By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – It may have taken six-plus innings, but Kalamazoo Christian coach Kevin Lewis eventually had a chance to take it all in Friday morning.
And he had an opportunity to exhale as well.
All it took was a three-run home run from senior Jayme Koning, a shot which served as an explanation point on the Comets’ 6-1 victory over Coleman in a Division 4 Semifinal at Secchia Stadium.
“It was very relaxing after that sixth inning. It was then I knew,” said Lewis, referring to a four-run sixth that gave his team a five-run cushion. “(Koning) was hot all day. When she came up to the plate, I had that gut feeling, like, ‘If she drops a bomb right here, it’s done.’ And she did it. That’s not the first time. She did it against (Stevensville) Lakeshore. When you’re facing teams like that, for her to come up clutch in two situations like that shows me what kind of ballplayer she really is.”
Koning was 3-for-4 in the game, reaching base on all four of her plate appearances. She also had a double and an RBI single which tied the game at 1-1 in the first inning. Her home run was her 14th of the season. She went the distance on the mound, allowing just four hits while striking out four, including the last Coleman batter of the game – setting off a grand celebration for her team.
“Both (the home run and game-ending strikeout) were different excitements,” Koning said, answering which was more special to her. “The home run gave us a little insurance that I really like, and getting that out is just in-the-moment awesome.”
The game was extremely tight through five innings, the difference coming on an RBI single by freshman Faith Kline – scoring courtesy runner Nyla de Jong – which gave her team a 2-1 lead. To that point both Koning and Coleman starting pitcher Jaden Berthume were cruising along.
Berthume scattered eight hits through the first five innings, allowing just two runs. Coleman’s defense struggled throughout the game – collecting four errors – while Kalamazoo Christian was flawless in the field.
“Defense is obviously the name of the game,” Lewis said. “We have a really good defense. We have freshmen in the lineup. We’ve got sophomores in the lineup. We’re deep all the way up through. It came down to defense and our pitching on the mound. Jayme held them tight, and we got the job done.”
Senior Sydney Duong was 3-for-3 with a walk for Christian (31-8), and scored a pair of runs. Sophomore Zoe Hazelhoff collected a pair of hits and junior Megan Snook had an RBI single and scored a run for the Comets, who will face Unionville-Sebewaing in Saturday’s championship game.
Berthume and freshman Katelyn Pnacek each had two hits for Coleman (35-8), which entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in Division 4. It was the Comets’ third straight trip to East Lansing. Last year they fell to Centreville in the championship game.
“When we’ve got chances to score, we’ve got to be able to get the hit,” Coleman head coach Chad Klopf said after the game. “We’ve been doing that all year. We’ve been able to keep the bats going when we needed them (this year). If it was tomorrow or if it was yesterday, we might have won it. But it was their day today.
“This was our third straight year down here. We’ve had lots of experience. That’s why we’re here again. It gave us so much experience the last two years, and it gave all of our young girls this year more experience. Hopefully we can do what we do and get back (here) again.”
Unionville-Sebewaing 8, Rogers City 3
Changing things up a bit from last year’s Semifinal appearance seemed to do wonders Friday afternoon for Unionville-Sebewaing.
The Patriots, limited to just four hits in last year’s 4-0 loss to eventual champion Centreville, exploded for eight runs on 16 hits in their win over Rogers City.
“The last couple days, I’ve liked where we’re at offensively,” USA head coach Isaiah Gainforth said. “We had two really good days of preparation. To put 16 hits up in the semis, you can’t ask for much more offensively. I’m extremely proud of the girls’ approach, their discipline. Hitting is contagious. When someone starts it, everybody else is ‘Let me get the bat and see what I can do.’ That was kind of our mentality there.”
Sophomore Maci Montgomery was a perfect 4-for-4 against the Hurons, collecting three doubles and a triple, scoring twice and driving in three runs. Her leadoff triple to start the game got things going for the Patriots (30-9), and her two-run double in the fifth capped off the scoring for her team.
“Couldn’t ask for a better start,” Gainforth said. “It’s so important, getting that first run in any game. Being able to score first was big because it just loosens everybody up. When you get production from top to bottom, that’s a dangerous team right there.”
