Team picks two seniors
as honorary captains
By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
When Coach Denise Smith looks over the stats from this year’s high school softball season, she can’t help but smile.
That’s because all of those areas a coach wants to see improvement from year to year—team batting average, hits, RBIs, walks, runs scored—happened during the just-completed 2013 season.
And, all of those areas where the coach wants to see the numbers drop, like errors and strike-outs, did, as well.
The team completed its season earlier this month with a district runner-up finish. It’s only the second time the Lady Longhorns have come home with some softball district hardware.
This year’s 12-15 finish is the fourth best season record since the program started at Chase County in 2000.
And, it came after just three wins last year and no wins the two years previous before that.
Here are a some comparisons from this year to last year’s stats:
Team batting average—Improved from .220 last year to .257 this year.
Team hits for season—122 last year, 173 this year.
Slugging percentage—.258 last year, .321 this year.
Walks (team)—105 last year, 123 this year.
Strikeouts (team)—180 last year, 159 this year.
Two Chase county players batted over the .300 mark, led by senior Jodi Koellner who finished with a .346 for the season. Freshman Josie Peterson had the second best average on the team at .319.
Five others also bettered the .250 batting average mark, including Anna Bauerle, Claire Kuenne, Abbi Vetter, Ally Vrbas and Katelyn Wheeler.
Individually, Koellner also had a lot of the top marks offensively. She led the team in hits (27), homeruns (4), RBIs (33) and slugging percentage (.538).
Vrbas led the team in stolen bases (37) and walks (25).
Starting pitcher Anna Bauerle also improved her earned run average (ERA) this season. Last year, she finished with a 10.72, dropping it considerably to 6.67 this season.
Coach Smith said the big improvement in her team this season has a lot to do with experience at the positions.
Unlike previous years, five of the six infielders this year played the same position the year before.
“They are more aware of things with experience, things make more sense and it makes them more effective,” she said.
She has a lot to say about her senior class of six players, too.
“Whatever we asked them to do they never complained,” she said.
And, individually, Smith said the big improvement seen in Anna Bauerle’s pitching can be attributed to all the extra work she put in, including time in the weight room.
“She is a hard worker, and had a big impact when she joined the program” three years ago, Smith said.
The team realized a lot of additional talent, too, when the six freshmen came on board this fall. Three of them, Destiny Reinke, Katelyn Wheeler and Josie Peterson, were the starting outfielders.
Five of the team’s starters will be back next year, and Smith is hopeful that all 14 of this year’s underclassmen will be back, infused with some new freshman players and possibly other upperclassmen who may start playing.
“It would be nice to have the same number of 20 out again next year,” she said.
Smith added that the team’s success this season can also be attributed to strong fan support from parents, grandparents and others.
“It was a lot of fun to play with a good crowd there,” she said.
“We to share our district second place with so many more people. It was exciting,” she said.
The team set a number of season and career records, listed below.
Homeruns—Jodi Koellner set both new season and career records with four and five, respectively. Old record was one homer held by Koellner, Shanna Carter and Tabitha Russell.
Stolen bases (season)—Ally Vrbas with 37, breaks record of 36 held by Erica Pirog in 2007.
RBIs (season and career)—Koellner 33 and 63, breaking season record of 19 held by Michaela Space (2012) and career record of 42 held by Tabitha Russell (2005-07 seasons).
On-base percentage—Anna Bauerle with .462, breaking old record of .436 held by Kacia Smith (2011).
In addition to the local records, Chase County also earned some state recognition this year, tying a Class C state record for most runs scored in one inning at 19.
The Lady Longhorns tied St. Paul for the record when they scored 19 runs at districts in the opening game with Southern Valley.
After the season concluded this month, the players voted on honorary team captains for the year and selected two seniors, Anna Bauerle and Ally Vrbas.
The team’s starting pitcher and catcher will be formally recognized in May at the all-sports end-of-year banquet.
Coach Smith said each girl was asked to vote on their choice for team captains based on team spirit, their ability to inspire and motivate fellow players, mental determination and positive attitude.
Smith said the selections do not have to be seniors, but any member of the team is eligible who exhibits those qualities.