Unionville-Sebewaing's Dominance on Diamond Continues with 3rd-Straight Title

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

June 18, 2022

EAST LANSING – Macy Reinhardt made the most of her final at-bat in a Unionville-Sebewaing uniform.

The senior standout helped create breathing room late in Saturday’s Division 4 Final en route to her team’s 4-1 win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford at Secchia Stadium.

Reinhardt launched a shot to the top of the wall on a 3-2 pitch in the sixth inning to drive in a pair of runs and extend the Patriots’ advantage.

“I knew it was probably going to be the last at-bat of my career, so I put a lot of heart and soul into it,” Reinhardt said. “‘I’m just glad I could pull it together for my team. Honestly, this never gets old and it’s special to win another one to end my high school career.”

The Patriots continued their dominance in Division 4 and won their fifth Finals championship over the last seven years.

The title also was their third in a row.

USA coach Isaiah Gainforth felt like his team’s experience played a major role in the victory.

“If you get down here for the last weekend, it’s anyone’s tournament and we have experience,” he said. “That’s the one thing we have going for us, and I thought we used that to our advantage a little bit.

“This isn't just a three-month sport at our school. It’s all year, and they’re committed. When you're driven to win a championship, they'll do anything if they trust you – and our girls trust us.”

After three scoreless innings, the Patriots capitalized on a two-out throwing error by the Bobcats in the fourth inning. USA scored twice on the play to go ahead 2-0.

The narrow margin remained that way until Reinhardt’s clutch hit doubled the lead.

“Reinhardt getting those two insurance runs in the sixth inning was huge, just huge for us,” Gainforth said. “And once you go up four going into the last two innings you feel good, but always prepare for them to get a hit so you try to stay a step ahead.”

Senior pitcher Laci Harris pitched well for the second-straight day. She struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter.

Unionville-Sebewaing/Whiteford softball

“This means a lot to me because the seniors are leaving history at our school by winning three in a row,” Harris said. “I wanted to win this last one as a senior, and Macy helped me a lot today. That was good for her, and I was happy for her because this was her last softball game.”

The Bobcats answered in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Junior Patrina Marsh doubled and sophomore Unity Nelson singled her in to trim the deficit to 4-1.

Whiteford had the game-tying run at the plate in its last at-bat, but Harris got a flyout to left to end the game.

The Bobcats were hoping to win their first Finals championship since 1987, but couldn’t break through despite out-hitting the Patriots 9-5. 

“Two best teams in the state, without a doubt, and I felt like we were putting the ball in play and hitting it hard,” Whiteford coach Matt VanBrandt said. “To make it this far, you have to be really good. It takes a lot of talent and you just need a pinch of luck sometimes, too, and we just didn’t have it today.

“The girls fought hard all the way to the last out, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Marsh, Alyssa VanBrandt and Kaydence Sheldon each had two hits to lead Whiteford, while Nelson fanned 11.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) The Unionville-Sebewaing softball team piles onto the field after the final out of Saturday’s Division 4 championship game at Secchia Stadium. (Middle) Whiteford catcher Kaydence Sheldon watches play unfold as USA’s Jenna Gremel crosses the plate.

Game May Change, But Success Continues as Wilson Nears 800 Coaching Wins

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

April 16, 2024

SOUTH HAVEN — No dugouts, no outfield fences, $25 bats.

Southwest CorridorThings have come a long way since Wilma Wilson took over the coaching reins at her alma mater 35 years ago.

“When I played, we didn’t have fences, we didn’t have dugouts; we had benches,” the South Haven softball coach said. “If you hit a home run, it had to be an in-the-park home run because there were hardly any parks that had any fences.

“It’s come a long way. Now you go to fields that are turfed. I love it. I’m glad to see the change for the girls and to see more emphasis on them playing and being involved.”

With a 791-406 record over her 35 years coaching the Rams softball team, Wilson is closing in on 800 career wins. Her current record puts her 19th among MHSAA coaches and just 16 victories behind former Monroe coach Vince Rossi’s 807 victories.

The Rams are 2-2 on the young season, but started off with a bang — actually three bangs over the right field fence in a one-run squeaker against Paw Paw on March 26.

Although the team has just 11 players, it is stacked with experience. Nine players saw action last season, and the five seniors have three or four years of varsity time.

Those seniors include twins Kamryn and Taylor Holland.

Against Paw Paw, Kamryn hit her first grand slam, a walk-off homer in a 12-11 win.

The Rams enjoy watching Marlee Wilson’s Broncos this season. “I knew it was going to be close as soon as I saw it,” the third baseman said. “I just kept running and started jumping up and down when I saw it go over.”

She was one of the veterans instrumental in the team’s postseason play last year, as South Haven reached its Division 2 District Final before losing 6-2 to Hamilton.

