Softball Finals: Champs are Here

June 13, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three of last season's MHSAA softball champions will return to Battle Creek's Bailey Park on Friday looking to make it two -- or in Petersburg-Summerfield's case, three -- in a row.

Mattawan, Clinton and the Bulldogs won the titles last season in Divisions 1, 3 and 4, respectively. And it's fair to call them all favorites to repeat -- although Division 1 in particular also includes the champions from 2008-2010.

Division 2 surely will have a new champion -- but Saginaw Swan Valley and Livonia Ladywood also made the Semifinals last season and plenty familiar with all that goes into succeeding over the season's final two days.

Below is this weekend's schedule, followed by a look at each of the 16 teams that will be playing. 

Semifinals - Friday

Division 1 
White Lake Lakeland vs. Mattawan - 3:30 p.m. Diamond 1
Hudsonville vs. Garden City - 4 p.m. Diamond 3

Division 2 
Coloma vs. Saginaw Swan Valley - 1 p.m. Diamond 1
Livonia Ladywood vs. Wayland Union - 1:30 p.m. Diamond 3

Division 3 
Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Clinton - 10:30 a.m. Diamond 1
Gladstone vs. Springport - 11 a.m. Diamond 3

Division 4
Dansville vs. Rapid River - 6 p.m. Diamond 1
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart vs. Petersburg-Summerfield - 6:30 p.m. Diamond 3

Finals - Saturday
Division 3 - 10 a.m.
Division 2 - 12:30 p.m.
Division 1 - 3:00 p.m.
Division 4 - 5:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $7 per round or $15 for an all-tournament ticket that includes admission to baseball games. All Finals also will be streamed live online at and

Statistics below are through teams' Regional tournaments, except for Dansville's, which are through the Aggies' District games. (Click for links to brackets and scores.)

Division 1

Record/rank: 29-4, honorable mention
Coach: Barry Patterson, 26th season (614-237)
League finish: First in Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2008, Class A runner-up 1991.
Players to watch: P sr. Kelsey Susalla (.617, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 15-3, 0.90 ERA, 109 K in 101 IP), CF sr. Sam Bellovary (.558, 40 RBI), 3B sr. Hillarie Werda (.507, 10 2B, 34 RBI, 8-1, 0.70 ERA).
Outlook: This will be Garden City’s third trip to Battle Creek over the last seven seasons, following the team’s fifth Regional title over that same span of time. The Cougars are led by 11 seniors, including seven who start. Susalla was an all-state selection last season and has signed with the University of Michigan, and senior shortstop Ashley Lynn (.441) has signed with Northwood University.

Record/rank: 37-3, No. 4
Coach: Tom Vruggink, 31st season (843-226)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Red
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2010 and 2009.
Players to watch: C sr. Bethaney Murphey (.500, 4 HR, 44 RBI); SS jr. Danielle Freeman (.538, 11 HR, 64 RBI), P fr. Lexi Agers (16-1, 0.67 ERA).
Outlook: Hudsonville won its fourth straight Regional title and sixth in seven seasons, and returning all-stater Murphey also started on the MHSAA championship team in 2010. She’s signed to play next season at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and serves as the target for a dynamic duo of underclassmen pitchers – Agers and sophomore Alli Kortman (13-2, 1.22 ERA).

Record/rank: 32-10, No. 3
Coach: Alicia Smith, 12th season (316-144-1)
League finish: Third in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2011.
Players to watch: DP sr. Loren Nagy (.439); P sr. Stacy Thompson (.402, 31 RBI, 16-4, 1.94 ERA); 1B jr. Abby Stoner (.426, 10 HR, 36 RBI).
Outlook: Mattawan is back in Battle Creek despite graduating three all-staters from last season’s championship team and after losing a combined six games to top-ranked powers Portage Central (Division 1) and Stevensville Lakeshore (Division 2). Nagy and junior third baseman Sarah Johnson (.370) are returning all-staters, while sophomore second baseman Kyla Nickrent (.455, 9 SB) and junior shortstop Allie Havers (.436, 28 RBI) provide punch up the middle.

