Top-Ranked Inland Lakes Sets Bar High
May 4, 2017
By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half
INDIAN RIVER – Rain wiped out a Tuesday doubleheader, but it was not a complete wash for Inland Lakes softball coach Krissi Thompson and her top-ranked Division 4 team.
Thompson learned afterward that the Bulldogs will be honored by the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association for their cumulative 3.83 grade point average, the highest among softball teams in Division 4.
“In the classroom and on the field, these girls are 100 percent dedicated to what they do,” Thompson said. “We have four 4.0 (grade point average) players and others who are really close.
“I can’t say enough about them. They are amazing kids. You don’t get this every day. We know we have something special here. We’re very fortunate.”
Two of the team’s four seniors, Cloe Mallory and Vanessa Wandrie, are among those sporting 4.0 averages.
Mallory, a four-sport athlete until this school year, signed to play softball at Central Michigan University, where she’ll study biomedical sciences.
“It’s hard juggling sports and school, but it (4.0) shows that I put forth the effort and did the best I could,” the all-state pitcher said.
Wandrie, a three-sport athlete, signed to play for Siena Heights, where she’ll major in biology.
“I’ve worked really hard, academically and athletically,” the shortstop said. “It’s cool to see that hard work pay off.”
That type of work ethic is also paying dividends for the team’s two other seniors, second baseman Kimmy Rorick and catcher Pam Braund. Rorick, a 3.9 student, and Braund, a 3.7, will both attend the University of Detroit Mercy in the fall. Rorick will enroll in an advanced program, where she can earn a master’s degree in five years, to become a physician assistant. Braund will enter the pre-dental program. The two will room together.
“We’ll lean on each other for support, just like we have in high school,” Braund said.
Mallory, Wandrie, Rorick and Braund are four-year starters in softball. They are the sparkplugs for the 16-1 Bulldogs, who reached the MHSAA Quarterfinals two years ago and then lost to Unionville-Sebewaing 1-0 in the Division 4 championship game last June.
They would like nothing better than to capture just the second MHSAA team title in school history – and the first in a bracketed sport. The girls track team won it all in 1979.
“That’s our goal – to make history at Inland Lakes,” Wandrie, who turns 18 today, said. “Last year we came so close to winning it all, and we don’t want to let it slip away again.”
Unionville-Sebewaing, which has won five MHSAA Finals titles in Divisions 3 and 4 over the last 11 years, scratched out a run in the sixth inning and Stanford-bound pitcher Nikki Bauer made it stand.
That near miss is motivating the Bulldogs this season.
“It left a bad taste,” said Braund. “We talk about it every day in practice.”
Most of that runner-up squad is back.
“It’s an extremely veteran team,” Thompson said. “Most of the girls play travel ball throughout the summer so they have a lot of game experience.
“Each year we’ve been getting closer and closer. Then, when we got there (MHSAA Finals), it was like ‘Wow.’ But (the outcome) left us hungry for more. We have high goals.”
Through 17 games, Inland Lakes has outscored the opposition 218-16. The Bulldogs are hitting .415 as a team.
“We’re a strong hitting team, but we’re pretty strong defensively, too,” Thompson said. “We’re quite solid on both sides. It’s fun to watch them hit, though. I do enjoy that.”
To prepare for the upcoming MHSAA tournament, Inland Lakes ramped up its schedule. The Bulldogs competed in a tournament at Midland Dow last weekend, finishing 2-1 against Division 1 foes, all of whom are ranked.
Inland Lakes opened with a 2-1 eight-inning win over Clarkston, then rallied from a 4-0 deficit to edge Mount Pleasant 6-5 in nine innings. The Bulldogs fell to White Lake Lakeland 5-2 in the final game.
That tournament helped answer some questions since Inland Lakes has been rolling over its competition in the north. Particularly impressive was the comeback win over Mount Pleasant.
“We’re not used to losing,” Rorick said. “It was neat to see that we continued to play hard when we were down, and that we were able to come back. We never give up. Our coaches make sure of that.”
Thompson, who was a pitcher on the school’s 1999 Semifinal team, is in her 15th season as head coach. But she’s the first to admit it’s “not a one-person show.” Her husband, Nate, has been right there along the way, too. Nancy Wandrie has assisted four years, Dan Mallory three.
“They’re amazing,” Thompson said. “They work so great with the kids. Everybody has a certain job and makes sure everything is taken care of.”
Cloe Mallory leads a talented pitching staff that also includes junior Lindsay Van Daele and freshman Grace Henckel.
Mallory – who has also lettered in volleyball, basketball and track – had a procedure on the patellar tendon in her knee in August. That kept her out of volleyball and most of basketball. She opted not to run track and focus solely on softball this spring.
“It was an overuse injury – the continuous pounding from pitching and all the other sports I did,” Mallory said.
The injury has not set her back on the diamond.
“No, not too much at all,” Thompson said. “She’s been taking precautions.”
