Unbeaten Spring Lake Eyes Perfect Finish

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

June 7, 2018

It didn’t matter if it was driving rain, scorching heat, prom day, snowflakes, seven-game weeks, high winds, AP testing time or even a high-stakes showdown with archrival Grand Haven in the annual “Battle of the Bridge” at the end of May.

This Spring Lake girls softball team found a way to win – every game, 38 in a row and counting, to be exact.

Spring Lake coach Bill Core says that incredible consistency is what sets this team apart from any other in his 29 years at the helm.

“This is the most incredibly focused team I’ve ever had,” said Core, who hit the lofty 600-win mark for his coaching career last month. “They pay attention to detail. I think they’re on a mission.”

No. 2-ranked Spring Lake (38-0) puts its perfect season on the line against No. 6 Wayland in Saturday’s 11 a.m. opener in the MHSAA Division 2 Regional Tournament at Hope College in Holland.

The winner of that showdown will face the Comstock Park vs. Holland Christian winner in Saturday’s 3 p.m. Regional championship game.

The Lakers are led by junior ace Leah Vaughan, who sports a perfect 26-0 record, with a miniscule 0.83 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 152 innings pitched. Vaughan was sharp in Saturday’s competitive home District, striking out 10 in a 7-2 victory over neighboring rival Fruitport and then whiffing nine in a 7-1 win over Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue foe Allendale.

While Vaughan is expected to carry the load the rest of the way, Spring Lake also has a solid No. 2 pitcher in senior Lauren Somers, who has a 12-0 record and 2.41 ERA in 61 innings pitched.

On the offensive side, Spring Lake puts pressure on opponents with hitting threats throughout the lineup.

Madelyn Nelson, a senior shortstop, leads the team with a gaudy .636 batting average, 82 hits and 33 stolen bases in 33 attempts. While she certainly has college-level softball skills, Nelson will play golf at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Nelson was part of three straight Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship golf teams for Spring Lake from 2014 to 2016.

Vaughan also does her part at the plate, batting .532 with a team-high 63 RBI. Other top hitters are a pair of senior returning all-staters in second baseman Linsey Paggeot (.484 with 57 RBI) and centerfielder Lauren Hellman (.477 with 17 stolen bases in 18 attempts).

The biggest long-ball threat is junior outfielder Jenna Core, the oldest of Coach Core’s three children (and only girl), who has 10 home runs and 45 RBI. She already holds the school record with 24 home runs over her three-year varsity career, with one more season to go. Core and his wife, Tracy, also have two boys coming up in the Spring Lake system – Jackson, in 8th grade, and Jaden, 5th grade.

“Our lineup from 1 to 9 is pretty solid,” said the 55-year-old Bill Core. “That allows us to have more big innings. If you have a few good batters, you might score two or three runs, but we can keep it rolling and score six or seven.”

Spring Lake has had plenty of big innings this year, outscoring its opponents by a 424-54 margin.

The other starters for the team include junior catcher and No. 5 batter Molly Poole (.358 with 43 RBI), freshman third baseman Alicia Mumby (.410 with three home runs) and senior outfielder Kileah Rymal (.308).

At the “core” of the Lakers’ softball success is Coach Core, the oldest of four boys who grew up in a sports-crazy family in the sports-crazy town of Traverse City.

Core, now 55, played quarterback for legendary Traverse City coach Jim Ooley and was the first starting quarterback for the West team in the inaugural East-West Michigan High School All-Star Football Game in 1981.

He went on to play one year of football and four years of basketball and baseball at Alma College.

Core, who is assisted by Sarah Bulthuis and Kolbey Nelson, has turned Spring Lake into a regional power in both boys basketball and softball. Now that those programs have stocked several trophy cases with conference, District and Regional hardware, the new goal is to take the next step and get the Lakers to the “Final Four” at Michigan State University.

The Lakers’ basketball team came tantalizingly close in 2017, losing a 46-44 heartbreaker to Benton Harbor in the Class B Quarterfinals. The softball team, which has now won four consecutive District championships and 12 of the past 16 conference titles, broke through last spring with the school’s first-ever Regional championship. Spring Lake’s run was then ended in the Quarterfinals by Stevensville-Lakeshore, 6-1.

If the Lakers are able to win two more games Saturday and improve to 40-0, there is a good chance they could get a Quarterfinal rematch back at Hope College on June 12 with top-ranked Stevensville-Lakeshore.

Core said that season-ending loss last June has motivated this year’s team every day.

“We returned eight starters from last year’s team, so they know how to win and they also learned what they need to do better,” explained Core. “This is the real test now. Now we’ll be in those 2-1 and 3-2 games and, hopefully, that experience will pay off for us.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at kendra.tom@gmail.com with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Spring Lake coach Bill Core huddles with his team during a game this season. (Middle) Pitcher Leah Vaughan begins her approach toward the plate. (Photos courtesy of the Spring Lake softball program.)

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:

Softball

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.