36-6, No. 6
Coach: Joe Alsup, 11th season (342-55)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association North
Championship history: Division 1/Class A runner-up five times (most recently 2010).
Players to watch: 3B jr. Kelly Merkle (.524); DP soph. Karissa Gawronski (.489); CF soph. Madison Burgess (.459).
Outlook: Lakeland is hoping to finally get over the top after coming close a number of times of late – three of those runner-up finishes came over the last six seasons, and the Eagles have won their Regional seven of the last eight. And the team is built to continue making a run. There are only three seniors, but five sophomores, in the starting lineup. Juniors Selena Hicks and Annika Wiesinger handle the pitching duties. Alsup is 956-203 overall during a coaching career spanning nearly four decades.

Division 2

40-2-1, honorable mention
Coach: Wendy Goodline, 13th season (327-166-1)
League finish: First in Lakeland Conference
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: SS fr. Jenna Faultersack (.424, 14 2B, 5 3B, 41 RBI); P soph. Emily Najacht (37-2, 0.77 ERA, 270 K in 233 IP, 368, 36 RBI).
Outlook: After being shut out 5-0 by Stevensville Lakeshore earlier this season, Coloma stunned the top-ranked team in Division 2 by beating the Lancers 1-0 in the Regional final. This is the Comets’ first trip to the Semifinals and caps a run that’s included two straight league titles. It could also be the start, as only one player – left fielder Amanda Swihart – is a senior.

37-3, No. 2
Coach: Scott Combs, fifth season (168-31)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League Central
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2009.
Players to watch: P sr. Briana Combs, 1B jr. Andria Gietl, 3B jr. Celeste Fidge, 2B sr. Carli SanMillan. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Ladywood has won at least 35 games each of the last four seasons, Combs, Gietl, Fidge and SanMillan all made the all-state team last season and are among eight total who also started during the 2011 Semifinal run. Combs has signed with Cleveland State University and SanMillan with Davenport University.

36-3, No. 3
Coach: Tom Kennelly, 33rd season (961-245)
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Central
Championship history: Class B champion 1996, two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: 3B sr. Mary Berden (.415, 59 SB); P sr. Mackenzie Boehler (21-1, 0.33 ERA, 276 K in 145 IP, .386, 38 RBI); OF sr. Heather Pollick (.411, 6 HR, 35 RBI).
Outlook:  Kennelly is one of four coaches in MHSAA softball history with at least 900 wins, and a strong group of seniors will try to get him back into a championship game for the first time since 2002. The Vikings emerged from a league that also included No. 9 Bullock Creek and outscored District opponents Alma and honorable mention Mount Pleasant by a combined 18-0. Berden, Boehler and Pollick are all returning all-staters.

38-2-1, No. 5
Coach: Cheri Ritz, 18th season (709-197-1)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Gold
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2006
Players to watch: C sr. Kayla Merice (.523, 10 3B, 39 RBI); SS soph. Sierra Mutschler (.512, 6 HR, 60 RBI), RF soph. Brittany McLain (.496, 50 RBI), P fr. Mallory Teunissen (29-2, 0.78 ERA, 215 K in 179 IP).
Outlook: Wayland has its most wins this season since going to the Semifinals in 2007 and won its league for the eighth straight season despite a relatively young squad. The team has only three seniors, and two start – centerfielder Autumn Anderson and Merice batting in the top two spots. But the Wildcats have five batters hitting at least .450, and Anderson, with 26 stolen bases, leads a team that has stolen 105 total in 122 attempts.