The Rams are focused on a longer run this year.

“A lot of the girls have been on the same team, and we’ve played together the past three years,” Kamryn said. “We know enough about each other and work good together. Everything clicks.”

Her sister, a shortstop/pitcher, agrees she and her teammates already have solid connections and said Wilson is a big reason.

“I love how much she pushes me,” Taylor Holland said. “She’s always there when you need her. She’ll take you aside if you need anything and always wants us to be our best. I just love that about her, because she loves us on and off the field.”

Wilson does more than work on softball with the players.

“(Last week) I sat down with the girls and had a good heart-to-heart, working through frustrations, trying to help kids maneuver through things in life, whether at school, at home, in the game,” she said. 

“That’s a huge part of coaching and what keeps me in it, knowing I can make a difference helping these kids manage life a little bit.”

Continuing the legacy

One of Wilson’s former players who is still very involved in the sport is her daughter, Marlee Wilson, in her first season as Western Michigan University’s head softball coach.

The Broncos won their 20th game of the season Sunday, making Wilson WMU’s winningest first-year softball coach. 

Wilson, right, joins daughter Marlee to form an accomplished mother-daughter coaching tree. “I coached her when she was small, coached her through high school, coached her in travel ball,” Wilma Wilson said. “She’s a very competitive kid, plays really hard. She has that same love for the game that I do, same drive.”

Marlee Wilson said one important thing she learned from her mom was to make softball fun.

“Practices in high school were always really fun,” she remembered. “It was the best part of the day. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way. (I want to) continue that and also develop the student athletes as people.

“There’s not a huge career in softball like there is in baseball and other sports, so you’re going to play four or five years in college then hopefully be prepared for life after sports, which (Mom) did a really good job with me.”

When she has a chance to talk with high school athletes, Marlee Wilson tells them to have fun and learn the basics of the game.

“That’s huge in high school,” she said. “At the college level, we can tell players who went through really good high school programs or travel programs that have those really good fundamentals or softball IQ.

“(Mom) does a really good job of developing players as a whole so when they get to that level, they understand that part of the game.”

Wilson played softball at WMU from 2014-18 and was a three-time academic all-Mid-American Conference honoree, a 2017 MAC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete and a four-time NFCA All-American Scholar.

Sparking like Sparky

Although Wilma Wilson calls him a “co-coach,” Dave Gumpert considers himself her assistant the last 11 years.

“I respect her many years as being a coach,” he said. “We talk things over, but she makes the final decisions.

“It’s been a really good relationship. She bounces things off me, I bounce things off her. It’s been a good run so far.”

Gumpert, who had a seven-year stint as a major league pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, is the one who good-naturedly calls Wilson “Sparky” and not because of her sparkling personality.

Myraql McGee settles in under a fly ball. “She pretty much lets me run practice, and she walks around,” he said, smiling. “I played for (Tigers manager) Sparky Anderson and that’s what he did. He walked around the outfield, just talking to people and doing all the PR stuff while all the other coaches were getting the work done. So I like to tease her.”

Equipment has been another area of change during Wilson’s tenure.

“The equipment has gone crazy from the technology of bats,” she said. “A bat back in the day would be $20, $25. Now they’re $400. 

“If take my school budget and buy balls for the season for both our (varsity and JV) teams and a bat, I’ve used two-thirds of my budget.”

But South Haven is making those bats work. Senior centerfielder Myraql McGee said hitting is among the team’s most noticeable improvements from a year ago.

“Our whole lineup is good power hitters. It doesn’t matter where you are, our lineup is pretty stacked,” said McGee, who will continue her career next season at Missouri Valley College.

“Fielding-wise, we could work on a couple things, but we don’t make as many errors at routine plays as many other teams.”

Other seniors are Sam Beeney and Kayley Gorham, and juniors are Madi Dotson, Grace Strebeck and Molly Verseput. Sophomores are Addison Dekoning and Erin Bos, and they are joined by freshman Ly’Nique Cunningham.

Gumpert was with Wilson when the Rams reached but lost in the Division 2 Final in 2018 and sees some similarities between that and this year’s team.

“Offensively, we had a good team, but I would dare to say this team is as good offensively as that team was,” he said. “It’s going to boil down to how well our pitching does, how well our pitchers progress. If we have the pitching I think we can develop into, I think we’ll be competitive with anybody.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) South Haven softball coach Wilma Wilson, right, welcomes home Kamryn Holland after Holland’s grand slam March 26. (2) The Rams enjoy watching Marlee Wilson’s Western Michigan Broncos this season. (2) Wilson, right, joins daughter Marlee to form an accomplished mother-daughter coaching tree. (4) South Haven senior Myraql McGee settles in under a fly ball. (Top and WMU photos provided by Wilma Wilson, family photo by Pam Shebest, and McGee action photo provided by McGee.)