewest runs allowed, giving up only 16. They also made lists for 11 consecutive shutouts, 385 strikeouts and a .435 average and just missed the single-season shutouts list with 23.

Unionville-Sebewaing’s 2022 Division 4 championship season produced another series of record book-worthy accomplishments. As a team, USA set an MHSAA record with 128 doubles over 40 games and was fourth on the team RBI list with 391, while also earning entries with 44 runs scored, 485 hits and 48 home runs. Individually, then-sophomore Gabriella Crumm was added for 80 hits, 21 doubles and 11 home runs, and then-senior Laci Harris was added for 11 home runs as well plus 72 hits, 19 doubles and career totals of 31 home runs, 170 RBI, 170 runs scored and 51 doubles over 123 games despite her sophomore season of 2020 being canceled due to COVID-19. Then-junior Oliva Jubar was added for 18 doubles, and then-sophomore Ella Neumann was added for 17. Harris is continuing her career at Madonna.

Paige Ratliff finished her Battle Creek Lakeview career in the spring with 10 record book entries across a variety of categories. Most notably, she totaled 37 doubles, 30 home runs and a .520 career average over three seasons and 108 games. She’s continuing at Lake Forest College (Ill.).

Hudson then-freshman Taylor Kopin opened her high school career in the spring by scoring 65 runs to make the individual record book. In doing so, she also helped Hudson make the team record book list with 417 runs scored over 39 games.

Haslett’s Payden Whitmore earned her school’s first softball record book entry since 2007 by hitting 12 triples over 38 games in the spring. She’s a junior this school year.

Mancelona has a pair of softball players who reached career lists last season with more to play. Now-senior Ella Jones was added for 20 doubles as a sophomore in 2022 and 19 this spring, and made the career doubles list with 39 and a season to play. Now-junior Ella Schram was added for her 13 triples as a freshman and .650 average this spring, and she’s on the career triples list with 23 and will qualify for the career average list if she keeps hitting at this pace over her next seasons.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart hit the second-most triples in MHSAA history on the way to the Division 4 Semifinals in the spring. The Irish piled up 48 over 43 games, led by freshman Mairin Wheaton, who hit 12 over 42, respectively.

Reed City made the team record lists with 78 doubles and 252 RBI over 39 games in the spring, and a pair of standouts also were added. Morgan Hammond, then a freshman, and then-sophomore Paityn Enos both were added for single-game RBI, plus Enos was added for 72 hits and 20 doubles and Hammond was added for 22 doubles.  

Manton now-junior Adriana Sackett earned her first record book listings in the spring. Twice she hit back-to-back home runs in games, and she also was added for 11 homers total over 26 games.

A trio of Ravenna standouts put up a series of record book-caliber totals over the last two seasons, including some of the highest-ranking all time. Emma Gillard graduated in the spring with nine record book entries, including for 85 runs (fourth most) and 13 triples (tied for 20th) this past season, and she made career lists with 200 runs, 27 triples and a .532 average over 111 games and three years. Emma Herremans is just a junior but has 11 record book listings after two seasons including for 25 doubles (11th-most) as a freshman in 2022 and a .652 average and 73 RBI this past spring, and she’s already on career lists for doubles and triples. Kara Postema graduated this spring with six record book entries, including season and career records for times hit by pitch (23 and 49, respectively), and she also made career lists with 36 doubles and 153 RBI over 111 games and three seasons. Gillard is continuing at Ferris State and Postema at Cornerstone.

PHOTO Evart's Riley Brigham connects during her team's Division 3 Final against Millington in 2022.