Division 3

41-1, No. 1
Coach: Al Roberts, 19th season (583-125)
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2011, Class C runner-up 1997.
Players to watch: P sr. Tierney Nelson (29-1, 1.01 ERA, 318 K in 200.3 IP), C sr. Abi Clark (.461, 15 2B, 48 RBI, 15 SB), SS sr. Haley Mercy (.492, 47 SB).
Outlook: Although the team has only three seniors, six starters are back from last season’s title-winner. And those seniors all are returning all-staters who play positions of particular importance. All three seniors also started on the Clinton teams that made the Division 3 Semifinals in 2009 and 2010.

29-5-1, No. 7
Coach: Gerald A. Smith, ninth season (257-65-1)
League finish: Gladstone does not play in a league.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2009 and 2004.
Players to watch: OF sr. Katie Becker (.521, 28 RBI), C jr. Jordan Kowalski (.357, 21 RBI), P soph. Christine Sharon (22-4, 1.94 ERA).
Outlook: Gladstone capped its 10th-straight District championship with its fifth-straight trip to Battle Creek for the Semifinals. Becker and Kowalski were all-state honorable mentions last season, and Becker is one of seven senior starters making a run at a second championship for the team in four seasons.

39-2-1, honorable mention
Coach: Jo Dee Johnston, 14th season (336-131-1)
League finish: First in Big 8 Conference
Championship history:  Division 4 runner-up 2002
Player to watch: P soph. Sam Bates. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Springport hasn’t lost since April 26, and has given up only two runs during the postseason.  Bates emerged as an all-stater last year in her first as a high schooler, and she threw a no-hitter Tuesday against Buchanan to advance the Spartans to Battle Creek.

40-4, No. 5
Coach: Steve Bohn, first season (40-4)
League finish: Second in Greater Thumb Conference West
Championship history:  Three championships (most recently 2009 in Division 4), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: 1B Jessica Gremel (.451, 16 2B, 41 RBI), C jr. Ashlyn VanHoost (.408, 16 2B, 45 RBI), 2B soph. Stephanie Neuman (.518, 15 2B, 45 RBI).
Outlook: USA has championships in three of the last six seasons (including two in Division 3) and lost in extra innings of last season’s Division 4 Final. Gremel, VanHoost and senior leftfielder Taylor Anker (.398) all were all-state last season, and the team has two more starters – catcher Calie Valentine and designated player Tessa Dinsmoore – hitting at least .460.

Division 4

30-5, No. 9
Coach: Mick Ream, 31st season (record N/A)
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: 1B jr. Evy Lobdell (.500, 16 2B, 47 RBI); C/P sr. Rebekah Guy (.424, 15 SB, 27 RBI, 8-1, 1.38 ERA); P soph. Meagan Kelly (18-4, 1.54 ERA, 183 K in 145 IP).
Outlook: The Aggies are back in the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons and led by a four-year starter in Guy, who despite not being an all-stater last season was a first-team pick as a catcher in 2010. Lobdell is the team’s top run producer and also has spent time as Dansville’s top pitcher during her high school career. Seniors Addie Price and Alison Schlicker and junior Paige Galbreath also started on the 2010 team.

31-7, honorable mention
Coach: Amy Gaudard, second season (55-20)
League finish: Second in Mid-State Activities Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: SS soph. Sara Hansen (.640, 33 SB, 39 RBI), 3B soph. Lauren Sabuda (.407, 31 RBI), C jr. Elizabeth Albaugh (.450, 21 2B, 9 HR, 55 RBI).
Outlook: The Irish are back in the Semifinals for the second time and first since 1994. Sacred Heart got here in part by surviving a 14-inning District semifinal against No. 4 Breckenridge and by beating No. 10 Mason County Eastern in the Regional final. The starting lineup includes just two seniors, although one, Kelsey Poag (19-4, 1.56 ERA) splits pitching duties with another senior, Courtney Fracassi (11-3, 1.68).

