Standish-Sterling, Whiteford Aces Set for Season-Finale Face-Off

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 16, 2023

EAST LANSING – The final game of the 2023 MHSAA Softball Tournament has the makings of a pitchers’ duel for the ages.

Standish-Sterling senior Devri Jennings and Ottawa Lake Whiteford junior Unity Nelson were equally dominant in Friday evening’s Division 3 Semifinals at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium, setting the stage for a Saturday night showdown.

“Two great pitchers are going to duel tomorrow, that’s for sure,” said fourth-year Whiteford coach Matt VanBrandt. “But at the same time, both teams can hit the ball. So it should be very interesting.”

In the first game, Jennings stymied a Ravenna offense that already had earned several entries in the state’s record book, limiting the Bulldogs to three singles in a 10-1 win.

Nelson was even more impressive in the second D3 Semifinal, keeping her perfect record and minuscule ERA intact with a two-hitter in an 8-0 win over Laingsburg.

Standish-Sterling (37-7) will be shooting for its first softball state championship, while Whiteford (37-4) will be looking for its first since 1987 when they meet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

In addition to outstanding pitching, both teams also got their bats operating late in Friday’s semis.

All eyes are on the next pitch as the Bobcats rally against Laingsburg.Whiteford, which lost in the Division 4 Final last year and hasn’t missed a beat in a larger-school division, gradually pulled away from Laingsburg – scoring three runs in the third inning, three more in the fifth and capping the scoring with two runs in the sixth.

Junior Kaydence Sheldon led the way for the Bobcats, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Patrina Marsh ripped two hits and two RBIs and Karlei Conard also knocked in two runs.

That was more than enough offensive production behind Nelson, who kept her perfect season record intact at 23-0. She also boasts a scant 0.53 ERA and added 11 strikeouts Friday, bringing her season total to 305, which is more than two strikeouts for every inning pitched.

“I definitely came in with my A game today,” said Nelson. “My screwball was my go-to pitch, and I was hitting it on the inside corner.”

Laingsburg (36-7), which had a breakthrough season this spring by winning its first Regional title since 1978, received hits from Ashley Bila and Addyson Buchin. Buchin went the distance and took the loss, allowing just two earned runs.

Whiteford, which knocked off No. 2-ranked Algonac in the Quarterfinals, has won three softball state titles. The Bobcats have finished runner-up four times since the 1987 championship run.

VanBrandt said his players were excited when they learned they would be moving up to D3 this season.

“A lot of our players were excited for the challenge – that’s the way these girls are,” said VanBrandt. “We got to see some new teams, and we stepped up to the challenge.”

Click for the box score.

Standish-Sterling 10, Ravenna 1

Ravenna came into the Semifinals boasting eye-popping offensive numbers, but the Bulldogs bombers met their match in Jennings.

She set the tone from the start, striking out five of the first six batters she faced as her team seized control.

“We have worked so hard since winter, and it feels great to be here and to show everyone what we’ve got,” said Jennings, who tossed a three-hitter with no walks and seven strikeouts to completely shut down the Ravenna machine. She improved her season record to 26-2.

Standish-Sterling’s Devri Jennings winds up during her team’s Semifinal win. Instead, it was the Panthers’ offense which applied steady pressure up and down the batting order to build a 5-0 lead after five innings, then put the game away with five runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Senior Lexi Mielke went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Addi Fetters and Jennings both went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Macy Fegan added two hits, and Sami Kopasz knocked in two runs.

The Panthers (37-7), who knocked off No. 1-ranked Evart during Regionals and then No. 5 Gladstone in the Quarterfinals, were in the Semifinals for the third time in the past four years. They now will play in the softball championship game for the first time in school history.

“We worked really hard on how we were going to pitch those batters,” explained ninth-year Standish-Sterling coach Rich Sullivan. “Devri Jennings was awesome. She hit her spots, and she was able to do what we needed her to do to stop that offense.”

Ravenna (36-6), in the Semifinals for the first time since 2005, scored its lone run in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by senior Emma Gillard, who was the starting pitcher.

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Whiteford's Alyssa VanBrandt cranks a pitch during her team's Semifinal win Friday.(Middle) All eyes are on the next pitch as the Bobcats rally against Laingsburg. (Below) Standish-Sterling’s Devri Jennings winds up during her team’s Semifinal win. (Photos by Adam Sheehan/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Performance of the Week: Jenison's Alli Wright

April 18, 2024

Alli Wright headshotAlli Wright ♦ Jenison
Junior ♦ Softball

The Wildcats’ ace opened her junior season last week with a 2-0 shutout over Cedar Springs, during which she struck out 19 batters and went over 500 for her career. She followed that up with a 12-2 win over Division 2 No. 2 Vicksburg and also has victories over Caledonia and Holland West Ottawa as Jenison has opened 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in Division 1.

Wright earned all-state honorable mention last season for the second time after pitching the Wildcats to the Division 1 Quarterfinals. She quickly set the tone for her high school career as a freshman, setting the program’s single-season strikeout record that spring. She’s also set up for when her Jenison career is done – she’s committed to continue playing softball at Grand Valley State.

@mhsaasports 🥎POW: Alli Wright #softball #jenison #letsgo #strikeout #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports 🥎POW: Alli Wright #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #swedishfish #chickfila #princessandthefrog #dancemoms #pineappleonpizza #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

Follow the MHSAA on TikTok.'s "Performance of the Week" features are powered by MI Student Aid, a division within the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

Past 2023-24 Honorees

April 11: Chloe Wishart, Trenton soccer - Report
March 28:
Jenna Maki, Ishpeming basketball - Report
March 22:
Jaremiah Palmer, Niles Brandywine basketball - Report
March 15:
Leah Hodge, North Farmington gymnastics - Report
March 8:
Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Report
March 1:
Rylee Smith, Zeeland West bowling - Report
Feb. 22:
Caleb Lewandowski, Traverse City West skiing - Report
Feb. 15:
Jadin Mix, Onaway basketball - Report
Feb. 8:
Onalee Wallis, Cadillac skiing - Report
Feb. 1:
Abbey DeGraw, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer - Report
Jan. 25:
Ewan Todd, Riverview swimming - Report
Jan. 18:
Ashley Weller, Jackson Northwest basketball - Report
Jan. 11:
Michael Baldwin, Saginaw Arthur Hill wrestling - Report
Dec. 15:
Jena Fijolek, Fenton bowling - Report
Dec. 8:
Sophia Wagner, Escanaba gymnastics - Report
Dec. 1:
Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24:
Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17:
Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10:
Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27:
Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20:
Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13:
Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5:
Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29:
MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22:
Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15:
Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

(Photos courtesy of the Wright family.)