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SOFTBALL RECORD BOOK: South Lyon East matches team HR record; Sciborski chasing solo mark, but not alone

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, May 20, 2021, 8:32 pm

Next big fly, there will be a new home run champ. 

After adding a handful to the stack on Thursday, South Lyon East now has 63 dingers as a team, tying the mark set two years (and one season) ago by New Baltimore Anchor Bay. 

On Thursday, the Cougars hit five more in a twinbill sweep of Walled Lake Western, getting them to the MHSAA mark. 

Molly Nieto had the first in the 10-0 win in the opener, while Lauren Sciborski hit No. 20 on the season, joining just eight other hitters in MHSAA history with 20 or more in a season.  

Nieto had two more in the 11-1 nightcap win, including a grand slam, while Madie Patton hit her first career round-tripper to get the Cougars to No. 63. 

They’ve been coming in bunches lately, too.

The Cougars hit nine home runs in Saturday’s play — three in each game — at the Canton tournament, then added three more Sunday. They hit six in a twinbill sweep of Milford on Monday, May 10, and four in a doubleheader sweep of Walled Lake Central on Tuesday, May 11. A week before that, they hit four in a high-scoring doubleheader split with Walled Lake Northern. 

It’s a record that’s been broken three times in a half-dozen seasons. 

Detroit Martin Luther King set a new standard with 40 homers in 1996, burying a record that had been set at 27 by Taylor Light & Life Christian three years earlier (1993), then extended by one by Light & Life a year later (1994). King’s record would stand alone for 11 years, until Frankfort matched it in 2007. 

Between then and the start of this season, 18 teams had hit 40 or more, with four teams topping the 50 mark (and six with 40-plus) in 2019 alone. Farmington Hills Mercy moved the record to 51 in 2013, then Romeo pushed it to 59 two years later. Howell (62) and Anchor Bay (63) both passed that mark in 2019, and now East has joined the Tars as the co-record holder for the moment. 

————

There are always two. 

At least two.

Whenever there’s an individual home run chase in recent years, it seems like there are always two players involved, in separate parts of the state.

Pentwater’s Melinda Van Gillis set the MHSAA record at 18 homers in 1979, a mark that was matched three times — by Swan Valley’s Heather Pollick in 2012, by Williamston’s Camri Grace in 2014 and Romeo’s Madison Jones in 2015 — before it was finally broken after 36 years.

In 2016, Farmington Hills Mercy’s Abby Krzywiecki was chasing the record with all the eyes in Southeast Michigan upon her, while Dayna Fennell was doing the same thing in Gladwin, drawing the attention of Mid-Michigan. Krzywiecki set the record at 20, with Fennell finishing with 19. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard’s Julia Kennedy finished one back at 18 that same year. 

Krzywiecki’s record lasted just one year, as Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse’s Brooke Nadolny — eventually the MHSAA’s all-time HR champion — broke the single-season record with 22, but Muskegon Mona Shores’ Taylor Dew did the same thing on the state’s western shore. Richland Gull Lake’s Lauren Esman finished one back with 21.

A year later, in 2018, Nadolny broke her own record with 26 homers in 37 games, while Schoolcraft’s Lydia Goble matched her feat in 33. 

Kennedy bettered her own mark with 22 that season, finishing with 55 in her career, enough at the time for the career record. Two others — North Branch’s Reese Ruhlman (19) and Three Rivers’ Kali Heivilin (18) — weren’t far behind.  

Nadolny had 19 in 2019 to break Kennedy’s all-time mark, finishing with 73 in her four years, but she wasn’t that year’s home run queen in the state — or even her own county. Anchor Bay’s Taylor Keighley finished with 21 that season to help the Tars set the team record. Heivilin had 19 more in 2019, while three other players finished with 17.

Now, there’s a race to see if anyone can get to 26 or beyond.

Three players (at least three) seem to be contenders.

Heivilin, Sciborski and Otsego’s Kendra VanderLugt all had 19 homers entering play Thursday. Sciborski got to 20 with a solo shot in the first inning of Thursday’s doubleheader, while VanderLugt hit two (and drove in six in a doubleheader sweep of Thornapple Kellogg) to get to 21. Heivilin’s Three Rivers squad was idle.