Second annual squad features players from Racine, Walworth, Kenosha, Waukesha counties

Burlington junior Jaina Westphal hit above .400 in 2017. With Westphal, Josie Klein and Gracie Peterson all returning next year, the Lady Demons could be an early favorite in the SLC. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

For the second consecutive season, a Southern Lakes Conference player takes our top spot.

Not enough can be said about Union Grove senior catcher Kallista Hribar, who hit a whopping .658 this season with a ridiculous 17 home runs.

The leadoff batter is the 2017 Southern Lakes Newspapers Player of the Year, despite Union Grove’s 10-14 overall record.

This year’s team consists of a first, second and honorable mention list and, just like last year’s inaugural squad, is dominated by the Southern Lakes Conference – with 17 of the top 20 girls from the state’s best conference.

Furthermore, a record eight SLC players earned all-state honors.

While Westosha Central continued its dominance with a sixth straight SLC crown, rival Wilmot got it done when it counted, knocking off Central with a valiant comeback in the sectional final and enjoying a run all the way to the state championship game.

In Division 2, Delavan-Darien returned to sectionals one year after advancing to the state championship game.

Much like last year, the team isn’t limited to positions.

The top 10 players in the area, which includes 15 schools in Racine, Walworth, Kenosha and Waukesha counties, are on the first team, followed by 10 on the second team and a plethora of worthy candidates on honorable mention.

Team record, strength of conference and intangibles play a factor, not just statistics, when determining who goes where.

Hribar

Our talented team of sports writers, including Jason Arndt, Chris Bennett, Tim Wester, Kevin Cunningham, Daniel Schoettler and Dan Truttschel, all contributed their thoughts, as they’ve witnessed and reported on tons of games this past spring.

Ramczyk, SLN’s sports editor, provides the final call, after careful, detailed research of coaches’ recommendations, postseason accolades, stats and the good, old-fashioned eye test.

Ladies and gentlemen, sit back, grab a cold beverage, and enjoy the largest area All-Area softball squad outside of Milwaukee and Madison.

 

Player of the year

Kallista Hribar, senior, Union Grove

(See feature story soon on www.myracinecounty.com)

 

Coach of the year

Jenny Jacobson, Wilmot

What the Panthers saw in first-year softball coach Jenny Jacobson was a person who never stopped believing in her team, even when the chips were down at the start of the season.

The Panthers, who started 3-3, including a loss to Westosha Central, eventually found their rhythm to finish the regular season at 16-4.

From there, the team won three regional and sectional contests, one of which was against the Falcons, in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, to capture the sectional title and stamp a ticket to state.

Following two victories at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament, the Panthers moved to the championship contest against Kaukauna.

Although the Panthers lost, they completed an improbable run, considering where they started the season.

Couple the rough start with the fact that rival Westosha won the Southern Lakes Conference, and Jacobson showed true leadership in teaching her girls resiliency and fight late in the season.

A 21-5 record in her first season with the Lady Panthers means the future is bright in Wilmot.

 

First Team

Morgyn Delara, senior, Delavan-Darien

A Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association first team all-state selection, Delara was one of the best hitters in the state with a .538 batting average.

What was more impressive was her power, as Delara crushed eight home runs, drove in 40, smacked 49 hits and added 16 doubles.

Delara compiled a jaw-dropping 1.576 OPS.

She helped lead the Lady Comets to sectionals and was the top hitter in their 2016 state tournament run.

Delara did her best Babe Ruth impression May 9 at Lake Geneva Badger, going 4-for-4 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

“Morgyn is one of the best hitters in the area and also the state,” said head coach Hank Johnson about the Madison College commit.

The all-state and all-district selection joined Hribar in the WFSCA All-Star Game.

 

Kalyssa Koehn, senior, Wilmot

The strong-armed shortstop Koehn, a Division 1 North Dakota State recruit, can rake with the best of them.

A first team all-state pick, she could do it all and incorporated positive leadership to lift the team’s spirits.

At a highly-demanding position, Koehn made crucial defensive plays to thwart rallies.

Koehn stepped up in the postseason with a higher level of intensity.

She hit .431 to lead the Panthers with four home runs and 31 RBIs.

Koehn had three hits in seven different games and added 11 doubles.

“Her experience as a four-year starter was evident,” Jacobson said. “She is a triple threat to teams – at bat, on base and defensively. Her consistency defensively helped us this year, and she made some big plays at key moments in our postseason run.”

 

Riley Regnier, senior, Wilmot

If not for Hribar and Delara, Regnier would have been the best power hitter and run producer in the SLC.

A .404 hitter, Regnier cranked 10 home runs and drove in 34 runs.

Regnier, who will play at Southern Indiana, joined Delara, Hribar and Koehn on the all-state first team and all-SLC first team.