Mallory entered the season with a career 0.60 earned run average, striking out nearly 50 percent of the batters she faced. She also hit .495 with 20 home runs over her first three years. She’s added another eight home runs to that total this season. But it was her pitching prowess that caught the eye of Central Michigan coach Margo Jonker.
“Cloe is a pitcher with moxie,” Jonker said in a release on signing day. “She owns the circle when she has the ball in her hand. Her mental and physical skills make her a pitcher that one can be excited about.”
Mallory, 18, has been working with two pitching coaches the past few years – Steve Howard of Grand Rapids and Peter Finn of Midland.
“Once I saw (Howard) I gained five to eight miles-per-hour on my pitch,” Mallory said. “He mostly works with form. That helped me because I was all over the place when I was younger. I had to dial it in. (Finn) has helped me with the mental aspect of the game, the strategy, what pitches to throw and when.”
At Inland Lakes, Mallory is one cog in the machine.
“She’s surrounded by 11 other girls that help contribute to make her that good,” Thompson said.
The coach prefers to talk about team and not individuals.
“We’re family oriented,” she said. “That’s what keeps us humble.”
Her players agree.
“We’re a tight-knit group,” Mallory said. “We’re there for each other day in and day out. That’s what brings us our success.”
“Everybody gets along,” Rorick added. “There’s no team drama.”
“We abide by that (family motto),” Wandrie said. “We know we’ve got each other’s back. We know we can rely on each other. I love this group of girls. We’re like sisters. It’s fun to be with them.”
“There’s a togetherness,” Braund concluded. “Someone makes a mistake, everyone is there to pick them up.”
The four captains have played softball together for nearly 10 years, dating back to Little League. Their squads advanced to the state tournament three times, giving coaches an inkling of what was to come.
“It’s a small school (253 students),” Rorick said. “Everybody knows everybody, but growing up with (the other seniors) it’s really given us a connection and it makes it easier on the field because we know what each other is thinking.”
In addition to the four seniors, the varsity roster consists of four juniors (Van Daele, outfielders Sydney DePauw and Maki Henckel and third baseman Madison Milner), two sophomores (outfielders Precious Delos Santos and Mara Clancy) and two freshmen (Henckel and catcher/infielder Amber Passino).
There’s also 13 underclassmen on JV and a growing legion of players in Little League.
“This team has done huge things for our community,” Thompson said. “Softball has taken off like crazy in our town. There are so many young girls now that want to play softball, that want to be part of it. It’s amazing to see. These girls have sparked something here.”
The players have helped foster that growth by mentoring young girls in the Little League program.
“They look up to us,” Rorick said. “It’s nice to see girls eager to do so well and work so hard. It makes me feel like the program is going to keep going farther after we graduate.”
And that competitive edge? Well, it applies to the classroom, too.
“We keep tabs on each other’s grades,” Braund admitted. “We’re competitive.”
Even with the younger players, Braund added, the upperclassmen “instill the importance of academics.”
So, now that the Bulldogs are atop the polls, they would like to remain there and finish it off with a title.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to who is the better team,” Mallory said, “and we’re working really hard to be that team.”
Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Indian River Inland Lakes' Cloe Mallory unloads a pitch during last season's Division 4 championship game. (Middle) Catcher Pam Braund secures a pop fly against Unionville-Sebewaing.
Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
January 4, 2023
Owosso’s Macy Irelan earned 11 entries in the MHSAA record book over her three-year varsity career that came to a close last spring, most notably with her 1,157 strikeouts despite the 2020 season being canceled due to COVID-19.
Irelan’s career strikeouts were the second-most in the state since the pitching distance was lengthened three feet in 2011. She finished 31-7 last spring with a 1.43 ERA and 414 strikeouts in 229 2/3 innings in earning the Miss Softball Award for pitching.
She also hit .551 with 21 doubles last season, and her 55 career doubles over 117 games and three seasons made that category career list. She’s continuing her career at Kent State.
See below for more recent additions to the softball record book:
Unionville-Sebewaing’s dominating run to the 2021 Division 4 championship was filled with seven record book-worthy highlights, including many near the top of all-time lists. In going 40-3, the Patriots tied their season record for wins for the second time. Their 502 runs scored ranked third all-time, with their 493 hits tied for ninth, their 114 doubles second, their 49 home runs also tied for ninth, their 431 RBI also second and their 503 strikeouts thrown ranking third. Senior Brynn Polega completed her career with 13 record book entries despite her junior season being canceled because of COVID-19; she added listings for 71 runs, 79 hits, a third-best 28 doubles, 11 homers, 70 RBI, four perfect games pitching and 365 strikeouts, among others. Then-junior Laci Harris made lists with 77 runs, 83 hits, 22 doubles, 14 homers and 78 RBI, while then-junior Macy Reinhardt was added for 78 runs and then-freshman Gabriella Crumm was added for 16 doubles. Polega, Harris and Reinhardt also posted entries for single-game accomplishments. Polega is playing at Northwood and Harris at Madonna.
