10 to Remember: Fall 2014

December 12, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This fall saw the start of numerous championship legacies all over the Michigan, the continuation of a few more and the end of one that likely will be recalled for decades to come.

All championship runs are memorable for those fortunate enough to achieve them. But because of historical reference, dramatic impact or in rare cases national significance, some stay in our discussions a little bit longer.

Below is one person’s thoughts on the most memorable finishes from this fall’s MHSAA Finals.

10. Novi, East Kentwood Rise to the Top

Among a number of first-time champions this fall, the Novi boys tennis team and East Kentwood girls golf team celebrated taking final steps after some recent close misses. Novi had finished second at the 2013 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final, by a point, as Ann Arbor Huron won its third straight title. The Wildcats clinched their first ever this season, by eight points, while the East Kentwood golfers finished 22 strokes better than their LP Division 1 field after finishing 10th and sixth the last two seasons, respectively. Senior Emily White capped her high school career with a 51-foot putt to win the individual title.

9. Saline Clinches on Final Swim

The Saline girls swimming and diving team trailed reigning champion Farmington Hills Mercy by a half-point entering the final event of the LP Division 1 Final. But the Hornets outpaced Mercy by three seconds in the 400-yard freestyle relay to move ahead and claim the team championship by 5.5 points. Saline had finished runner-up to Mercy by 20 points in 2013.

8. St. Mary’s Football Keeps Promise

From an incredible story point of view, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 7-0 win over Muskegon in the Division 3 Football Final was easily the most memorable of the fall. Showing immense courage, Eaglets running back Brandon Adams took the field only two days after his mother died after fighting cancer. He scored the game’s lone points midway through the first quarter.

7. Kestrels Give Coach Best Retirement Gift

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central’s Diane Tuller coached teams to 595 wins over 17 seasons – and in her final match took the Kestrels to their fifth MHSAA championship. St. Mary downed Schoolcraft in four sets despite dropping the first to claim its third Class C title in five seasons. The Kestrels became the eighth team to win at least five MHSAA titles, claiming all five under Tuller’s guidance.

6. Concord’s Hersha Joins Elite Company

Only 14 runners in MHSAA boys cross country history have won at least three individual championships. Concord’s Jason Hersha became the latest, claiming the LP Division 4 title in 15:23.0, the second-fastest time in LP Division 4 Finals history. He became only the third to win three boys titles since team and individual qualifiers began running the same race in 1996; he also finished first as a sophomore and junior. 

5. Canton Never Loses on Division 1 March

Just one on-target kick can change a soccer game. That makes Canton’s undefeated run to this season’s Division 1 boys championship even more impressive. Finishing without a loss in any sport is something – but the Chiefs defeated Rochester Adams 1-0 in the Final to end 24-0-3 and as the 13th undefeated champion in MHSAA boys soccer history. Canton posted 16 shutouts this fall.

4. Spring Lake Surges to First Championship

Despite trailing annual power Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood by six strokes after the first round, Spring Lake rolled through the second at the LP Division 3 Girls Golf Final to best the field by a final margin of 18 strokes and claim the school’s first MHSAA golf championship. The achievement was a crowning one for the program started by George Bitner, who has coached at the school since 1968 and fielded his first  girls team in 1980.

3. Fisher Finishes Among Fastest in MHSAA History

Grand Blanc senior Grant Fisher finished his high school career with a second straight Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship – and the third-fastest time since the Finals moved to Michigan International Speedway 19 seasons ago. Fisher finished in 14:52.5, 1.5 seconds off the second-fastest time in MHSAA Finals history since 5K (3.1 miles) became the distance in 1980. The only runners who have come in faster than Fisher went on to the Olympics (Dathan Ritzenhein) and top American finishes (twice) at the Boston Marathon (Jason Hartmann).

2. St. Philip Stands Alone with 9 Straight Titles

Battle Creek St. Philip continued its near-decade dominance of Class D, but this time with another historical twist. The Tigers downed Leland in four sets in this season’s Final to win their ninth straight MHSAA championship – setting a record for consecutive titles after formerly being tied with the Marysville teams from 1997-2004. St. Philip entered the postseason ranked No. 3 in D but defeated both No. 2 Mendon and the top-ranked Comets during the final week.

1. Monroe St. Mary Ends Ithaca’s Record Run

Much of the credit for this topping the list goes to Ithaca, which brought a 69-game winning streak into the Division 6 Football Final. The streak was the longest active streak nationally among 11-player football teams, and a win would've allowed the Yellowjackets next fall an opportunity to break the MHSAA winning streak record of 72. But St. Mary controlled the clock with a workmanlike running game and held an Ithaca offense averaging 43 points to nearly a quarter of that in winning 22-12.