A first baseman with sure handles, Regnier’s biggest strength was her patience at the plate.

“Whether the count was 3-1 or 0-2, she made things happen,” Jacobson said. “Her teammates definitely trusted and appreciated her defense. No matter where the throw was, she was getting it.”

 

Sarah Hutchinson, senior, Wilmot

Our first pitcher on the board got the best of star pitcher Alyssa Hrncar in a Division 1 sectional final and beat the rival Falcons twice, including allowing three earned runs in the teams’ second meeting.

Overall, she was the best pitcher in the area, thanks in large part to her dominant state tournament run.

Hutchinson threw two consecutive three-hitters, which equated to one earned run allowed in 14 innings, in state quarter- and semifinal victories before firing another quality performance in the state title game.

Hutchinson only allowed six hits and three runs to Kaukauna, but the Panthers couldn’t offer much run support against Kaukauna’s lights-out pitcher.

Hutchinson went 16-3 with a 3.30 ERA, totaling 87 strikeouts in 128 innings and only 32 walks.

She allowed zero earned runs in six appearances, including four complete game shutouts.

Hutchinson, who will take her talents to UW-Whitewater next season, proved she is a clutch performer and played her best when the stakes were highest.

“She worked a lot with her pitching coach in the offseason because she wanted to bring it this season,” Jacobson said. “She wanted to prove she shouldn’t be taken lightly, and that she’s one of our conference’s top pitchers.”

“She was definitely a driving force and factor in a lot of our games. Her confidence grew so much because she knew the team had her back, and that helped her excel.”

 

Alyssa Hrncar, senior, Westosha Central

One of the area’s best pitchers the last four years, Hrncar is a former state champion who overcame adversity in 2017.

Despite having to miss several games to start the season, Hrncar still managed 14 wins and struck out 126 batters with a 2.72 ERA.

Hrncar hit .333 in 46 at-bats.

Hrncar will pitch at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside next season, and she could go down as the greatest pitcher in Falcon history.

“Some of her career marks will be very difficult for anyone to beat,” said co-head coaches Tom and Konnie Lampe. “She was as mentally tough as any pitcher we’ve ever coached, and she is the best defensive pitcher around. She will be very hard to replace.”

Hrncar was an all-state honorable mention selection after earning first team honors in 2015 and 2016. She was also a four-time first team all-SLC selection.

She is the career leader at Westosha in shutouts (32), strikeouts (652), innings (551), complete games (72), wins (75) and starts (82).

Hrncar is fourth in school history with a 1.35 ERA.

Gracie Peterson

Kira Mickelson, senior, Westosha Central

Without Mickelson, the Falcons would have won fewer games, courtesy of a few game-winning doubles and critical home runs.

Mickelson was a doubles machine this season and wound up in the top five in several key statistical categories in school history.

The catcher and infielder will play Division 1 college softball at Northern Illinois in 2018.

Mickelson banged seven homers and knocked in 42 RBIs to go with a team-leading .495 batting average.

She added 15 doubles.

The all-state honorable mention pick was first team all-Kenosha County.

“Kira was the heart and soul of our team,” said the Lampes. “Not only did she lead us in RBIs and set a new school record in doubles, but she was clearly the vocal and spiritual leader.”

“She was constantly overlooked because of all the top players we had, but she was a key component to our success.”

Mickelson is the school’s all-time leader in doubles with 33, is second in home runs with 19 and is second in hits (157) and RBIs (137).

She was the team’s starting first baseman for the 2014 state runner-up squad and starting shortstop for the 2015 state champs.

 

Taylor Danielson, senior, Wilmot

On a team of superior talent, Danielson may have been the most clutch hitter.

That was on full display in the team’s improbable comeback down 9-3 against Westosha in the sectional final.

With her team down 9-8 late in the game, Danielson blasted the “shot heard round the area,” a three-run blast that gave the Panthers the lead and helped Wilmot upset its rival.

Danielson added a home run in a state tournament victory, and she finished the season hitting .389 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs.

“Due to her knee surgery, she worked so hard in the offseason to get back, and boy did it show,” Jacobson said. “She managed and controlled Sarah behind the plate so well, and is one of the best catchers I’ve seen do that in awhile. Their bond as friends carried over to the diamond, and that’s absolutely needed to be a successful team.”

Danielson, who hits four homers in the team’s final five games, including a two home-run, 4-for-4 hitting clinic to beat Westosha in the sectional final.

She will play collegiately at the University of Indianapolis.

 

Rachel Gosh, junior, Elkhorn

Our first non-senior on the team, Gosh is yet another star from the deep SLC, and the Lady Elks enjoyed a strong 2017 season in which they finished third in conference with a 14-10 overall record.

