KALAMAZOO, MI – The playoffs have arrived in Michigan’s spring high school sports season, meaning the intensity is ramping up as teams head toward the home stretch.

For some, the pressure can be too much to bear, but others thrive when every moment carries more weight.

With that in mind, we’re looking at 23 standout student-athletes who shined between May 17-22 for the fifth installment of the Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive Athlete of the Week poll.

The poll will remain open and with unlimited voting until 9 a.m. Friday, and the next one will launch next Monday.

Coaches can nominate student-athletes by emailing scores and stats to Patrick Nothaft at pnothaft@mlive.com. Those who have already made arrangements to send scores and stats via email or through the GameChanger app, thank you.

This week’s winner will be recognized in a story after the voting wraps up Friday morning.

Aubrey Aukerman, Delton Kellogg softball

The junior shortstop swung a hot bat during a busy week, going 13 for 26 with five doubles, two triples, a home run, 12 RBIs and 10 runs scored in eight games against some tough teams, including Richland Gull Lake and Hopkins.

Kalamazoo Christian vs. Hackett baseball city championship

Hackett’s Isaac Backman (34) pitches during the baseball city championship between Kalamazoo Christian and Hackett in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Rodney Coleman-Robinson | MLive.com) Rodney Coleman-Robinson | MLive.com

Isaac Backman, Kalamazoo Hackett baseball, track

The sophomore infielder helped Hackett’s state-ranked baseball team post a 4-0 record last week by going 6 for 13 with two doubles, four RBIs and seven runs scored, while also excelling at his Division 4 track regional, where he won the 400-meter dash, the 800-meter relay and qualified for the state meet in the 200 dash.

Sage Brown, Kalamazoo Hackett girls track

The junior sprinter was a three-time winner at her Division 4 regional meet, claiming first-place finishes in the 200-meter dash (26.59 seconds), the 400 dash (1:02.73) and the 1,600 relay (4:33.69).

Jacob Conklin, Vicksburg baseball

The senior outfielder led Vicksburg to a 5-0 record last week by going 10 for 18 with a double, a triple, four stolen bases, five runs scored and seven RBIs against talented teams, including Portage Northern and Centreville.

Savanna Disbrow, Richland Gull Lake softball

The senior pitcher was terrific in the circle last week, tallying 13 strikeouts in nine innings, while allowing one hit, four walks and zero earned runs, including a 10-strikeout one-hitter against Kalamazoo Loy Norrix. Disbrow was even better at the plate, where she went 9 for 14 with three doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs and five runs scored in just four games, including a two-dinger, eight-RBI game against Delton Kellogg.

Faith Edwards, Centreville softball

The sophomore pitcher had a rough outing against a talented Vicksburg team, allowing 15 hits and 15 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings, but the rest of her week was outstanding, including 22 strikeouts in 11 innings, while allowing three hits and one earned run. She was also dominant at the plate, going 11 for 16 with three doubles, three triples, two home runs, 15 runs scored and 11 RBIs.

Breanna Franks, Decatur softball

A 10-strikeout no-hitter against Gobles headlined an impressive week from the sophomore pitcher, who combined to go 2-0 with 15 strikeouts in nine innings, while allowing 4 hits, two earned runs and one walk. At the plate, Franks went 7 for 13 with two doubles, seven runs scored and four RBIs in four games.

Kali Heivilin, Three Rivers softball

The future Alabama slugger has been mashing since her freshman year, but last week was incredible, even for her standards, as Heivilin went 13 for 24 with a triple, nine home runs, 15 runs scored and 18 RBIs against some tough teams, including Vicksburg, Otsego and Wayland.

Mackenzie Hill, Plainwell girls track

The junior distance runner captured Division 2 regional titles in the 800-meter run (2:19.93), the 1,600 run (5:18.82) and the 1,600-meter relay, which she anchored to a first-place finish of 4:18.19.

Aaron Jasiak, Parchment baseball

The sophomore pitcher went 2-0 on the mound last week, combining for 12 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings against Bronson and Kalamazoo Christian, while allowing 10 hits, one walk and two earned runs. He also excelled at the plate, going 7 for 11 with a double, five stolen bases, six runs scored and three RBIs in four games.

Jackson Lawrence, Climax-Scotts baseball

Climax-Scotts played just three games last week, but the junior pitcher made the most of them by tallying nine strikeouts in six innings, while allowing two hits, two walks and one earned run in wins against Frankfort and Athens. At the plate, Lawrence went 5 for 7 with three doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored.

