EAST LANSING — Coming up clutch is nothing new for the South Lyon softball team.
So when the Lions came up big on the sport’s biggest stage Thursday afternoon, it really should have come as no surprise to anyone at Secchia Stadium — least of all to head coach Dan DePaulis.
South Lyon rallied from two runs down, pulling away down the stretch en route to an 8-4 win over Grandville in a Division 1 Semifinal played at Michigan State University.
“Everyone contributed at the plate today,” said DePaulis, whose team will be making its first appearance in a Division 1 championship game. “It was awesome. We’ve come from behind before and played a tough schedule. We’ve been in a lot of tough games and played some tough teams. I think that prepared them. Nothing surprised them today.”
The Lions fell behind twice early. Grandville scored the first two runs of the game in the first inning, courtesy of an RBI double by senior Jamie Vander Meer and an RBI single by senior Kylee Dillard. South Lyon got two right back, one on an RBI single from senior Ella Vitale.
The Bulldogs then retook the lead, 4-2, in the third inning. Senior Maddie Gkekas scored on a wild pitch, with senior Brook Bernt then scoring on an RBI single by Dillard.
That’s the last run Grandville would score. South Lyon put two runs up in the fourth inning to tie the game, the first when Vitale singled in junior Julia Duncan, who crossed ahead of a tag at the plate.
“That’s a huge momentum shift,” Grandville head coach Troy Ungrey said. “I mean, we get that out right there, it’s the third out. It’s 4-2, we still have momentum. We’ve got the top of our lineup coming up.”
The Lions would add another run in the inning on an RBI single by senior Riley Bourlier, scoring Vitale. South Lyon then took a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning, when Duncan’s single scored senior Tierny Donnelley.
“We’ve been doing that all year, just having really good at bats,” DePaulis said. “They’re putting the ball in play, hard ground balls, getting the run in, productive outs. The seniors really stepped up for us today at the bottom of our order. They had some big hits to get us going early.”
Vitale, Madison Seymour and Bourlier combined for three runs, three hits and three RBI in their team’s victory.
“It’s kind of fun, we (seniors) are all like stacked at the bottom together so we can cheer each other on,” Vitale said. “I feel like our whole lineup can get hits. No one end is stronger than the other. One of our sayings is like, ‘Ground balls win softball games.’ When we have a runner on third, we try to hit it hard on the ground so they can score.”
South Lyon scored seven of its eight runs with two outs.
“We had a team meeting the other day, and we talked about how we were doing it with two outs,” said DePaulis, who’s in his seventh year at South Lyon. “Those kids just come up clutch. Nothing phases them. They’re just really battling. At this point in the tournament, it’s more about what you’ve got between the ears than the talent. They really focused, they were mentally tough and they had really good at bats with two outs.”
Sophomore Emily Johnson had a team-high three hits and starting pitcher Ava Bradshaw went the distance, striking out 12 for the Lions (29-6-2), who advanced to Saturday’s Division 2 Final, where they’ll face Allen Park.
Grandville finished the season 36-6.
“We set a school record for wins this year,” Ungrey said. “Grace (Connelly) set a record for wins in the circle. Maddie (Gkekas) set the stolen base record. There are just so many good things to think about, all the way through. We brought up some sophomores at the end. They had a chance to taste this. I think in a couple years we’ve got a real good chance of coming back here.”
Allen Park 9, Farmington Hills Mercy 5
Allen Park played the patience game Thursday in its Division 1 Semifinal game against Farmington Hills Mercy. That’s not always an easy thing to do when your team boasts just one senior on the roster.
But it paid off for the Jaguars, who scored seven runs in the fourth inning to pull away from the Marlins en route to a 9-5 victory that clinched a spot in Saturday’s championship game at Michigan State University.
Junior Madilynn Ramey highlighted the inning with a grand slam, which broke a 1-1 tie and gave her team all the momentum it would need.
“The bases were loaded, and I knew I had to capitalize. I knew I had to come through for my team,” said Ramey, who finished the day 2-for-3 with her home run, a triple and a walk. “We’re the underdogs. We know we have to come out here and prove ourselves.”
Her head coach, Mike Kish, knew it was just a matter of time before his young Jaguars would break through.
“I believed. I absolutely believed,” he said. “We knew we had the talent. If we could just keep it close, long enough for us to take a deep breath and relax. And once we did that, this is what we do.
“(Madilynn) is our leader. She’s our shortstop. She’s our heart and soul. You know she’s going to come through. And sure enough she did.”
Allen Park batted around in the fourth inning. Sophomore Molly Hool singled to right-center to get things going. Junior Riley Kish and junior Autumn Bridges had a double and single, respectively, to load the bases for Ramey — who proceeded to clear them. The Jaguars added two more runs on an RBI double by sophomore Morgan Sizemore and an RBI single by sophomore Mia Hool.
The Hool sisters, along with Ramey and freshman Avery Garden, all finished with two hits. Allen Park (32-10) has a young roster which includes four juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen.
“We knew for a couple years that this talent was coming,” Kish said. “We only had three girls on the team who had played a varsity game before the season had started. We knew our pitchers were young, inexperienced. But we knew the talent was there. It comes out of potential.”
Mercy senior Grace Nieto finished 3-for-4 with four stolen bases for her Marlins, who finished the season 32-5. Senior Maggie Murphy and junior Kendall Spivey each drove in two runs in their team’s loss.
“They went to work with their bats. We knew their bats were coming. We didn’t do enough to mitigate them hitting it,” Mercy head coach Corey Burras said. “It was not a surprise. I thought the score would be 12-11. It wasn’t going to be 2-1. It wasn’t going to be a pitching duel.
“They moved on the ball. We moved on the ball. But they moved on the ball a little bit better than us today.”
PHOTOS: (Top) South Lyon’s Julia Duncan is moments from connecting with a pitch during her team’s Division 1 Semifinal win Thursday. (Middle) An Allen Park runner gets to third base head first as Mercy’s Kendall Spivey gathers the ball for a possible tag.
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.