USA Triumphs with Pitching, Fielding Gems

June 15, 2019

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – What a way to win a championship.

In a top-play moment, Unionville-Sebewaing turned a triple play in the seventh inning to secure a 3-1 victory over Kalamazoo Christian in the Division 4 softball championship game at Michigan State’s Secchia Stadium.

With runners on first and second base, the Comets’ Sammy Gano lined a shot off USA pitcher Brynn Polega’s arm. The ball ricocheted in the air to shortstop Rylee Zimmer, who touched second base and threw to first to complete the gem. (Click for video.)

Polega, a sophomore, had 15 strikeouts and a bruise on her arm. 

“It hit me right in the elbow, and I just turned around and I said, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Polega said. “I said please get this, and I saw (Zimmerman) step on second. The runner on first was halfway to second, and I said that’s it. I was so excited when that happened. To win this as a sophomore is incredible.’’

“Chaos. I’ve never seen an ending like that,’’ added Patriots coach Isaiah Gainforth. “Whether in the Major Leagues, college baseball. I played a lot of different things, and I’ve never seen anything transpire the way that last inning did. I’m just glad we’re on the winning end of it.’’

Polega kept the Comets hitters at bay for most of the game.

“My curveball was working good,’’ she said. “My drop ball was good. Right before the game, my pitching coach and I were over there working on it. He said stay tall, keep my arm long and snap hard. That’s what I did all game.’’

She had six strikeouts through the first two innings, and by the end of the fifth she had racked up 12.

Staked to a 3-0 lead after the third inning and tossing a one-hitter, Polega never gave a young Kalamazoo Christian team a chance to get back into it before the seventh-inning dramatics.

Chants of “USA, USA, USA’’ rang through the Patriots crowd. It was the sixth Finals title for the Patriots (31-9) since 2009.

The teams finished with identical records, and it would be no surprise if they met again in next year’s Final with USA losing just three seniors and the Comets losing two.

“We’re a young team and so are they, so it could happen,’’ said Polega.

USA had a first-inning threat as Zimmer tripled with one out, but she was left on base.

Polega mowed through Kalamazoo Christian hitters, striking out eight through three innings and getting out of a jam in the third with a strikeout.

The Patriots got on the board in the third inning when Maci Reinhardt singled and scored on a throwing error with Maci Montgomery at the plate. Polega bounced out, scoring Montgomery, and Delanie Pavlichek doubled in another run to make it 3-0.

The Comets finally got to Polega in the sixth inning on a single by junior second baseman Megan Snook, who eventually scored on a single by freshman Reagan Broekhuizen to make it 3-1.

Polega ended the threat with another strikeout, her 15th of the game.

“She was zoned in,’’ said her catcher, Montgomery. “Everything was right on the spot. She made a couple of mistakes, but the defense supported her.’’

Especially in the seventh inning.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) USA's Brynn Polega works through an inning on the way to pitching her team to a Division 4 Final win. (Middle) Macy Reinhardt (14) connects with a Kalamazoo Christian pitch.

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.