Standish-Sterling Claims 1st Softball Title on Senior's Season-Ending Blast

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 17, 2023

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.

Panthers players pile up after clinching the title. “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.

Devri Jennings begins unwinding toward the plate.“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.”

Click for the box score.

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.)

She's Back: South Lyon Ace Bradshaw Returns for Another Title Pursuit

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

April 11, 2024

SOUTH LYON — Two words likely won’t sit well with a lot of Division 1 softball teams around the state this year. 

Greater DetroitShe’s back. 

Or to play on the words of former Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger after a Sugar Bowl win in 2019, and others who before and since have added dramatics to the phrase: “She’s baaaaaaaaaaaack.”

“She” is South Lyon senior pitcher Ava Bradshaw. And if anyone who follows high school softball in the state happened to forget that name, let’s do a little refresher. 

Back in 2021, Bradshaw burst onto the scene in her first year of high school and played like a freshman …. in college. 

Bradshaw was a dominant two-way force both pitching and hitting, so much so that behind her, South Lyon won its first MHSAA Finals title, in Division 1. 

In the championship game against Allen Park, Bradshaw threw a three-hit shutout, striking out nine and walking one in a 5-0 South Lyon victory. She also had two RBI.

“I didn’t realize how crazy what we did was,” Bradshaw said. “We really did make that run.” 

Bradshaw was even better as a sophomore and seemed destined to lead South Lyon to a repeat. 

However, a first inning against Mattawan during which everything that could go wrong seemingly did started a 3-1 Quarterfinal loss that stunningly ended those 2022 aspirations. 

But hey, no problem. Bradshaw had two more years to win another championship, right? 

Bradshaw, middle, celebrates with teammates after they won the 2021 Division 1 championship at Secchia Stadium.Then came the summer prior to her junior year, when Bradshaw suffered a torn ACL during her travel ball season. She was hoping to come back at some point last year as a junior, but understandably didn’t want to push anything too hard, especially since by that point she had committed to play in college for Duke. 

This year, it would have been understandable if Bradshaw would have just wanted to sit out her senior year, enjoy the countdown to graduation and simply gear up for the next chapter. 

But Bradshaw was having none of that.

“In high school ball, every day I’m practicing and I’m playing with my friends, playing for my town and for my school,” she said. “That’s an honor, and I have so much fun. I couldn’t imagine not playing my senior year. That would be so sad. When I look back on my high school experience, some of the biggest memories I have come from softball. I couldn’t imagine not finishing what I started.” 

So Bradshaw is indeed back and not only fully healthy, but stronger and hungrier than she ever has been during her high school career. 

Bradshaw said going through rehabilitation for her injury last year has made her better physically. 

“I was forced to do certain movements and exercises that I never would have done had I not been forced to go to (physical therapy),” she said. “I became a more well-rounded athlete. I improved flexibility and mobility.” 

In her first game this season, Bradshaw struck 12 of the 15 batters she faced and went 4-for-4 at the plate. 

“We just plugged her right in,” South Lyon head coach Dave Langlois said. 

Not having Bradshaw last year actually could end up making South Lyon even better this year. 

“I think we were the only ones to score a run on the state champs, Hartland, in our Regional,” Langlois said. “We were one hit away with a young, inexperienced team for the most part. Those kids got to get experience in crucial times (without Bradshaw) when they may not have gotten (it).”

South Lyon probably still would’ve been formidable if Bradshaw decided not to play this year. But adding her back to a talented roster of underclassmen who are a year older and better?

It’s no wonder why “she’s back” might be the most terrifying two words for softball teams not named South Lyon this spring. 

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) South Lyon’s Ava Bradshaw makes her move toward the plate during a game against Flat Rock this spring. (Middle) Bradshaw, middle, celebrates with teammates after they won the 2021 Division 1 championship at Secchia Stadium. (Top photo by Conner Lipke; middle photo by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)