Gosh tore it up at the plate, hitting .493 with six home runs, 21 RBIs, 36 hits and 25 runs.

She only struck out twice and boasted a staggering 1.464 OPS (.560 OBP, .904 slug).

Gosh earned first team all-SLC honors. She was the leader of the Lady Elks in 2017.

“Rachel had to fill in as a pitcher this year,” said head coach Steve Remington. “Her knowledge of the game is very high, and she is willing to do whatever is needed to make our program successful. She played shortstop whenever she wasn’t pitching. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.”

 

Hunter Huber, senior, Delavan-Darien

The area’s RBI queen only missed out on first team all-SLC because Hribar also played catcher.

But there’s no way she’s missing our first team, because Huber is a menace at the dish.

She only needed 86 at-bats to rack up 39 hits, a .453 batting average and an eye-popping 50 RBIs – in only 27 games (15-12).

Huber spent three seasons at third base before catching this season.

She added four home runs and a 1.209 OPS, and she was in the top 10 in the state in RBIs.

“Hunter was a big part of our regional title team,” Johnson said.

 

Second team

Samantha Hartwig, junior, Williams Bay

The 14-7 Lady Bulldogs finished third in the Trailways South Conference, and they were blessed by a historic season from Hartwig.

Any time a player hits above .600, it doesn’t matter what division he or she plays in.

Hartwig dazzled with a .614 batting average, four home runs and an unfair 1.816 OPS.

A natural second baseman, head coach Jeff Kuespert said Hartwig is a very smooth fielder with a great backhand.

Hartwig earned honorable mention all-district and first team all-Trailways.

 

Montana Platts, junior, Wilmot

When a team almost wins state, its players are given precedence come postseason awards time.

Often forgotten among other big names, Platts was one point off the team batting average lead with a .430 mark.

She had 40 hits, 16 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

Platts was second on the team in stolen bases and hits.

She played her best when the stage was brightest at state, finishing 6-for-10 in three games, with two hits apiece in each game (2-1).

 

Kayla Kerkman, junior, Westosha Central

Overlooked regionally and statewide for her work as a middle infielder, she was among SLC leaders in runs scored and her .480 batting average was in the area’s top 10.

Kerkman provided a powerful spark at the top of the Falcons’ lineup, where she managed 47 hits and a .505 on-base percentage.

She led the Falcons with six stolen bases.

A first team all-SLC selection in 2017, Kerkman offered supreme range and a steady glove at shortstop.

She is verbally committed to play for Winona State University in 2019.

“Although her arm strength isn’t typical of a shortstop, she has a very quick release which makes up for that,” the Lampes said. “Kayla will be asked to take on a bigger leadership role next season, but she is more than ready to fill those shoes.”

 

Haley Remington, freshman, Elkhorn

Remington barely missed the all-SLC first team, as the phenom made an immediate impact despite

competing against some of the best players in the state.

The second team all-SLC pick finished among conference leaders with 36 hits, and her .419 battting average ballooned to .436 in conference play.

She had a team-leading fielding percentage of .982 at second base, shortstop and catcher, and she turned eight double plays.

Remington tallied 19 RBIs.

“Haley is a leader on our team,” said Coach Remington.

 

Haley Lamberson, sophomore, Wilmot

A first team all-SLC outfielder, Lamberson hit .405 with 36 hits and 10 RBIs.

Lamberson was excellent defensively, and her play helped the Lady Panthers enjoy the area’s best season.

“It was so rewarding to see a team come together and play and work as one, and work toward a common goal,” Jacobson said. “We were strong hitting 1-9, and defensively we made plays when we needed to, and it’s the reason we won some games this year.”

 

Lois

Madison Hunt, sophomore, Lake Geneva Badger

A first team selection as a sophomore in the state’s best conference can’t be denied.

Hunt is a star, and she will only get better.

She hit .435 to lead the Badgers and was solid at third base.

“She was our most consistent hitter,” said Badger coach Glen York. “I think she certainly deserves consideration.”

 

Jaina Westphal, junior, Burlington

One of the better hitters in the area, Westphal had to miss the Demons’ two playoff games due to injury.

However, she still managed to earn first team all-Racine County honors and second team all-SLC thanks to a team-leading .407 batting average, a 1.144 OPS, three home runs, three triples and 21 stolen bases.

Westphal, a dynamic shortstop with a big arm, was the team captain.

“Jaina has great defensive skills, hits for power and average and is one of the best base runners in the SLC,” said head coach Gary Caliva. “She’s a leader in the dugout and on the field.”

 

Lauren Stefanczyk, junior, Palmyra-Eagle

The sure-handed shortstop was a beast at the plate.

She hit .576, stole 28 bases, smashed six home runs and added 38 hits and seven triples.

The all-around threat was named first team all-Rock Valley.

