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Howell breaks MHSAA team home run record with four at Total Softball Backyard Challenge, but still looking up at Anchor Bay

Howell breaks MHSAA team home run record with four at Total Softball Backyard Challenge, but still looking up at Anchor Bay
BY: MATTHEW B. MOWERY May 25, 7:30pm

WIXOM — It appeared, for a few minutes anyway, that Howell was the new state record-holder for team home runs in a single season. 

Mere minutes after A.J. Militello’s solo home run to left against Millington gave the Highlanders 60 dingers on the season, the team Twitter account for the Anchor Bay squad tweeted out the news that the Tars had one-upped them from 55 miles away. 

Taylor Keighley’s school record-breaking homer had given the Tars a record-breaking 60th homer, as well, and Jenna Casey’s follow-up homer put Anchor Bay at 61.

It’s not an unfamiliar feeling for Howell’s Maddie Glillett, who could claim to be the Highlanders’ single-season home run queen for … oh, all of about 14 seconds last week. 

It lasted until the next batter in the third inning of Tuesday’s win over Canton, when teammate Avrey Wolverton reclaimed the lead in the intra-squad battle, mashing No. 16 at the time.

“Yeah, I let her have it,” Wolverton joked of the moment.

“Thanks,” Gillett chirped from five feet away. 

“You’re welcome,” Wolverton smirked. 

A sophomore, Wolverton currently leads the team with 17, after bashing one in the first game of the day at the Total Softball Backyard Challenge, a 10-2 victory over South Lyon East. The seniors, Gillett (16) and Militello (15) are right behind, after all three homered in the early game to put the Highlanders on the brink of the old record. 

“Oh, man, it’s a ton of fun, especially when everyone is doing it. It’s just been from everybody … it’s great. Everybody provides something, and it work out great,” Wolverton said, admitting the record book renovation isn’t something she personally pays a lot of attention to. “I don’t really pay much attention to it. I just go up there. I mean, I didn’t even know when I broke our school’s record. My mom’s like ‘Oh, you broke it!’ I’m like, ‘Really?’ It’s just not something (I think about).”

Gillett and Wolverton, in particular, are having fun pushing each other.

“It’s so healthy, it’s great. We push each other, and it’s so much fun,” Wolverton said.

Her senior compatriot agreed.

“Yeah. It’s like, I hit one the first time, and I’ll be like, ‘Hey, it’s your turn. One up me, I dare you.’ And then she does, and she’s like ‘Come on … MG, step it up,’” Gillett said. “As a senior, it’s not my job to get everyone pumped up and motivated, but just to stay on the same level, with one goal and everything. … This group — I mean, yes we do care about winning — but we just want to have fun. We want to compete and have fun. And if it’s not the turnout we hope it to be, we just hope to have fun. That’s what softball is, a game of fun.”

And nothing’s more fun than mashing, right?

For Gillett, doing anything on a softball field is a bonus, having missed all of her junior year after tearing her left ACL in volleyball. 

“Oh, my goodness, it’s awesome. Even my sophomore year, coming from sophomore year, to not playing last year, to playing this year, it’s just a huge difference that I’ve had. Also, being my senior season, too, I want to make the most of it, every part of it,” she said, admitting the power is something she didn’t have before her injury. “I hit four home runs my sophomore year. I feel 10 times stronger, just competing. I feel like I have more to compete with this year. But it’s a friendly competition, too. … My goal from when I had my injury was to get stronger. Get better, get stronger, get faster, work harder — work harder than I’ve ever done before — to get back on the playing field, and get my playing position back.”

It is a team effort, as well. Along with the big three, Maddie Springer has four home runs, Rosie McQueen has three, Kara Johnson and Skye Grant have two, and Molly Carney one.

This isn’t necessarily the home run chase between Sammy Sosa vs. Mark McGwire, circa 1998, but it should be entertaining.

Much like the chase for the individual single-season state record over the last few years, it will likely come down to which team lasts the longest in the postseason.

In 2016, Farmington Hills Mercy’s Abby Krzywiecki was chasing the record, along with Gladwin’s Dayna Fennell. Krzywiecki finished with 20 in 45 games, while Fennell had 19 in 39. 

In 2017, Muskegon Mona Shores’ Taylor Dew (22 in 39 games), L’Anse Creuse’s Brook Nadolny (22 in 33 games) and Richland Gull Lake’s Lauren Esman (21) all passed Kryzwiecki’s record.

A year later, Schoolcraft’s Lydia Goble (26 in 33 games), Nadolny (26 in 37 games) and Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard’s Julia Kennedy (22 in 40 games) all matched or bettered the 2018 standard.

The team record has been no different. 

Detroit Martin Luther King set the mark at 40 back in 1996, a standard that Frankfort matched in 2007, and wasn’t broken until Mercy hit 41 in 2013. Since then, nine teams have broken the 40 mark in the last five seasons, leading up to this year, when there are a number of teams in serious pursuit.

Anchor Bay leads the way with 62 (Casey hit another one later in the tournament), followed by Howell.

Walled Lake Northern is at 55.

Three Rivers is at 53.

St. Joseph is at 51. 

And there are likely others that haven’t come forth yet.

Millington actually outslugged Howell in the second game of the day for both at the Backyard Challenge, beating the Highlanders — who were without the nicked up Carney (mild ankle injury) in the circle — by an 8-1 score.

Gabbie Sherman tossed a four-hitter for the Cardinals, while Darrien Roberts went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a home run, two RBI and two runs scored, and Sydney Bishop was 2-for-4 with a double and a homer and three runs scored.

The Cardinals tied Grand Haven, 1-1, earlier in the morning.