Swan Valley Focuses on Finish

June 14, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

BATTLE CREEK — If Saginaw Swan Valley’s softball players were feeling good about themselves for reaching a second straight MHSAA championship game, the warm fuzzies quickly vanished once coach Tom Kennelly was done talking to them.

“You’re better than this!” he yelled during the team’s postgame huddle following a 5-2 Division 2 Semifinal victory over Linden on Friday at Bailey Park. “You’re not satisfied to be down here!”

Later, Kennelly spelled out “D-E-B-A-C-L-E” to describe his team’s temporary meltdown early in the game.

The message was driven home: Swan Valley shouldn’t be content just to be playing on the season’s final day, even with a young team that may get another crack next season.

The Vikings got this far last season, losing 4-0 to Livonia Ladywood in the championship game. They’ve done that on two other occasions since winning their only MHSAA crown in 1986.

“You don’t need great plays, for crying out loud, but you can’t let singles go for doubles and triples,” Kennelly said. “Mr. Sunshine, that’s what they call me.”

After taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, Swan Valley had two outfield errors and a walk that led to two Linden runs in the second.

The damage was minimized when junior pitcher Courtney Reinhold stranded Linden’s Alyssa Logie on third base. Logie reached third with no outs, but Reinhold induced a ground out to drawn-in third baseman Aspin Stack and struck out the next two batters.

“She’s done that in crucial situations,” Kennelly said. “I don’t know how many times she’s stranded people at third with nobody out.”

After that shaky second inning, Reinhold shut down the Eagles over the final five innings. Linden had only three more base runners, none past second base.

“I knew what I did wrong,” Reinhold said. “Pitching a girl on 0-2 something down the middle was obviously not very smart. I just cleaned up my spots and focused on what Paige (Churchfield) called back there.”

Swan Valley was the beneficiary of sloppy play by Linden in a pivotal third inning.

Three walks, two wild pitches and a hit batter led to a three-run outburst by the seventh-ranked Vikings (31-9).

Kelli Halvin and Reegan Flattery scored on wild pitches before Morgan Stadler drove in the final run of the inning with a double.

While Swan Valley is a regular participant in Battle Creek, reaching the MHSAA Semifinals is a rare treat for Linden (31-5). This is only the fourth Linden team in any sport to play in a Semifinal game, and the first girls team since the 1981 volleyball squad. The softball team hadn’t won a Regional before this season.

“It was a goal,” Linden coach Gordon Jamison said. “You always want to have high goals and expectations. I didn’t know we were going to do it. I’ve only been here four years, so it came fairly quick. It was a good group of girls, and they played together a lot.”

Swan Valley will play in the Division 2 final against unranked Tecumseh, a surprising 8-0 winner over second-ranked Ladywood. The title game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Bailey Park.

Tecumseh 8, Livonia Ladywood 0

Senior Emily Maves shut down reigning champion Ladywood (32-10), allowing only four hits and no walks while striking out 10.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Maves said. “I never thought we’d make it this far. I don’t think a lot of people thought we’d make it. We’re the underdogs.”

The Indians (32-5-3) got the only runs they would need on a three-run triple by senior Kylie Hill in the third inning. After taking a 4-0 lead in the fifth, Tecumseh broke open the game when a three-run homer by Kelsey Rendell highlighted a four-run sixth.

“That three-run triple was extremely huge,” Tecumseh coach Jeff Nowak said. “It took a little pressure off of Emily, and the kids kind of cruised from there.”

Click for full box scores.

PHOTOS: (Top) Swan Valley pitcher Courtney Reinhold warms up Friday on the way to beating Linden 5-2. (Middle) Tecumseh second baseman Claire Burnett tosses to first base during her team's Semifinal win over Ladywood. (Click to see more from 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

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MHSAA.com'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 www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid 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.)