Unionville-Sebewaing Adds Title 10 in Record-Setting Fashion
By Jason Schmitt
Special for MHSAA.com
June 19, 2021
EAST LANSING — There was a moment early on this season when Unionville-Sebewaing head coach Isaiah Gainforth had some doubts as to just how good his Patriots were going to be.
But all those doubts were erased as his team celebrated its 36th-straight victory in the Division 4 Final against Rudyard. The Patriots’ 14-1 win over the Bulldogs capped off a remarkable season which saw the team break or tie three championship game records Saturday afternoon.
“We started the season 4-3,” Gainforth said after his team captured its second-consecutive state title. “Obviously, you go without the year last year, so you don’t know who your team is, what its makeup is. You didn’t know what you had. It took a while. We weren’t pushing the panic button. We were playing the tough part of our schedule early on.”
Gainforth’s team righted the ship. The offense started hitting the ball, while senior starting pitcher Brynn Polega did her thing to near perfection.
“We just got on a roll. They’re just smart hitters. They understand hitting,” said Gainforth, whose team hit better than .400 for the season. “Considering where we were after game No. 7, up to now, I wouldn’t have guessed that. Once we got into the league and got it going, we just kept adding up the runs.”
USA (40-3) broke the record for hits in a championship game, collecting 20 against the Bulldogs. The previous record was 17, shared by Jenison (Class A, 1988) and Millington (Division 3, 2019). Eight players had multiple hits, including senior Emily Rieman, whose four hits tied a championship game record.
“It was my last game and I was like, ‘Bring it all, or nothing,’” said Rieman, who also scored two runs and drove in three more. “In the beginning (of the season), we were like, ‘Execute, execute, execute. Don’t miss a pitch. If it’s there, you at least have to foul it off.’ Our coaches have been there with us since the beginning, and that’s all we’ve been doing is practicing our hitting.
“I was just feeling everything (today). I couldn’t miss a pitch. I was just feeling it.”
Senior Maci Montgomery and junior Macy Reinhardt both had three hits and seniors Emma Stecker and Olivia Jubar, junior Laci Harris and freshman Gabriella Crumm each added two hits.
Polega, who had two hits herself at the plate, picked up the win in the circle. In the process, she set a championship game record for strikeouts in seven innings, with 19.
“I felt really good,” said Polega, who will play at Northwood University next year. “My warmup, I went to the bullpen and it was probably the best one I’ve had all year. I came out of the bullpen and told the coaches, ‘I’m ready. It’s game time. I’m ready.”
Polega retired the first 10 batters she faced, eight by strikeout. Rudyard senior Desta MacDowell’s one-out walk in the fourth inning broke up Polega’s perfect game. MacDowell would come around and score on an RBI single by sophomore Meagan Postma. But that’s all Rudyard would get.
“Brynn is a stud. Any game she pitches in, any game she will pitch in for Northwood, they’ll have a chance because she’s a gamer, just an absolute beast,” Gainforth said. “I’m so glad she’s wearing the red, white and blue.”
It was the 10th appearance in the championship game for USA, which has now won five titles in Division 4 (2009, 2015-16, 2019, 2021) and two more in Division 3 (2006-07). The 10 Finals appearances are the second-most in MHSAA softball history.
Rudyard proved it is a program on the ascent, having reached the Division 4 championship game this season after capturing the school’s first-ever Regional title in 2018 and following it up with two more Regional championships in 2019 and 2021.
“We’re happy to be here,” Rudyard head coach Stephen Davis said. “We had a great year. We have to look at what we did and enjoy it. It was fun to watch the kids we brought up from the JV get a taste of this. They’ll want to come back. They’ll want to be up on that stage. We’ll use that for motivation for the future.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Unionville-Sebewaing’s Macy Reinhardt takes a cut during her team’s Division 3 championship game win Saturday at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) USA’s Brynn Polega unloads a pitch; she would finish with 19 strikeouts.
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.