Mattawan Vs. Portage Central baseball game

Portage Central’s Zach MacDonald runs home after a home run at the Mattawan vs. Portage Central baseball game in Mattawan, Michigan on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Rodney Coleman-Robinson | MLive.com) Rodney Coleman-Robinson | MLive.com

Zach MacDonald, Portage Central baseball

The senior centerfielder and future Miami RedHawk continued his impressive final season of prep baseball by going 8 for 12 with two doubles, two triples, nine runs scored and nine RBIs in a tough four-game stretch against Portage Northern and Coldwater.

Karly Manning, Hartford softball

The junior ace picked up two wins in the circle against a tough Marcellus team, combining for 26 strikeouts in 14 innings, while allowing 17 hits, four walks and six earned runs. At the plate, she went 4 for 6 with three doubles, two walks, five runs scored and two RBIs.

Kalamazoo Central Signing Day ceremony

Kalamazoo Central’s Kearney Miller signs to Albion College to play softball at a college signing day ceremony in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, May 20, 2021. (Rodney Coleman-Robinson | MLive.com) Rodney Coleman-Robinson | MLive.com

Kearney Miller, Kalamazoo Central softball

The senior and future Albion College pitcher enjoyed a terrific week to help lead the Maroons Giants to 3-1 record in a split with Parchment and a doubleheader sweep over Marshall, combining to strikeout 23 batters in 12 innings, while allowing seven hits, four walks and two earned runs in two outings. At the plate, Miller went 8 for 13 with five doubles, a triple, six RBIs and four runs scored.

Morgan Modert, Gobles girls track

The sophomore sprinter was a three-time winner at her Division 4 regional meet, claiming first-place finishes in the 100-meter dash (13.38 seconds), the 400-meter relay (53.54) and the 800 relay (1:54.83). She also qualified for the state meet in the 200 dash by placing second with a time of 28.37 seconds.

Ella Richter, Lawton softball

The freshman shortstop enjoyed a breakout week in her first high school softball season, smashing a triple and three home runs to finish the four-game stretch 7 for 12 with six runs scored and three RBIs.

Izzy Smith, Mendon softball

The junior second baseman led Mendon to a 5-0 week and helped the Hornets improve their record to 24-2 by going 12 for 18 with four doubles, 11 RBIs and eight runs scored in wins over Quincy, Brooklyn Columbia Central, Three Oaks River Valley and Marcellus.

Jacob Straley, Schoolcraft boys track

The versatile senior athlete claimed three regional championships at his Division 3 meet Friday by running the 100-meter dash in 11.55 seconds, the 200 dash in 24.12 seconds and anchoring the winning 800 relay team, which finished in 1:34.01. He also qualified for the state meet in the discus with his second-place throw of 132 feet, 1 inch.

Avery Thielman, Kalamazoo Central baseball

The junior third baseman swung a hot bat last week, combining to go 10 for 21 with five doubles, a triple, eight runs scored and six RBIs. He also pitched two perfect innings, in which he struck out three batters.

Schoolcraft defeats Parchment

Schoolcraft junior Hannah Thompson (22) is guarded by Parchment’s Mina Bolden (4) as she looks to settle the ball in the regular season finale on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 in Parchment, Michigan. Thompson scored eight goals in the game. This season she has scored 74 goals in 17 games, eclipsing the previous state record of 66, which was set by Mount ClemensÕ Kristi Vandeberghe in 2001. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

Hannah Thompson, Schoolcraft girls soccer

The junior forward enjoyed an historic week, as she netted seven goals on Monday against Saugatuck to tie Mount Clemens’ Kristi Vandeberghe for the single-season state record at 66, then broke the record two days later with eight goals against Parchment, bringing her season total up to 74.

Otsego vs Kalamazoo Christian

Otsego’s Kendra Vanderlugt (2) hits a double against Kalamazoo Christian in Otsego, Otsego High School on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

Kendra Vanderlugt, Otsego softball

The senior slugger and future Toledo Rocket continued her outstanding 2021 campaign by going 7 for 13 with a double, five home runs, 12 RBIs and seven runs scored to lead the Bulldogs to a 4-0 week against a pair of tough opponents in Three Rivers and Middleville Thornapple Kellogg. Vanderlugt also earned three wins in the circle and tallied 23 strikeouts in 22 innings, while allowing 21 hits, 11 walks and 14 earned runs.

Bradyn Webb, Sturgis baseball

The senior pitcher shined on the mound and at the plate last week, combining to throw 11 innings and strike out 19 batters, while allowing five hits, six walks and one earned run in wins over Dowagiac and Three Rivers. Offensively, Webb went 13 for 22 with a double, a triple, four RBIs and seven runs scored.

Jack Wilson, Plainwell baseball

The junior first baseman was a consistent bat in Plainwell’s lineup to help his team post a 3-0-1 record last week, including a sweep over Hastings. Wilson combined to go 7 for 12 with three runs scored and five RBIs for the 11-6-1 Trojans.


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