EAST LANSING – If Saturday’s MHSAA Division 3 Final was a boxing match, Ottawa Lake Whiteford would have won on points.
But it was a softball game, and it was Standish-Sterling senior Macey Fegan who delivered the knockout punch – a double over the left fielder’s head in the bottom of the seventh inning to score classmate Lexi Mielke from first base with the only run in an epic, walk-off, 1-0 victory over shell-shocked Ottawa Lake Whiteford.
“My pitch is a ball up in the zone,” said Fegan, one of three seniors for the Panthers, who went out with the school’s first softball state championship.
“She threw one up in the zone, and I sent it.”
Fegan sent it to the left field wall, allowing Mielke – who led off the inning and reached first base by getting hit by a pitch – to turn on the jets and round the bases as seemingly the entire town of Standish went crazy in the Secchia Stadium bleachers.
“Once I saw it got back to the wall, I just started running as fast as I could,” said Mielke, the team’s leading hitter with a .562 batting average. “Then I rounded third and saw Coach (Rich Sullivan) waving his arms, and I knew I had to get home.”
Mielke made it home, then was quickly mobbed by teammates in front of home plate, a historical moment for unheralded Standish-Sterling, which knocked off – among others – No. 1 Evart (Regionals) and No. 5 Gladstone (Quarterfinals) en route to the championship.
“I knew this was a special team and potentially a historic team,” said Sullivan, who finished up his ninth season. “They are the scrappiest group I’ve ever had. That dugout kept getting louder and louder as the game went on, with more and more energy, even though they were striking us out a lot.”
Certainly, it was Whiteford that had all of the scoring chances over the first six innings – with five hits and seven runners left on base through six, compared to one hit and one left on base for Standish-Sterling.
Whiteford junior ace Unity Nelson, who threw a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the Semifinal win over Laingsburg, was mowing down the Panthers (38-7) in the same fashion, with 12 strikeouts through six innings.
But it was a classic pitchers’ duel as Standish-Sterling senior Devri Jennings wasn’t blinking. Jennings allowed five hits (all singles) and two walks in seven innings, but repeatedly pitched her way out of jams.
“We had chances throughout the game,” said fourth-year Whiteford coach Matt VanBrandt, whose daughter, Alyssa, was the team’s senior shortstop. “We didn’t get our bunts down, and that hurt us. We had a lot of baserunners, but we just couldn’t push that run across.”
Whiteford (38-5), which also finished runner-up last year in Division 4, was led by Alyssa VanBrandt with two hits.
Despite getting absolutely nothing going for the first six innings, the Panthers entered the seventh with confidence and the top of the order at the plate.
After Mielke reached base on the uncharacteristic hit-by-pitch from Nelson, Fegan entered the box with a good feeling.
“I had made contact my first two at-bats (a fly out and ground out),” explained Fegan, a 5-foot-10 centerfielder who leads the team with 61 RBIs. “I knew I could make contact, and I wasn’t scared.
“Once I saw it go to the wall and Lexi coming around to score, I couldn’t wait to get in the middle of the dogpile with everyone else.”
Fegan, a Division I basketball commit to the University of Toledo, who is actually leaving for Toledo on Sunday, said she couldn’t have scripted a better ending to her high school sports career.
“It’s going to be replaying in my head tonight, that’s for sure,” said Fegan, a two-time basketball all-stater who finished her career with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
“It was perfect. You don’t want to win 10-0; that’s no fun. Winning 1-0 in a walk-off, now that’s where it’s at.”
PHOTOS (Top) Standish-Sterling’s Macy Fegan (23) stands in for a pitch during Saturday’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Panthers players pile up after clinching the title. (Below) Devri Jennings begins unwinding toward the plate. (Photos by Olivia Napier/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
Join Kara Liles as we take a look at all of the action from the 2023 Softball State Finals Congratulations to our State Champions :
Division 1 - Hartland
Division 2 - Gaylord
Division 3 - Standish-Sterling
Division 4 - Unionville-Sebewaing