Big Rapids set a school record for wins in 2021 in finishing 34-7, a run which included a number of accomplishments that reached the record book. The Cardinals scored 439 runs – tied for 12th on that list – and also as a team were added for 428 hits, 82 doubles and 363 RBI, which tied for 10th all-time. Marissa Warren made the individual hits list with 71, while Hanna Smith earned an entry with 20 doubles and Rylie Haist followed with 19. Josie Cornell was added with 40 walks drawn. Warren, Smith and Haist were added for single-game accomplishments as well, as was Madison Affer from a 2019 game. Haist, Smith and Cornell are seniors this school year, and Warren is a junior. Smith has signed with Ferris State.
A pair of Bad Axe standouts earned record book entries in 2021 with their work at the plate. Haley Newland made the single-season doubles list with 19, and Brooke Messing was added for seven RBI in a game that saw her hit a grand slam and three-run homer. Newland graduated last spring and Messing is a senior this school year.
Montrose then-freshman Lainey Cannon made two record book lists with her performance April 25 against Montrose. She hit three home runs to make the single-game list in that category, and also made the single-game RBI list with eight.
Capac then-sophomore Madalyn Roberson made the record book three times with her performance May 9 against Brown City. She hit two home runs in back-to-back at bats, both during the fifth inning, and also drove in six runs for the game.
Spring Lake standouts now fill the record book after the addition of 55 individual and 23 team entries dating back to the 2000 season. Among listings ranking highest in their respective categories were Madelyn Nelson’s 81 runs in 2018, which tied for seventh all-time; Nelson’s 250 career runs from 2015-18) that rank seventh and Lauren Hellman’s 249 career runs also from 2015-18 that rank eighth on that list; Nelson’s 84 hits in 2018 that are tied for 12th-most all-time and her 264 career hits that rank 11th, Leah Vaughan’s 26 doubles in 2019 that rank seventh, Evie Lorimer’s 16 triples in 2011 that are tied for eighth and her 37 career triples from 2010-12 that are ranked fourth, Vaughan’s 23 career times being hit by pitch from 2016-19 which rank second, and Lorimer’s 92 stolen bases in 2012 that rank second (with all 92 coming consecutively to tie for fifth on that list) and 183 career steals that rank 11th. As a team, Spring Lake in 2017 ranked seventh all-time with 501 hits over 42 games, fourth with 109 doubles and eighth with 34 triples. The 2018 team ranks 11th with 441 runs scored over 41 games, 10th with 497 hits and tied for ninth with 100 doubles. Valerie Alter, Linsey Paggeot, Jenna Core, Molly Poole, Alicia Mumby, Leah Anton, Ann Marie Galloway and Rachael Adams also earned individual entries. Nelson went on to play at Grand Valley State, Vaughan plays at Aquinas College, Lorimer played at Central Michigan, Alter played at Jacksonville University (Fla.), Poole plays at Cornerstone University and Mumby played at Lansing Community College. Core plays volleyball at Hope College.
Freeland’s offense earned five record book entries during the team’s 26-12 season in 2022, including for 412 runs scored, 442 hits, 78 doubles, 336 RBI and a .400 team batting average. Three individuals also earned entries – sophomore Addie Steffen for a 20-game hitting streak and seven RBI in a game, junior Evelynn Rybicki for six RBI in a game and freshman Brynn Jaime for getting hit by a pitch twice in the same inning.
Chloe Parker hit .604 last spring and made the records with 20 doubles over 33 games for Niles Brandywine. She’s a junior this school year.
A series of record book entries were added for past and present Zeeland West standouts. Carly Sleeman was added for 73 runs, 75 hits, 27 doubles and 12 home runs in 2021 as a sophomore, while Lily Brower was added for 72 runs, 17 triples and 11 homers, plus 38 doubles and 29 triples over a four-year varsity career. Sleeman’s 27 doubles are tied for fifth-most in one season, and Brower’s 17 triples are tied for fourth on that list. Haley Hoogenraad was added for 70 hits and 17 doubles as a junior in 2015, 19 doubles as a senior, and 49 doubles and 24 triples over her four-year career from 2013-16. Kenzie Siersma was added for 17 doubles in 2017 and 54 over her career from 2016-19, while Courtney Sleeman made the season home runs list with 15 in 2015 and Sarah VanValkenburg made the career RBI list with 152 from 2014-17. Emily Brands was added for hitting consecutive home runs in the same inning, May 7 against Reese; she graduated this spring. Hoogenraad went on to play at University of Michigan, Courtney Sleeman played at Western Michigan, Siersma plays at West Virginia Tech, Brower played last season at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and Carly Sleeman has signed with Central Michigan.
PHOTO Owosso’s Macy Irelan unloads a pitch during the 2021 Division 2 Final.