Veteran Holton Looks to Take Next Steps

April 12, 2017

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Holton ace Mikaela Baker couldn’t wait to pitch in last year’s MHSAA Division 4 Softball Quarterfinals against top-ranked Coleman.

So when her coach informed her a couple of hours before the showdown that he was going with 14-year-old freshman Haylee Brant instead, Baker thought he was kidding.

“I was pretty mad and couldn’t understand why he would do that,” said Baker, now a senior, thinking back to Holton’s 6-3 upset of Coleman, which was repeatedly frustrated by Brant’s off-speed pitches. “It worked out perfect. I’m really glad that we have both of us; it makes us a better team and that game proved it.”

Baker is now a senior and Brant a sophomore, and the duo has Holton hoping to get back to the Division 4 Semifinals for the third straight year – and then take the final two steps.

Holton, a rural school with 265 students in northeastern Muskegon County, was a volleyball powerhouse in the early 1990s, finishing Class C runner-up in 1993 and winning the title in 1994. The Red Devils also fielded outstanding football and baseball teams about a decade ago, including a memorable run to the 2006 Division 4 baseball championship game, where powerhouse Homer rallied for a 3-2 victory.

These days, Holton is making its biggest impact on the statewide sports scene on the softball diamond.

Holton made it to the Class C Semifinals in 2013, then posted a 37-0 record in 2015 with a senior-laden roster, before falling to powerhouse Unionville-Sebewaing in the Semifinals at Michigan State University. The Red Devils made a real statement about the strength of their program last spring, overcoming the loss of six key seniors and double-digit losses in the regular season to get back to the Semifinals before losing 2-0 to Indian River Inland Lakes. Holton finished 29-13 last year.

“Last year, we weren’t expected to be very good, and for a while we weren’t real good,” said third-year Holton coach Kirk Younts, himself a 1990 Holton graduate. “But we kept getting better and made another great run. It’s different now. We know we have a big bullseye on us, but we’re excited to get going.”

This spring, enthusiasm remains high with the return of all but three seniors off of last year’s final four team – including the “two Bs” on the mound, Baker and Brant.

Baker, the harder thrower of the two, finished last season with a 13-5 record and 2.93 ERA. She has worked tirelessly during the offseason with her pitching coach, Kelsey Bandstra, and comes into this season with five pitches and more pinpoint control.

Brant was 12-6 with a 2.36 ERA in her freshman year on the varsity and continues to improve both her speed and presence on the mound. Her signature win remains her complete-game gem over Coleman in last year’s Quarterfinals, and starting her in that crucial game drew coaching praise for Younts from his Coleman counterpart.

“It took a couple innings to get back down to her speed,” said Coleman coach Chad Klopf after getting ousted by Holton in the Quarterfinals for the second straight year. “We’ve seen some pretty good pitching the last few weeks. Good move.”

Younts will continue to use both pitchers this spring, but he believes his team’s biggest improvement will come at the plate.

Among the big bats returning to Holton’s lineup are senior centerfielder Emily Larabee (.520 batting average, 44 stolen bases), sophomore catcher Morgan Murat (.400 average, 44 RBI) and senior outfielder Shelbey Younts (.373 average). Younts is the coach’s daughter and the younger sister of Rachel Younts, an all-state player on Holton’s 2015 team who now plays softball at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.

“We have nine tough hitters this year, so we feel like we can be putting pressure on the other team all the time,” said Coach Younts, whose brother, Jeff, is Holton’s junior varsity coach. “I credit that to all the work these girls have done in the weight room.”

Among the other bats to watch in the Red Devils’ lineup are sophomore shortstop Kaylie Piper and seniors Courtney Slater, Micheylah Ross and Alicia Dykman.

The excitement surrounding Holton softball is evident all over town, starting with a successful golf outing in September and a breakfast fundraiser in March. Recently Holton, despite being one of the smallest schools in the Muskegon area, ran away with MLive’s first area “Team of the Week” poll with 5,381 votes – more than 61 percent of the total votes cast.

The team bonded further on a spring break trip to Gulf Shores, Ala., where, among other things, the Red Devils watched South Alabama’s college team play – an experience that made the Red Devils even more excited to get started.

Baker, who plans to attend Grand Valley State this fall, is determined to enjoy every minute of her final sports season at Holton, which she hopes will end one game later than the past two springs – in the Division 4 championship game on June 17.

She is one of many three-sport athletes (volleyball, basketball, softball) on Holton’s roster who have formed a special bond over the past four years of wins and losses and ups and downs.

“We have spent a lot of time together, and we are really close,” Baker said. “A lot of little girls in Holton really look up to us, which is pretty cool. We just want to finish strong.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Holton players cheer on a teammate during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal while Mikaela Baker preps in the on-deck circle. (Middle) Catcher Morgan Murat takes a swing against Indian River Inland Lakes.

