By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – As of today, Taylor Dew is Michigan’s all-time high school softball home run champion.

And if she hits a few more homers over the rest of the season, she may be able to graduate with her record still intact.

The senior slugger from Mona Shores broke the all-time state career record on Thursday when she hit her 50th varsity home run.

It came on her first at-bat in the Sailors’ 12-0, five-inning victory over Zeeland West in a non-league contest at Mona Shores’ home field.

The count was 2-and-2 when Dew swung at a low pitch and sent it flying over the fence in left-center field. The fans and media members who came to see if she would set the new mark had barely settled in when she got the job done.

Dew admitted that she was swinging for the fence, in hopes of getting the record-breaker out of the way.

Taylor Dew holds her record-stetting home run ball. Photo/Jason Goorman

“It just looked like it was coming in at a decent height, so I just decided to take a swing at it,” Dew told gathered reporters after the game. “I wanted it to be over with after the first at-bat, so I could relax the rest of the game.

“It’s just been a really cool experience. Not a lot of people get to experience something like this. My teammates have all been really supportive of me.”

The big home run ended, at least for the moment, Dew’s two-year odyssey of putting her name in the state record book.

Last season she drew widespread attention when she hit her 21st home run of the season, breaking the state’s single-season record of 20, set in 2016 by Abby Krzywiecki of Farmington Hills Mercy.

But that set up a new challenge, chasing the career record of 49, established by Erika Underwood of Addison High School (2012-15) and Taylor Johnson of Belding High School (2007-10).

Dew had 38 career homers after hitting her single-season record-breaker, so her chase for the career record was immediately on.

Dew now has 12 homers this season, quite a few less than she had last year, but a dozen was enough to pass Underwood and Johnson.

So the pressure of at least breaking the old record is over, and Dew is happy about that.

“It’s kind of a relief to have all of the pressure off,” she said. “It’s like a weight off my shoulders. Not that it’s tiring, but I would always think about it, what if I don’t get it, what if I disappoint people.”

Taylor Dew tosses her bat after hitting her 50th career home run for Mona Shores. Photo/Jason Goorman

But Dew remains in a battle to retain the record she just set.  At last report, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard senior Julia Kennedy had 48 career home runs, so the race will be on to see who will graduate as the all-time state home run champ.

Dew said she would like to keep the title to herself, but won’t worry too much about what Kennedy is doing on the other side of the state.

“I just try to keep that out of my mind,” she said. “The more I think about it, the more I’ll drop my hands (when batting), and the more I’ll pop it up. It’s not that I’m not determined, but when I try too hard I don’t hit as good.”

Dew will have one extra incentive to try to keep the record for herself, because the next few weeks will be the final chapter of her softball career.

Unlike Kennedy, who will play college softball at Miami of Ohio, the Mona Shores slugger has decided to drop the sport after high school. She knows that means giving up a softball scholarship to Ferris State University, but she says her mind is made up.

“I will be going to Muskegon Community College and I’m not going to play softball,” she said. “I’ve been playing for so long, and I’m ready to move on to a different part of my life and focus on school. I’ve been committed to Ferris since the 10th grade, and I decommitted last fall. It had been on my mind for a while, and I finally talked to my mom about it, and she told me I should do whatever I want.

“It’s not that I’m tired of it. I just can’t imagine committing to another four years of it.”