Watervliet Diamond Teams Shining Heading Into District Weekend
By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com
June 3, 2021
Watervliet took the concept of a banner season to another level this spring as the Panthers posted a pair of perfect seasons in Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore play.
A baseball team with only three seniors went 12-0 in the division and was matched by a softball squad featuring only one senior that also ripped through that half of the league to a 12-0 mark. It was the first division title for the Panthers in softball since 2006 and was a return to the top spot for the baseball team after a championship in 2018.
For 11th-year head coach Josh Tremblay’s baseball program, which is 19-12 heading into Division 3 District tournament play this weekend, it was a result of great starting pitching from junior right hander Andrew Chisek – who racked up an 11-2 record on the bump with a 1.83 ERA – a do-anything-to-get-on-base mentality and superb defense.
The Panthers have a .783 on-base percentage as a team and boast six players with 25 or more hits. Chisek leads the team with 34 hits, while senior outfielder Josh Reeves sits at 31, sophomore first baseman Bryton Cockrun and sophomore pitcher/infielder Tyson Williams have 27 apiece and both freshman pitcher/infielder Wyatt Epple and junior outfielder Ethan Fish have 25. Chisek and Cockrun are tied with a team-high 22 RBI.
Freshman Chase Tremblay and Williams each earned three wins on the mound and helped contribute to a team ERA of 3.59. Senior Evan Hutchins has been a team anchor behind the plate with only 11 passed balls allowed. Chisek has a team-high 66 strikeouts, and Williams is right behind with 60.
“(Chisek) was one of our better pitchers in 2019, and he had a taste of success that year,” Tremblay said of the year Watervliet made it to the Division 3 Regional Semifinals and lost to Bronson. “He was pretty excited about getting back at things. He has been good there for us. We actually have about eight guys that can pitch, but we’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had to do that deep in our rotation. We knew that would be one of our strengths this year that we would be pretty deep in terms of arms.”
Watervliet has given up just 65 walks all season, which has helped out an already phenomenal defense. But with the bats in their hands, the Panthers buttered their bread by bases on balls (103) and taking shots to the body (41).
“We just try to get on base and be pesky. We just try to bang out base hits, run the bases and try to score some runs,” Tremblay said.
The Panthers will be pesky for a while with so many players returning next season.
“We’re a really young team, so coming into the year we didn’t really know what we were capable of,” Chisek said. “We figured out we were a really good team, and it has been fun to play with these guys. What clicked for us early on was pitching. All of our pitchers throw strikes, which gives our defense the opportunity to make plays. We started hitting the ball, and that took more pressure off the defense.”
And now their goal is a D3 District title. Watervliet takes on Niles Brandywine on Saturday in the semifinals. The two teams clashed earlier in the year and split a doubleheader.
At 28-5 this year, the Watervliet softball team is riding a 13-game winning streak into the postseason, which begins Friday with a District Semifinal matchup versus Fennville.
In the circle, the Panthers have been anchored by juniors Hannah Hart (11-2) and Haiden Edelberg (14-1). Edelberg has fanned 89 batters with a 2.54 ERA, and Hart has 66 strikeouts with just five walks and a 2.90 ERA.
Head coach Tom Golden’s scrappy young squad has used speed as its primary weapon during a historic season. Besides seven home runs, freshman shortstop Grace Chisek has 61 hits and 60 RBI this year, having stretched 11 of those into doubles and eight into triples en route to a .635 batting average.
“We’ve all played together for so many years, and we connect well,” Chisek said. “Our bonds are good, so being young doesn’t really hurt us. We talk about what the pitcher is throwing and adjust. And there’s just a lot of speed on our team.”
Slapper Sammy Dietz, a sophomore third baseman, also has registered 61 hits with 19 RBI and a team-high 58 stolen bases in the leadoff spot, while freshman Abby Whorton, an outfielder and catcher, has 47 hits with 16 doubles, eight triples, four homers and 52 RBI.
“Our defense is pretty solid because we have athletes, but we’ve had to put up some runs,” Golden said. “Making good choices at the plate, swinging at good pitches and finding a way to get on — not necessarily by just hitting the ball, but by having quality at-bats.
“With our speed, a routine groundball becomes something pretty exciting because we get out of the box pretty quick.”
Rival Coloma has been Watervliet’s biggest hurdle “over the last four or five years,” Golden explained. The Panthers swept Coloma this season, and they will square off again if both teams advance to the District Final as expected.
“They won state a few years ago and have been the top dog,” Golden said. “We finally beat them for the first time since 2016 to win a (SAC) divisional title. That was definitely one of our goals, and we took care of business.
“That’s the thing about this group, is that it doesn’t really matter who we play. We’re a young team with only one senior, but we have a lot of young talent that has played a lot of softball. They just really enjoy going out to play.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS: (Top)The Panthers baseball and softball teams celebrate their matching SAC Lakeshore championships this spring. (Middle) Watervliet’s Grace Chisek rounds third base on the way home for a softball team bringing a 28-5 record into this weekend. (Photos courtesy of the Watervliet athletic department.)
Owosso Ace's Strikeout Total Stacks Up with State's All-Time Best
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.