Ace's 13 listings lead Hudsonville's 50 added to Softball Record Book

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 9, 2023

A total of 50 entries covering the last three decades of Hudsonville’s successful history have been entered in the MHSAA softball record book, with 2011 grad Sara Driesenga leading the way with 13 listings.

Driesenga’s most notable was her 0.15 ERA in 2010, which is tied for 10th lowest. Danielle Freeman, a 2013 grad, was added 10 times, including for 85 hits (tied for 10th) in 2012.

Others making lists one or more times were Kenzie Ritsema, Kelly Zackrison, Bethaney Murphy, Grace Sommers, Sydney Burns, Aleigha Talsma, Erica Bosman, Sarah Nederveld, Arinn King, Brooke Agers, Marleah Stapf and Lexi Agers.

Driesenga went on to star at Michigan, Freeman was a standout at Evansville, and Ritsema was a standout at Western Michigan. Zackrison played at Michigan State, Murphy at Saginaw Valley State, Talsma at Campbellsville (Ky.), King at Hope College, Brooke Agers at Muskegon Community College and Stapf at Florida International.

See below for more recent record book entries in softball:


A trio of Beaverton standouts over the last two seasons were added. Alexis Grove led with seven entries including 75 hits, 66 runs and 18 doubles last spring as a senior and 42 doubles and 158 RBI over her four-year career despite the cancellation of the 2020 season. Sawyer Gerow was added for 19 doubles as a senior last spring and 39 over her four-year career, and Molly Gerow was added for 72 hits in 2021. Grove is continuing her career at Northwood.

A pair of Otisville LakeVille Memorial players were added for accomplishments during the 2022 season. Jayla Thompson strung together a 24-game hitting streak beginning May 1 and continuing through her team’s District title run, and she also hit 12 home runs over 36 games. Teammate Mallorie Nevadomski became the third player to be listed for being hit by two pitches in the same inning, which occurred during the first inning of an April 11 game against Mt. Morris. Thompson is a junior this spring, and Nevadomski is a sophomore.

Fowlerville’s Tori Briggs earned her first record book entries last season as a sophomore. She tied the record for most triples in a game with four against Lansing Eastern, and also was added for 20 doubles over 34 games played.

Sabrina Lee was hit by pitches an incredible 33 times over 106 games and three seasons during her Rochester Adams career that ended last spring, and that’s with 2020 being canceled. She sits atop the career HBP list. Additionally, Adams coach Fran Scislowicz was added to the career coaching wins list with 756 since taking over the program in 1988.

Watervliet’s 36-5 run in 2022 included several performances that made record listings including for 476 hits, 438 runs, 349 RBI and 237 stolen bases as a team, and a .401 team batting average. Five players also earned individual entries, led by Samantha Dietz, who was added for 67 runs scored and 71 stolen bases in 74 tries – the latter tying for ninth-most stolen bases in a season. She also was one of four players added for driving in six runs in one game, joined by Abigail Whorton, Addison Riley (twice) and Grace Chisek. Chisek also was added for 75 hits, 75 runs scored, 12 triples and a 26-game hitting streak, and Maddie Flowers made the runs scored list with 73. Riley graduated last year, Dietz is a senior this spring, and Whorton and Chisek are juniors.

Kalamazoo Loy Norrix played a record-setting game against Comstock on April 9, 2021, and Gracie Goschke played a major part. She was added for three home runs in a game, including two grand slams, two home runs and six RBI during the second inning and 10 RBI total that afternoon. A sophomore then, Goschke is a senior this season.

East Kentwood finished a combined 50-28-1 over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, with three players teaming up to earn the program’s first record book entries. Aalana Kimble, a senior this season, tied for second all-time last spring as a junior with 18 triples and also made the records with 71 hits last year and 66 runs and 81 hits as a sophomore. Kelsey Depault was added for 81 hits and 19 doubles in 2021, and Emily Visser – now a junior – was added for 77 hits last season and 17 doubles in 2021. Depault graduated last spring and is playing at Northwood, and Kimble has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

Big Rapids reached the records in five team categories during the 2022 season, with 473 hits, 91 doubles, 344 RBI, 401 runs and a .424 batting average over 39 games. Marissa Warren led the charge, making the records with 70 runs, 79 hits and 21 doubles. She’s a junior this season.

Natalie Wandrie reached the record book six times last season as a junior at Indian River Inland Lakes, most notably for a .717 batting average that ranks sixth all-time for a single season. She also entered this spring on the career home runs list with 23, and hit 15 as a junior. She will play both softball and volleyball at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky.

PHOTO Hudsonville’s Sara Driesenga gets ready to pitch during the 2009 Division 1 championship game. (MHSAA file photo.)