Vicksburg, Richmond Earn Title Chance

June 16, 2016

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING — Avery Slancik of Vicksburg could empathize with her rivals in the pitching circle.

She's been where Livonia Ladywood's Rozlyn Price and Alexa Flores were Thursday. At some point, every pitcher has.

Slancik and her Vicksburg teammates took advantage of eight walks while hitting safely out of the infield only once, rallying from a 5-0 deficit to beat the second-ranked Blazers 7-5 in the MHSAA Division 2 Softball Semifinals at Michigan State University.

Slancik, a sophomore, remembers how she felt after the Bulldogs were eliminated in the Regional championship game last year.

"I had a similar situation last year when I gave up some home runs and our team got knocked out," Slancik said. "I feel for the pitcher. She pitched her butt off."

It was nearly a repeat of last year for Slancik, who gave up back-to-back doubles to begin the game, then surrendered a two-run homer to Price in the third inning. At that point it looked bleak for Vicksburg, trailing the tournament-tested Blazers by a 5-0 margin.

However, Slancik didn't allow another run or hit over the final four innings.

"I know my team has my back, and they can hit," Slancik said. "Whether I give up a home run, base hit or whatever, we can come back strong. We never quit. It all comes down to stress, if you can take the pressure. That's why I practice. I worked my whole life for this, and it's happening. It's like a dream come true. I know God put me in this position for a reason."

Vicksburg, unranked all season, will take a 36-8 record into the Division 2 championship game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Richmond at MSU's Secchia Stadium. It's the first time a team from Vicksburg had made it to an MHSAA championship game in any sport. The Bulldogs won championships in the non-bracketed sports of boys cross country (1963) and boys tennis (1974). Only three other teams from Vicksburg reached an MHSAA Semifinal, with the boys soccer team losing in 1997 and 2004 and the baseball team losing in 2015.

The Bulldogs reached the title game by beating three top-10 teams in their last four games: No. 9 St. Joseph in the Regional Semifinal, No. 10 and reigning champion Wayland in the MHSAA Quarterfinals and No. 2 Ladywood (32-13) on Thursday. Richmond (31-9) received only honorable mention in the final coaches' poll, setting up an unlikely Final.

"We haven't even been honorable mention," Vicksburg coach Paul Gephart said. "We've beaten teams that are ranked and haven't been given any respect at all. Yeah, it's awesome. Between Tuesday and today, we've earned a little bit of respect. We just find a way. I always tell them, 'Find a way.' We didn't really hit the ball well, but we found a way."

Vicksburg hit only three balls out of the infield in the entire game: a single up the middle by Carlie Kudary and two fly-outs to left field. The Bulldogs' other four hits were infield singles.

Epitomizing Vicksburg's "find a way" approach was junior catcher Grace Stock, who came to the plate four times but didn't have an official at-bat. She walked three times and had a bunt. One of her walks, on a 3-2 pitch, forced home a run.

"I was confident up to bat," Stock said. "I tried to swing at good pitches and let the bad ones go by and get on base to help my team. I did whatever it took. Get on base, score runs and be smart at the plate. We got on base any way we could and used our strengths."

Ladywood jumped out to its 5-0 lead with three runs in the first inning and two in the third. Flores led off the game with a double and scored when Cecilia Werner doubled right after her. Werner scored on a single by Elizabeth Kemp.

A two-run homer by Price over the 220-foot sign in center field made it 5-0 in the third.

The Bulldogs were unfazed.

"The amount of runs we've scored in the whole year, getting five runs is nothing," Slancik said. "We've beaten teams 24-0. We can come back from five runs."

Vicksburg began its comeback by scoring two runs in the bottom of the third inning, with three walks, two wild pitches, a passed ball and one hit helping deliver those runs.

The Bulldogs took the lead in a bizarre fourth inning during which they scored five times without hitting a ball out of the infield.

Olivia Holmes began the rally by leading off with an infield single. After four more walks, a bunt single and an error, Vicksburg had a 7-5 lead. Two runs scored on bases-loaded walks, with another crossing on a wild pitch. 

Ladywood coach Scott Combs pulled his standout pitcher, Price, after her sixth walk of the game with one out in the fourth inning. She was relieved by Flores, who started at first base.

"The ball never left the infield," Combs said. "They did a good job of putting the ball down on the ground and getting a base at a time, but you can't walk (eight) people and expect to win. The disappointing part is we probably haven't walked (eight) in the last 10 games. That's on us."

After falling behind, Ladywood got a runner on base in each of the last three innings, but couldn't get the runner past first. The Blazers had six hits, three for extra bases, in the first 2 1/3 innings before their bats fell silent.

"We always preach the attitude that when you get up by four or five runs, play for one run each inning," Combs said. "A couple of bunts that we didn't get down were important. When you don't do that and people see the ball lasering all over the place, they change their swing and think they're going to hit home runs. It just got a little contagious. I don't want to say they were selfish, but they were trying to over-swing."

Click for the full box score. 

Richmond 5, Escanaba 2

Richmond broke a 2-2 tie by scoring three runs in the top of the fifth inning, reaching the MHSAA championship game for the fourth time. Richmond lost in the title game in 1985, 1998 and 1999. 

"We've had our down points, but over the last couple of games we've started getting key hits and playing to our potential," Richmond pitcher Erin Shuboy said.

Richmond took one-run leads in the second and third innings, only to have Escanaba match those runs in the bottom of those innings. 

No. 8 hitter Emma Caperton, who doubled home a run in the second, singled and scored the tie-breaking run in the fifth on a strange play. Amy Thueme reached first on a throwing error and headed for second after the overthrow. Caperton was going to stop at third, but she continued home when Thueme slid into shortstop Callie Heller, who fell on her and was shaken up.

Lindsay Schweiger and Shuboy singled home the other runs in the inning. Richmond tacked on one more run in the seventh on a single by Rachel Leach. 

Shuboy, who had eight strikeouts, retired 10 of the last 11 batters she faced.

"We still hit the ball hard," said Escanaba coach Jamie Segorski, whose team finished 36-3-1. "Softball's a funny game. You miss the ball by an eighth of an inch and it's a fly ball. You hit it square, it's a home run. It is what it is."

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Vicksburg hitter connects during the Division 2 Semifinal against Livonia Ladywood. (Middle) A Richmond runner slides under a tag in her team's win over Escanaba.

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.