33-3, No. 1
Coach: Robert Taylor, 20th season (495-148)
League finish: Second in Tri-County Conference
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recently 2011), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: P sr. Emily Puterbaugh (32-3, 0.81 ERA, 312 K in 207 IP), C sr. Taylor Goodin (.513, 16 2B, 45 RBI), SS jr. Olivia Ostrosky (.413, 25 RBI, 11 SB).
Outlook: Petersburg-Summerfield has won the last two Division 4 championships, and is a favorite to help give the Tri-County Conference two again this season with two of those losses to reigning Division 3 champ and league mate Clinton. Puterbaugh and Goodin are returning all-staters, and Ostrosky earned honorable mention last season. And Clinton isn’t the only strong team the Bulldogs have faced; they also saw and beat a number of larger schools including Canton and Detroit Renaissance.

35-5, No. 3
Coach: George Kanyuh, second season (64-13)
League finish: Rapid River does not play in a league.
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: P sr. Heather Sanderson (.509, 18-3), SS sr. Ashleigh Monticello (.440), 1B soph. Savannah Stenlund (.453).
Outlook: Despite playing for its first championship game berth, this is Rapid River’s third appearance in the Semifinals in four seasons. Three of its losses this spring were to Division 3 Semifinalist Gladstone, and Rapid River beat No. 8 Rogers City on the way to Battle Creek. Seven starters from last season’s team are back.

PHOTO: Swan Valley Heather Pollick charges to catch a line drive during her team's 2011 Semifinal against Milan at Battle Creek's Bailey Park. Pollick and the Vikings are back at Bailey this weekend.

Game May Change, But Success Continues as Wilson Nears 800 Coaching Wins

By Pam Shebest
Special for

April 16, 2024

SOUTH HAVEN — No dugouts, no outfield fences, $25 bats.

Southwest CorridorThings have come a long way since Wilma Wilson took over the coaching reins at her alma mater 35 years ago.

“When I played, we didn’t have fences, we didn’t have dugouts; we had benches,” the South Haven softball coach said. “If you hit a home run, it had to be an in-the-park home run because there were hardly any parks that had any fences.

“It’s come a long way. Now you go to fields that are turfed. I love it. I’m glad to see the change for the girls and to see more emphasis on them playing and being involved.”

With a 792-406 record over her 35 years coaching the Rams softball team, Wilson is closing in on 800 career wins. Her current record puts her 19th among MHSAA coaches and just 15 victories behind former Monroe coach Vince Rossi’s 807 victories.

The Rams are 2-2 on the young season, but started off with a bang — actually three bangs over the right field fence in a one-run squeaker against Paw Paw on March 26.

Although the team has just 11 players, it is stacked with experience. Nine players saw action last season, and the five seniors have three or four years of varsity time.

Those seniors include twins Kamryn and Taylor Holland.

Against Paw Paw, Kamryn hit her first grand slam, a walk-off homer in a 12-11 win.

The Rams enjoy watching Marlee Wilson’s Broncos this season. “I knew it was going to be close as soon as I saw it,” the third baseman said. “I just kept running and started jumping up and down when I saw it go over.”

She was one of the veterans instrumental in the team’s postseason play last year, as South Haven reached its Division 2 District Final before losing 6-2 to Hamilton.

The Rams are focused on a longer run this year.

“A lot of the girls have been on the same team, and we’ve played together the past three years,” Kamryn said. “We know enough about each other and work good together. Everything clicks.”

Her sister, a shortstop/pitcher, agrees she and her teammates already have solid connections and said Wilson is a big reason.

“I love how much she pushes me,” Taylor Holland said. “She’s always there when you need her. She’ll take you aside if you need anything and always wants us to be our best. I just love that about her, because she loves us on and off the field.”

Wilson does more than work on softball with the players.

“(Last week) I sat down with the girls and had a good heart-to-heart, working through frustrations, trying to help kids maneuver through things in life, whether at school, at home, in the game,” she said. 

“That’s a huge part of coaching and what keeps me in it, knowing I can make a difference helping these kids manage life a little bit.”

Continuing the legacy

One of Wilson’s former players who is still very involved in the sport is her daughter, Marlee Wilson, in her first season as Western Michigan University’s head softball coach.

