Swierkos Dominates, Hartland Celebrates Decisive Title Clincher

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

June 17, 2023

EAST LANSING – Hartland senior pitcher Kylie Swierkos entered this weekend as one of the finalists for the state’s Miss Softball Award.

After the dominating, two-game performance she delivered at Michigan State University’s Secchia Stadium, she might have secured the prestigious honor – but that was the furthest thing from her mind Saturday afternoon.

“All I care about is that we won this for our school,” said Swierkos, who tossed her second consecutive four-hitter to lead Hartland to a 9-1 victory over Brownstown Woodhaven in the Division 1 Final.

“We have such a close group of girls; it’s not just me. Now I hope the younger girls take this and keep going with it.”

The Eagles huddle in the pitching circle during the Division 1 Final.Swierkos, who improved to 23-1 on the season with a 0.81 ERA, shut out Lake Orion in Thursday’s Semifinal and came within two outs of another shutout Saturday before Woodhaven scored its only run in the top of the seventh inning.

Swierkos, who has committed to pitch at Grand Valley State University, struck out 13 batters on Saturday (20 for the weekend) and didn’t walk a single batter in either game.

“We know Kylie is going to do her job,” said fifth-year Hartland coach Taylor Wagner, who led the school to its first Softball Finals title since winning Class A in 1996. “Then we just have to bat a little bit behind her, and we did that all the way through the order, from one to nine.”

Hartland, 35-4-1, delivered nine hits, with two apiece from Abby Gardner, Kate McIntyre and Reese Dunny.

Senior Riley Phillips smacked a two-run triple for the second consecutive game, this one coming in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Sadie Malik also had two RBIs, including a run-scoring single as Hartland put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“I could not have asked for a more perfect ending to my senior year,” said Gardner, one of four seniors on the Hartland roster, along with Faith DeLanoy, Phillips and Swierkos.

The nine runs were more than enough offense for Swierkos, who pitched eight consecutive innings of perfect ball – starting with the fourth inning Thursday through the fourth inning Saturday, when the Warriors managed the first of their four hits.

A Hartland hitter drives the ball. Woodhaven, 35-5 and playing in its first Final, scored its only run in the top of the seventh inning after a leadoff double by Grace Walker.

The Warriors struggled to figure out Swierkos, then hurt themselves with three costly errors.

“We definitely put Woodhaven softball on the map, and we will be back,” said second-year coach Ken Kroll. “It was atypical of us to make those errors. But we just didn’t put enough hits together. When we did start to get something going, we got shut down.”

Grace Usher, a junior, allowed nine hits and struck out six over six innings. She finished the season 18-4 with a 1.40 ERA. Alaina Craig had her team’s lone RBI.

Just before her team took the podium to accept the championship trophy, Wagner was asked for two words to describe her feelings after guiding her team to its first Finals title in 27 years. Hartland also had finished Division 1 runner-up in 2018.

She answered with just one:

“Blessed,” said Wagner, who was assisted by Lindsay Brandon. “I am blessed to go through this with these girls and to be a small part of it.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Hartland’s Kylie Swierkos (27) leaps into the arms of catcher Sadie Malik on Saturday. (Middle) The Eagles huddle in the pitching circle during the Division 1 Final. (Below) A Hartland hitter drives the ball. (Photos by Olivia Napier/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

May 7, 2024

Bill and Julia Turner have not only put in a lot of miles on the road, but they’ve also put a lot of miles in on the softball field.

Greater DetroitBefore Olivia Turner was hitting the cover off the ball and becoming Michigan’s career RBI leader for the Grass Lake softball team, Bill and Julia were taking her to the field for batting practice.

“I always wanted to go to the field, and my dad would take me and my mom would shag balls in the outfield,” Olivia said. “They’ve spent countless hours, especially traveling around the country. They’ve been my biggest support system. They are awesome.”

Her Warriors teammates are grateful, too. Last week Turner became Michigan’s all-time leader in runs batted in, surpassing Taylor Light & Life Christian’s Kelly Kennedy, who held the record with 304 RBIs from 1991-94.

“It was crazy to think I beat a 30-year-old record,” Turner said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I’m just super thankful.”

Having her name on the state record book for softball is nothing new to Turner. She barely missed the state mark for RBIs in a season last year when she had 102 and is the state’s all-time career doubles leader already.

Grass Lake head coach Roger Cook said Turner never talks about hitting home runs or driving in runs – just about being a teammate.

“I’m going to tell you, she’s one of the most modest people you’ll ever talk to,” Cook said. “She just talks team, team, team. She always has since I’ve known her. She has never said one thing about a home run or a base hit.”

Turner, who plays third base, has been around the Grass Lake program for a long time. When her sister Madeline was playing for the Warriors before heading off to play at Findlay University in Ohio, Olivia would tag along.

“I just wanted to be at the field, be around softball,” she said.

Turner first picked up the game when she was on an 8-and-under team.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records.She started as a pitcher, but quickly converted to infielder, where she has played with Grass Lake and various travel teams. She also plays volleyball and basketball for Grass Lake, but softball is her sport.

“We’re all one family,” she said. “I love that you get to play with girls that you may not be friends with at school. It shows you who you are. Softball gives you a lot of life lessons – dedication, teamwork, how to work with others.”

She loves to hit, too.

“Every at-bat, even if there is no one on base, I want to get on base,” she said. “I’m always going up to the plate doing it for my team, not for myself. The RBIs are pretty cool. My team gets on base for me. All of the girls are phenomenal.”

Cook said he sometimes gets worried that opponents will just pitch around Turner. But because of who is in the lineup in front of and behind her, he doesn’t have to worry about that.

“We have Rylee Fitzpatrick, Emily Brown, then Olivia,” Cook said. “After Olivia we have (junior) Bree Salts, who has committed to Central Michigan. It’s hard to pitch around her. When we get to some of these big games, teams will have to throw to her.”

Last year’s Division 3 runner-up Ottawa Lake Whiteford has faced Grass Lake multiple times over the past couple of seasons, and coach Matt VanBrandt is plenty familiar with the damage Turner can do.

"You'd better have a plan when you are pitching to her,” VanBrandt said. “She’s a dangerous hitter. She’s someone you need to think about before the game starts.”

Turner hit .714 last season with 30 doubles and those 102 runs batted in. For her career, she’s belted 48 home runs and knocked in 309 runs after Saturday’s tournament. She’s never hit below .535 for a season and is nearing 100 career doubles.

Grass Lake currently is 22-1 and leading the Cascades Conference.

“It’s crazy to think I am actually a senior now,” Turner said. “Now that it is my senior year, I just want to work hard and play for my team. We’ve had great seniors the last couple of years. It’s crazy to think this is my last season.”

Turner will attend Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. She chose Bradley because of its nursing program.

“Academics has always been first for me,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus. It’s not too big or too small. The staff there is great.”

Before taking her swing to college, Grass Lake wants to make a deep tournament run this season. And the more games the Warriors play, the more RBIs Turner is likely to add to her record.

“Olivia has one of the smoothest, most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen,” Cook said. “She’s one of the girls you want up there at bat with the game on the line. She can do it all. If you need a single, she’ll get you a single. If you need a walk-off, she can do that, too.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Grass Lake’s Olivia Turner focuses on a pitch coming her way. (Middle) Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records. (Photos courtesy of Pictures by Marisa and the Grass Lake softball program.)