USA Follows in Champions' Footsteps

June 14, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

BATTLE CREEK — Tradition perpetuates itself in small kids who looked up to the big kids as heroes.

Junior Katie Gremel watched from the stands as an elementary school student as older sister Dani helped Unionville-Sebewaing win three MHSAA Division 3 softball championships. Dani Gremel played on championship teams in 2006, 2007 and 2009, scoring the winning run in the 2007 Final.

"I wanted to be just like her and get to my state championship," said Katie, a second-year varsity player. "I was here every year. I knew that one day I wanted to be here. That was my dream."

The Patriots are going to their fifth MHSAA championship game in the last eight years, in part, because of a tie-breaking single by Gremel in the sixth inning of a 4-3 victory over Holton on Friday at Bailey Park. They will play first-time finalist Dundee at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bailey Park.

With the game tied 2-2, Gremel hit a sharp single up the middle that hit the glove of pitcher Rachel Younts and just eluded the grasp of second baseman Katie Wildfong. Breanna Dinsmore, who singled and was bunted to second by pitcher Erica Treiber, scored on the play. Gremel scored an insurance run on an error. That run proved to be critical when Holton's Cassidy Van Blargan scored on an error in the top of the seventh.

"I was really nervous, but I knew my team had confidence in me," Gremel said. "It happens all the time when I have pressure on me. I usually get it down. That's what the coaches expect."

And that's why coach Steve Bohn had Treiber bunt to give Gremel an opportunity with one out and a runner on second.

"If anybody's going to get a hit, it's Katie," Bohn said. "She's been swinging the bat really well the last two weeks. I thought we'd give her a chance, and she came through."

This is Unionville-Sebewaing's eighth straight trip to Battle Creek. Holton, playing six sophomores regularly, had never won a Regional until this year.

"As many times as you've been here, it's still this team's first time," Bohn said. "It might be Chelsey Bitzer's fourth time, but it's still this team's first time. Until you actually get to that game, there's still a lot of pressure on these girls. There are a lot of expectations for this team. They've been here, they're expected to be here and they're expected to win state titles. That all adds up to a lot of pressure on 16-, 17-, 18-year-old girls."

Perhaps the pressure of the semifinals led to an uncharacteristic five errors by the Patriots (37-3) and three walks by Treiber.

Bitzer gave Unionville-Sebewaing a 2-0 lead with run-scoring singles in the first and third innings. The Patriots outscored their first five postseason opponents 59-0, but finally surrendered two runs in the fourth inning as Holton benefited from a walk, a hit batter and an error.

Holton (27-10), which finished third in its league, lost the game by surrendering two runs in the sixth, but had a postseason run that will always be remembered in a town that showed up in large numbers to support the softball team.

"It was unbelievable," sophomore Jackie Stone said. "There are no words to describe how proud everybody is. The whole town, everybody came. It brings us all together, because this doesn't happen very much in a small town. It was great; I appreciate it."

Dundee 11, Allen Park Cabrini 6

While the Patriots are expected to make the championship game every year, Dundee has come out of nowhere to play on the final day of the season.

The Vikings (44-1) had never won a Regional before this season. However, they never played a game with Shaunna Musial or Kayle Phillips in their lineup until this season.

Musial and Phillips are freshmen who made key contributions in an 11-6 victory over perennial power Allen Park Cabrini in the other Semifinal.

With the game tied 4-4 and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, Phillips singled home Brittani Rojem with the go-ahead run. A two-run single by Khali Burd made it 7-4. Hannah Rachor and Haleigh Kimble had run-scoring singles to make it 9-4.

After Cabrini (29-6) scored a run in the bottom of the sixth, Musial put the game away with a two-run homer in the seventh.

Dundee built a 4-0 lead with a four-run third before Cabrini came back to tie the game, the key blow being a three-run homer in the third by Sydney Lankford.

Dundee coach Mickey Moody pulled starting pitcher Vanessa Ewing after 3 2/3 innings, but said she would get the start against Unionville-Sebewaing.

"She's going to be mad," Moody said. "I expect her to throw a nice game."

Rachor, who replaced Ewing in the circle, was 3-for-4 with two RBI. Haleigh Kimble was 3-for-4 with three RBI.

Click for full box scores.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Unionville-Sebewaing hitter connects during USA's Semifinal win over Holton on Friday. (Middle) Dundee pitcher Vanessa Ewing winds up during her team's Semifinal against Allen Park Cabrini. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.