The Broncos won their 20th game of the season Sunday, making Wilson WMU’s winningest first-year softball coach. 

Wilson, right, joins daughter Marlee to form an accomplished mother-daughter coaching tree. “I coached her when she was small, coached her through high school, coached her in travel ball,” Wilma Wilson said. “She’s a very competitive kid, plays really hard. She has that same love for the game that I do, same drive.”

Marlee Wilson said one important thing she learned from her mom was to make softball fun.

“Practices in high school were always really fun,” she remembered. “It was the best part of the day. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way. (I want to) continue that and also develop the student athletes as people.

“There’s not a huge career in softball like there is in baseball and other sports, so you’re going to play four or five years in college then hopefully be prepared for life after sports, which (Mom) did a really good job with me.”

When she has a chance to talk with high school athletes, Marlee Wilson tells them to have fun and learn the basics of the game.

“That’s huge in high school,” she said. “At the college level, we can tell players who went through really good high school programs or travel programs that have those really good fundamentals or softball IQ.

“(Mom) does a really good job of developing players as a whole so when they get to that level, they understand that part of the game.”

Wilson played softball at WMU from 2014-18 and was a three-time academic all-Mid-American Conference honoree, a 2017 MAC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete and a four-time NFCA All-American Scholar.

Sparking like Sparky

Although Wilma Wilson calls him a “co-coach,” Dave Gumpert considers himself her assistant the last 11 years.

“I respect her many years as being a coach,” he said. “We talk things over, but she makes the final decisions.

“It’s been a really good relationship. She bounces things off me, I bounce things off her. It’s been a good run so far.”

Gumpert, who had a seven-year stint as a major league pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, is the one who good-naturedly calls Wilson “Sparky” and not because of her sparkling personality.

Myraql McGee settles in under a fly ball. “She pretty much lets me run practice, and she walks around,” he said, smiling. “I played for (Tigers manager) Sparky Anderson and that’s what he did. He walked around the outfield, just talking to people and doing all the PR stuff while all the other coaches were getting the work done. So I like to tease her.”

Equipment has been another area of change during Wilson’s tenure.

“The equipment has gone crazy from the technology of bats,” she said. “A bat back in the day would be $20, $25. Now they’re $400. 

“If take my school budget and buy balls for the season for both our (varsity and JV) teams and a bat, I’ve used two-thirds of my budget.”

But South Haven is making those bats work. Senior centerfielder Myraql McGee said hitting is among the team’s most noticeable improvements from a year ago.

“Our whole lineup is good power hitters. It doesn’t matter where you are, our lineup is pretty stacked,” said McGee, who will continue her career next season at Missouri Valley College.

“Fielding-wise, we could work on a couple things, but we don’t make as many errors at routine plays as many other teams.”

Other seniors are Sam Beeney and Kayley Gorham, and juniors are Madi Dotson, Grace Strebeck and Molly Verseput. Sophomores are Addison Dekoning and Erin Bos, and they are joined by freshman Ly’Nique Cunningham.

Gumpert was with Wilson when the Rams reached but lost in the Division 2 Final in 2018 and sees some similarities between that and this year’s team.

“Offensively, we had a good team, but I would dare to say this team is as good offensively as that team was,” he said. “It’s going to boil down to how well our pitching does, how well our pitchers progress. If we have the pitching I think we can develop into, I think we’ll be competitive with anybody.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) South Haven softball coach Wilma Wilson, right, welcomes home Kamryn Holland after Holland’s grand slam March 26. (2) The Rams enjoy watching Marlee Wilson’s Western Michigan Broncos this season. (2) Wilson, right, joins daughter Marlee to form an accomplished mother-daughter coaching tree. (4) South Haven senior Myraql McGee settles in under a fly ball. (Top and WMU photos provided by Wilma Wilson, family photo by Pam Shebest, and McGee action photo provided by McGee.)