PHOTO: The East Kentwood girls golf team raised its first MHSAA Finals championship trophy this October. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Bedford Sophomore Powers Up with 23 Homers, Just Getting Started

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

June 7, 2023

TEMPERANCE – Here’s a warning for softball teams facing Temperance Bedford the next couple of seasons: Intentionally walking Aubrey Hensley only gives her more confidence.

Southeast & BorderThe Kicking Mules sophomore just finished her season with 23 home runs in 39 games, shattering school and Monroe County records. She remembers the home runs from the season that ended in the Division 1 District Finals, but she also remembers the walks.

“Our first game of the season, my first at-bat, I didn’t even get a swing in,” Hensley said. “As a hitter, it plays with your mind, but it also gives you confidence. If I go to the plate and they aren’t even willing to pitch to me, that gives me even more confidence. The next time up, I’m really going to look for my pitch.”

Hensley saw plenty of pitches she liked this season. She hit just a tick below .500 (61 hits in 124 at-bats), with seven doubles, five triples and nearly two dozen homers. They were pretty much split between the newly renovated Kicking Mules field in Temperance and road games.

Her most memorable home run was at Ypsilanti Lincoln.

“I usually have pretty good games at their field,” she said. “This year I hit a home run and hit the building which is behind the fence. That was a good one. I liked that watching and hearing that one hit.”

Hensley grew up in Toledo and moved across the state line in fifth grade. By then she was already involved in northwest Ohio travel softball programs.

“Softball kind of came naturally for me,” she said. “I loved to go to the field with my mom (Amanda) or my brother or just hit off the tee. I just have a mentality that I’m a good hitter and I can do whatever I put my mind to.”

Prior to her freshman season, Mules coach Marla Gooding, a first-grade teacher at Bedford, sent Hensley into the weight room. 

“I was not expecting to hit home runs going into my freshman season,” Hensley said. “I didn’t really know what to expect.

“When I was little, I wasn’t always a power hitter. I would hit a few doubles or triples and get into the ball some. I worked and put in time in the weight room, especially going into the freshman year. I think that really contributed to my home run hitting. Coach had us in the weight room during the season a little bit. It helps to develop your body to be a power hitter.”

Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. With the power in place, Hensley began concentrating on swinging through the ball.

“I don’t expect to hit a home run every time, but I go up to the plate thinking it’s possible,” she said. “I’m swinging to get through the ball and just drive it somewhere. I’m not hitting for contact. If you just go up hitting for contact, you are swinging lighter, and if it doesn’t go far, you start doubting yourself. I just go up and swing to drive the ball.”

Countless hours hitting off the tee and facing batting practice pitchers helped her fine-tune her swing. 

“I don’t like to get down on myself, because then it snowballs onto the field or another at-bat,” she said. “Short memory is one thing we really wanted to work on this year. I think I applied that more. It’s difficult sometimes if you aren’t getting the pitches that you want or aren’t producing. I just try to go up there with some swag and get the job done.”

Gooding called her a dream to coach.

“She’s a power-five softball player,” she said. “And the greatest kid ever. Seriously, a workhorse and team-first mentality.”

On the field, she is the Bedford catcher. She didn’t commit an error all season.

Hensley was a pitcher at a young age but loved the transition to behind the plate.

“When I got behind the plate, I loved it,” she said. “It’s like being a general out there controlling the whole field. I get to see everyone and everything. I put in a lot of work when I was little. I started with the basics and just advanced from there. I’m pretty dedicated to being the best I can behind the plate for my pitcher.”

Hensley will balance her summer of babysitting, playing basketball for the Mules in June and a busy summer travel softball season that will take her around Ohio, Kansas and Tennessee. She helped the Kicking Mules set a school record for wins with 23 and win a District title in basketball last winter.

Hensley isn’t the only Bedford softball player to show power this season. As a team, Bedford hit 51 home runs, including 12 by teammate Payton Pudlowski. That is one of the reasons Hensley isn’t simply intentionally walked time after time.

“We have some solid pieces behind her, and the two girls in front of her got on base all of the time,” Gooding said. “It was hard for other teams to do that.”

With 23 home runs this season, Hensley’s put her name among the top five all-time single seasons in state history. The record is 29 by Kali Heivilin from Three Rivers in 2021.

With 34 career home runs, she is almost in the top 25. 

Hensley isn’t concerned about records right now, except for one thing. She wants to put up a number that, by the time she graduates, is out of this world.

As she tells it, “I want to push the record so far that no one can touch it by the time I’m done with my career at Bedford.”

She might already have.

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bedford’s Aubrey Hensley prepares to drive a pitch this season. (Middle) Hensley steps to the plate against Monroe. (Photos by Christine Kwiatkowski.)