Trenton, Lakeshore Emerge with 1-Run Semifinal Wins, Advance to Saturday

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 16, 2022

EAST LANSING – Trenton and Essexville Garber are not used to making long runs in softball.

In fact, most of the players on both teams weren’t even born the last time their schools reached the Softball Semifinals.

The newcomers put on a show Thursday on the state’s biggest stage, with Trenton holding off Garber, 2-1, in a classic pitcher’s duel at sunny, windswept Secchia Stadium.

“We just told them to believe,” said third-year Trenton coach Rick Tanguay. “Believe it’s going to happen and believe you’re going to put the ball in play. I’ve had a lot of these kids since they were 9 or 10 years old, and I’m proud of them.”

Trenton (34-10), which lost in the Division 2 Final in 2005 and had not been back to the Semifinals before this season, will play perennial power Stevensville Lakeshore in Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. championship game. Lakeshore defeated Escanaba, 2-1, in Thursday’s last Semifinal.

The Trojans had to come from behind to advance, after Garber jumped out to a 1-0 lead during the first inning.

Kortney Kotenko, a junior catcher, belted an RBI double to bring the big crowd from Essexville to its feet. The Dukes previously lost in the Class B Final in 1997, but hadn’t been back to the state’s Final Four until Thursday.

Garber would keep that 1-0 lead until the fifth inning, as junior pitcher Sarah Basket kept the Trojans off-balance.

Trenton finally broke through by manufacturing single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Pinch-runner Jordyn Emery scored on a fielding error in the fifth, then sophomore shortstop London Williams singled to left in the sixth inning to score Maddie Dobbs.

Those two runs would prove to be just enough as Trenton senior pitcher Aila Johnson turned back Garber’s last-chance, seventh-inning rally.

The Dukes put the pressure on, as Basket singled and then Jacqueline Brinkman was hit by a pitch. After a double steal, Garber had runners on second and third with two outs, before Johnson was able to shut the door with a strikeout.

“I have to be confident out there for my team, but that last inning was rough,” Johnson said with a smile. “I was trying to hide it, but I was nervous out there.”

Johnson may have been battling nerves on the inside, but it didn’t show in her stellar performance. The Siena Heights commit finished with just four strikeouts, but she kept the Dukes guessing for most of the game and allowed just four hits and one walk.

Tanguay said it was a classic performance by the battery of Johnson and her senior catcher, Olivia Hickman, who are two of just four seniors on the Trojans’ 16-player roster.

“Aila doesn’t get a lot of love; she doesn’t get a lot of press,” said Tanguay. “She’s not one of the top 10 (ranked) pitchers in the state, but she comes out and she’s a workhorse and she does it.”

Matching her every pitch along the way was Basket, a junior, who finished with a five-hitter, no walks, one earned run and nine strikeouts.

Garber (35-9) is an even younger team than Trenton, with just three seniors on the 16-player roster. The Dukes relied on their stellar junior class to pull out several come-from-behind victories in Districts and Regionals en route to MSU.

“You know, this is the first time we’ve been this far in 25 years – and 25 is a long time,” said second-year Garber coach Chris Kokaly. “Losing by one run is hard because you think about all of the opportunities we had where we just needed a key hit. We’ve been getting those hits all season and today, it just didn’t happen.”

Click for the full box score.

Stevensville Lakeshore 2, Escanaba 1

Lakeshore advanced to the championship game despite having just two hits in the Semifinal, both of them singles.

The Lancers (39-4) played small ball and took advantage of Escanaba miscues to manufacture single runs in the first inning and the sixth inning, and that proved to be just enough.

Lakeshore/Escanaba softball“The girls believe in their pitchers and their defense,” said 43rd-year Lakeshore coach Denny Dock, who ranks third in state softball history with 1,055 victories. “If we could get our bats out of the deep freeze, we’d be pretty good.”

Lakeshore’s pitching combination of junior Ava Mullen and sophomore Avery Atwood was outstanding, combining on a three-hitter.

Mullen set the tone by getting the first five outs of the game by strikeout. She kept cruising until the top of the sixth inning, when Escanaba used a walk and a solid single to right field by senior Lizzy Silva to tie the game, 1-1. After McKayla Mott singled, Dock decided to make a pitching change – bringing in Atwood with two runners on and two outs.

To say the decision turned out good is an understatement.

Atwood got the next hitter to pop out to the catcher on her first pitch, then struck out the side in the top of the seventh to get the win.

“I knew that Avery would do great, and she did,” said Mullen, who finished with 10 strikeouts. “I’m super proud of this team. We’ve worked on our attitudes and staying positive, and I really think that was a big reason why we won today.”

Gianna Kerschbaum and Gabby Solloway had the lone hits for Lakeshore, which has scored just five runs over its last three games – all wins – including a 2-1 victory over Wayland in the Regional Final and a 1-0 win over Jackson Northwest in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal.

Dock, also the longtime football coach at Lakeshore, has led Lancers softball to seven Finals championships, the most recent in 2015. Lakeshore finished runner-up in Division 2 in 2019.

Escanaba (30-6), which won Division 2 titles in 2018 and 2019 and made the Semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons, was out of sorts from the start Thursday. Mott relieved the starting pitcher after two walks and a wild pitch and threw most of the game, before freshman Grayson LaMarche relieved her in the fifth inning and took the loss.

“When two great teams play it comes down to a couple of plays, and that’s what happened today,” said second-year Escanaba coach Andy Fields. “Overall, this season was a phenomenal ride.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Trenton’s Jordyn Emery scores her team’s first run in the fifth inning Thursday. (Middle) A Lakeshore runner gets across the plate just before the tag by Escanaba’s Carney Salo.

Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.