Plymouth Christian Completes Repeat Run

November 18, 2017

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – Plymouth Christian Academy coach D.J. Kellogg and his Eagles flew into Kellogg Arena as the reigning Class D volleyball champions.

They left the same way Saturday morning after dispatching the Fowler Eagles 25-18, 25-23, 25-21 in this year’s Final.

In a division that had been dominated by Battle Creek St. Philip and Leland over the last two decades, the Eagles now sit atop Class D for the second straight season.

Sisters Grace and Gabriella Kellogg led the offense with 15 kills each, while Abigail Pray contributed 31 assists for the winners, who improved to 45-8-3.

“Winning this with my daughters means everything,’’ said D.J. Kellogg. “We didn’t really plan it this way. I coached them in club. It gives you a chance to spend quality time with your kids.

“I never like being the one ranked first because you have a target on your back, but having lost eight from last year it was a completely different animal this year,’’ Kellogg added. “It wasn’t like there was a pressure to repeat because we lost most of the team. I try to play a tougher schedule so we don’t get too cocky.’’

It worked.

Tied 8-8 during the first game, Plymouth Christian reeled off eight of the next nine points to take a 16-9 lead against the first-time finalist.

Plymouth Christian’s lead reached 20-12, forcing Fowler coach Patty Feldpausch to call a timeout to stem the tide.

It was too late. Plymouth Christian was never threatened in finishing the first set win.

In the second, Plymouth Christian made its move with the score tied 5-5.

The Eagles scored three straight points to take an 8-5 lead, and after an ace by Grace Kellogg, Fowler was forced to call another timeout while trailing by four.

Fowler scored the next two points after the timeout, but Plymouth Christian was on another roll.

Robin Alert’s back-to-back aces had the Eagles in control at 13-8. The lead grew to 16-9 as the reigning champ’s poise and experience started to dominate the match.

Fowler didn’t go away easy, scoring four straight points of its own to trim the deficit to 17-14. Fowler elevated its play and Plymouth Christian got sloppy as the deficit was trimmed to 22-21, forcing Kellogg to call his first timeout of the match.

But after a few anxious points, the defending champs prevailed when Fowler hit a ball out to give Plymouth Christian a 2-0 lead.

Fowler turned the tables on Plymouth Christian in the third game, scoring six of the first eight points to lead by four with Kellogg calling a timeout in an attempt to change momentum.

It didn’t fare better after the timeout as Fowler scored the next two points to increase its lead to 8-2.

Fowler fought to stay ahead, but when a kill by sophomore Gabriella Kellogg reduced the lead to 10-9, Feldpausch called a timeout to keep her team in the championship.

A kill by Elise Miera brought Plymouth Christian all the way back at 11-11, and a kill on the next point gave them a one-point lead – which turned into a 14-11 by the end of a 12-3 run.

Marissa Snyder had 11 kills for Fowler (38-12-5), and senior Kennedy Koenigsknecht had 25 assists. The team made quite a turnaround after winning only 12 matches a season ago, and Tuesday’s Quarterfinal victory also was a program first.

Plymouth Christian had been ranked No. 1 all season long and dropped only two sets during the postseason.

“We lost a lot of great players from last year,’’ said Grace, a senior. “To come back and do it again is great. Our JV team last year was good. We had a lot of girls come up from that team and step it up. This is our third straight year here. Last year we were ready to go and knew what to expect.’’

Another championship.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Plymouth Christian Academy’s Grace Kellogg (3) sends a kill past a pair of Fowler blockers during Saturday morning’s Class D Final. (Middle) Plymouth Christian raises the champion’s trophy for the second straight season.

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)