SOFTBALL NOTEBOOK: Home run races end for individuals, East; districts unkind to ranked teams
It was a blast (literally) while it was going on, but the GREAT HOME RUN CHASE of 2021 is now over.
The three main competitors for the MHSAA’s individual single-season home run record — Three Rivers’ Kali Heivilin, Otsego’s Kendra VanderLugt and South Lyon East’s Lauren Sciborski — all bowed out in districts, as did the new record holder for team home runs, Sciborski’s East squad.
The state’s new record holder, Heivilin hit a bomb in her final high school at-bat, extending her record to 29, three more than the established mark coming into the season. It came in the final inning of a 10-5 loss to Edwardsburg in the district semifinals for the Wildcats (22-17).
She finishes with 66 career home runs in three seasons (118 games), second only to the 73 posted career record holder Brooke Nadolny of L’Anse Creuse in 141 games.
VanderLugt’s chase came to a conclusion in a 9-6 loss to Wayland in the district finals for No. 9-ranked Otsego (35-4), while Sciborski and No. 6-ranked East (25-9-1) fell to rival South Lyon, 5-0, in their district final.
Sciborski was 2-for-5 on the day with a single and a double, walking once in each game, scoring once, while East hit a pair of home runs — one each by Sophia Propps and Allyssa Hollo — to push the team record to 70 on the season. It’s seven more than the old record, set just two years ago by New Baltimore Anchor Bay.
Not winning the district title won’t take the luster off an outstanding year by the Cougars, in coach Paul Nieto’s mind.
“In all honesty — and we’ve had some great teams at East. Albeit we didn’t win districts, but this team has succeeded beyond any other team that I’ve had. We set state records for the most homers, we have the most wins in East history,” Nieto said. “And East has had some good softball teams, gone to regionals. This year, it seemed like the stars were aligning for us, but we knew this was going to be a hard game for us.”
VanderLugt finished with 26 bombs, going 2-for-5 with two RBI, three runs scored and three walks in Otsego’s two-game district run. All three walks came in a 15-0, four-inning win over Hopkins, when VanderLugt had just one at-bat. She was in the circle for both games for Otsego, as well, giving up just one earned run in 10 innings of work, striking out 11.
Not a good day to be ranked
Some years, everything goes to chalk when the postseason, with ranked teams surviving until the very end.
Other years, everything goes all cattywampus right away.
This year, especially if you were a ranked team among the big schools, it was the latter, with a trio of top-two teams getting knocked out.
In D1, only six of the top 10 teams from the final Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association rankings survived the first weekend of the postseason, as No. 1 Howell, No. 2 Grand Blanc, No. 6 South Lyon East, No. 8 Hudsonville all exited the postseason earlier than perhaps was expected.
Davison shocked Grand Blanc, 2-1, in predistricts, while Dexter shut out Howell, 2-0, in the district semifinals. Hudsonville fell, 3-2, to No. 10 Grandville in the district finals. East, as mentioned above, lost 5-0 to South Lyon.
Division 2 lost three of its top 10 — really a top 12, if you count two extra teams tying for 10th, with two of those — Allendale and Hudsonville Unity Christian (a 3-2 Unity win in eight innings) — facing off in the district finals.
As mentioned above, Otsego lost to Wayland, while No. 1 Jackson Northwest lost a 3-2 heartbreaker in eight innings to Olivet in predistricts.
Division 3 lost just one ranked team: No. 7 Traverse City St. Francis beat No. 9 Kingsley, 6-0, in the district semifinals.
In Division 4, No. 7 Breckenridge lost, 5-3 in nine innings, to Coleman in the district finals, while No. 6 Three Oaks River Valley lost, 8-0, to No. 4 Bridgman in its district title contest. No. 9 Johannesburg-Lewiston lost, 5-1, to Hillman in its district championship.