“I am honored to coach Lauren,” said Palmyra coach Kim Hetz. “Lauren is one of the most dynamic and passionate softball shortstops I have observed in years. She is the type of player who makes softball a great sport. Lauren’s role as a junior captain elevated our program to a whole new level.”

Robson

Sydney Robson, junior, Burlington Catholic Central

One of the area’s best all-around players, Robson was named the Metro Classic Conference player of the year for the second straight year.

She was the team’s primary pitcher, going 8-6 with a 2.48 ERA, but didn’t receive much run support or defensive play when she pitched.

A power pitcher, Robson fanned 134 batters in only 79 innings, nearly two strikeouts per inning.

Robson played shortstop and center field when she wasn’t pitching.

At the plate, Robson raked to the tune of a .561 batting average with a home run, 29 RBIs, eight doubles and four triples.

“Sydney is everything a coach could ask for as a player and leader,” said head coach Bill Greskiw. “She provided a foundation for the team defensively as our No. 1 pitcher and offensively batting in the core of the lineup. She leads as a captain both on the field and off. Many of her major contributions as a team leader come during practice and with her organizational and leadership skills. An extremely dedicated and driven individual.”

Robson compiled a 1.413 OPS.

 

Jaida Speth, junior, Delavan-Darien

The Lady Comets’ primary pitcher went 14-12 with a 2.90 ERA in 2017.

In the leadoff spot, she hit .418 with a home run and five doubles.

Speth joins the All-Area squad one year after her older sister Jennah won player of the year honors.

Speth struck out 102 batters in 162 innings.

“Jaida was our pitcher this year and pitched great,” Johnson said. “Most of the runs that were scored off of her was because of our defense.”

Brooke Walek led Waterford with a .388 batting average. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Honorable mention

Carrie Weis, sr., Westosha Central

2nd team all-SLC outfielder, .281, 15 RBI, 25 hits, “Carrie was switched from left to center field,” said Coach Lampe. “She had great range, a steady glove and a powerful and accurate arm. Carrie was a key leader and is a special athlete.”

Andrea Edquist, jr., Westosha Central

5 HR, 16 RBI, .314, “Andrea developed into a serious power hitter,” Lampe said.

Paleka

Christina Paleka, freshman, Catholic Central

.429 batting average, 6 3B, 7 2B, 1.246 OPS, 4-1, 4.34 ERA

Gina Jrolf, jr., Palmyra-Eagle

.417 BA, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 5 2B, 3 3B

Megan Hribar, sr., Union Grove

.306 BA, 1st team all-Racine County, 2nd team all-SLC

Kaitlyn O’Connell, sr., East Troy

1st team all-Rock Valley North, .423 BA, 8 doubles, 3 triples, 21 RBI, threw out 12 of 14 runners at catcher

Brooke Walek, soph., Waterford

.388 BA, HM all-SLC, 9 2B, 2 HR, .575 slugging

Calla Esch, jr., Waterford

2nd team all-SLC, .372 BA

Alyssa Schumacher, fr., Whitewater

.389 BA, HM All-Rock Valley North

Riley Davis, jr., Walworth Big Foot

1st team all-Rock Valley South (utility), co-MVP, .260 BA

Sarah Koltermann, sr., Mukwonago

Esch

2nd team all-Classic 8

Josie Klein, jr., Burlington

1st team all-Racine County, .274 BA, 16 RBI, HR. 10-9 record pitching, 2.86 ERA, team captain, “Josie led by example and was very focused and instinctive,” Caliva said.

Alexis Lois, sr., Burlington

1st team all-Racine County, .381 BA, 11 RBI, led team with 24 hits, “Alexis played left field and has great range, great instincts and good arm strength, threw out 3 runners at plate this year,” Caliva said.

Gracie Peterson, fr., Burlington

2nd team all-SLC, 1st team all-county, .333 BA, 2 2B, 2 3B, 20 SB, “Gracie has great range and makes all the plays at shortstop,” Caliva said. “She’s a smart, aggressive ballplayer.”

Klein

 

Area leaders
  1. Kallista Hribar, sr., Union Grove, .658 batting average.
  2. Samanthan Hartwig, jr., Williams Bay, .614
  3. Lauren Stefanczyk, jr., Palmyra-Eagle, .576
  4. Sydney Robson, jr., Burlington Catholic Central, .561
  5. Morgyn Delara, sr., Delavan-Darien, .538
  6. Kira Mickelson, sr., Westosha Central, .495
  7. Rachel Gosh, jr., Elkhorn, .493
  8. Kayla Kerkman, jr., Westosha Central, .480
  9. Hunter Huber, sr., Delavan-Darien, .453
  10. Madison Hunt, soph., Lake Geneva Badger

 

 

 

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