The team’s No. 9 hitter, junior Danielle Harper, also had quite a game. She was 3-for-3, scored three times and added a two-run home run to give herself a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning.
Sophomore Brynn Polega and freshmen Macy Reinhardt and Laci Harris all collected two hits each in their team’s victory. Polega also pitched a complete game on the mound, allowing just two earned runs while striking out four.
“We kind of learned from some of our mistakes last year,” Gainforth said. “A lot of these girls are back, but you’ve got some new girls. We weren’t in awe (today). The experience factor. Last year we were kind of consumed by it, and I don’t know if it kind of got to us a little bit. Today we kind of switched it up a little bit, got down here this morning and tried to keep our same routine and same approach that we’ve had in all our tournaments.”
Rogers City (27-8) was led by senior Taylor Fleming, who was 2-for-4 at the plate. She connected for a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Senior Linnea Hentkowski was 1-for-2 with a run scored in the loss.
“They hit the ball well. Give them credit,” Hurons head coach Karl Grambau said. “We’ve shut teams down all year long. They outhit us today, no doubt about it. They’ve got a great tradition, and so do we. Hopefully we’ll meet again someday.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Kalamazoo Christian’s Sydney Duong makes a throw to first base during her team’s Division 4 Semifinal win Friday. (Middle) USA's Macy Reinhardt circles third base during her team's victory over Rogers City.
Evart was added to the MHSAA softball record book 23 times for achievements during an outstanding three-season run that has included a Division 3 runner-up finish in 2022.
Then-junior Katelyn Gostlin twice was included for hitting streaks, of 26 straight games during the 2022 season and 22 straight this past spring. She also was added for 23 doubles in 2022, and then-senior Addysen Gray was added for 16 doubles in 2023. Ally Theunick was added for 11 home runs this spring and 23 over her first three seasons with one more to play. Gostlin, Theunick and 2021 graduate Ryenn Baumgardner all were added for single-game accomplishments.
Among team record listings, Evart had 405 hits, 419 runs, 85 doubles, 35 home runs and 328 RBI over 39 games this spring. Gostlin has signed with Mid-Michigan College, and Gray is playing softball and basketball there this school year.
See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA softball record book:
Olivia Mikowski followed up her Maple City Glen Lake team’s Division 4 basketball championship in March with a national record this spring on the diamond. She tied the MHSAA and national records with 20 triples, over 35 games, among five record book entries she earned. She also is listed for 74 RBI this past season, while now-junior Jessie Pugh earned a listing with 66 runs scored over 37 games. Mikowski is continuing at Schoolcraft College.
Essexville Garber finished a combined 71-14 over the last two seasons and reached the Division 2 Semifinals in 2022 after winning its first Regional title since 1997, along the way achieving several record book performances for both team and individual lists. The Dukes hit 53 home runs over 41 games this past spring, tying for sixth most as senior Sarah Basket set a program record and made the individual list with 12. Basket also was added for 21 doubles in 2022, with Laney Kokaly making the doubles list that season with 16 and Ella Wagner making it was 16 this past season. Kortney Kotenko set the previous Garber home run record in 2022, making the record book list with 11. All four were seniors in 2023. Kotenko is continuing at Madonna, while Basket is playing at Lawrence Tech and Wagner at Northwood. Kokaly is playing volleyball at Northwood.
Three Rivers and now-senior Ava Forman made the single-season hits list with 75 over 41 games and the single-season doubles list for 22 last spring and also 18 over 40 games as a sophomore. Three Rivers as a team made the records for 423 hits, 101 doubles and 277 RBI over 42 games in 2023.
Armada’s Taylor Capozzo had 19 doubles in 2023 to make that single-season list, plus hit back-to-back home runs in a game against Yale, and Natalie Sauer drove in six runs in a game against Brown City. Capozzo is a sophomore this school year, and Sauer graduated in the spring and is continuing at St. Clair County Community College.
Schoolcraft’s Lauren Evans hit 31 doubles in 2023 as a junior, the second-most in MHSAA history, as the Eagles totaled 118 over 41 games – also the second-most doubles on the team list. Schoolcraft also made record lists for 436 hits and 316 RBI for the season and five home runs in a game against Battle Creek Pennfield (which included back-to-back homers by Evans). Teammate Sydney Drenth, then a sophomore, made the doubles list with 22, and senior Alayna Meade made the same list with 16. Meade is continuing at Cornerstone, and Evans has committed to sign with Saginaw Valley State.
Farmington Hills Mercy finished 29-1 in 2023, earning four record book entries along the way. The Marlins tied for second-fewest runs allowed, giving up only 16. They also made lists for 11 consecutive shutouts, 385 strikeouts and a .435 average and just missed the single-season shutouts list with 23.
Unionville-Sebewaing’s 2022 Division 4 championship season produced another series of record book-worthy accomplishments. As a team, USA set an MHSAA record with 128 doubles over 40 games and was fourth on the team RBI list with 391, while also earning entries with 44 runs scored, 485 hits and 48 home runs. Individually, then-sophomore Gabriella Crumm was added for 80 hits, 21 doubles and 11 home runs, and then-senior Laci Harris was added for 11 home runs as well plus 72 hits, 19 doubles and career totals of 31 home runs, 170 RBI, 170 runs scored and 51 doubles over 123 games despite her sophomore season of 2020 being canceled due to COVID-19. Then-junior Oliva Jubar was added for 18 doubles, and then-sophomore Ella Neumann was added for 17. Harris is continuing her career at Madonna.
Paige Ratliff finished her Battle Creek Lakeview career in the spring with 10 record book entries across a variety of categories. Most notably, she totaled 37 doubles, 30 home runs and a .520 career average over three seasons and 108 games. She’s continuing at Lake Forest College (Ill.).
Hudson then-freshman Taylor Kopin opened her high school career in the spring by scoring 65 runs to make the individual record book. In doing so, she also helped Hudson make the team record book list with 417 runs scored over 39 games.
Haslett’s Payden Whitmore earned her school’s first softball record book entry since 2007 by hitting 12 triples over 38 games in the spring. She’s a junior this school year.
Mancelona has a pair of softball players who reached career lists last season with more to play. Now-senior Ella Jones was added for 20 doubles as a sophomore in 2022 and 19 this spring, and made the career doubles list with 39 and a season to play. Now-junior Ella Schram was added for her 13 triples as a freshman and .650 average this spring, and she’s on the career triples list with 23 and will qualify for the career average list if she keeps hitting at this pace over her next seasons.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart hit the second-most triples in MHSAA history on the way to the Division 4 Semifinals in the spring. The Irish piled up 48 over 43 games, led by freshman Mairin Wheaton, who hit 12 over 42, respectively.
Reed City made the team record lists with 78 doubles and 252 RBI over 39 games in the spring, and a pair of standouts also were added. Morgan Hammond, then a freshman, and then-sophomore Paityn Enos both were added for single-game RBI, plus Enos was added for 72 hits and 20 doubles and Hammond was added for 22 doubles.
Manton now-junior Adriana Sackett earned her first record book listings in the spring. Twice she hit back-to-back home runs in games, and she also was added for 11 homers total over 26 games.
A trio of Ravenna standouts put up a series of record book-caliber totals over the last two seasons, including some of the highest-ranking all time. Emma Gillard graduated in the spring with nine record book entries, including for 85 runs (fourth most) and 13 triples (tied for 20th) this past season, and she made career lists with 200 runs, 27 triples and a .532 average over 111 games and three years. Emma Herremans is just a junior but has 11 record book listings after two seasons including for 25 doubles (11th-most) as a freshman in 2022 and a .652 average and 73 RBI this past spring, and she’s already on career lists for doubles and triples. Kara Postema graduated this spring with six record book entries, including season and career records for times hit by pitch (23 and 49, respectively), and she also made career lists with 36 doubles and 153 RBI over 111 games and three seasons. Gillard is continuing at Ferris State and Postema at Cornerstone.
PHOTO Evart's Riley Brigham connects during her team's Division 3 Final against Millington in 2022.