It was a year of balance for the small schools in the Southeast Iowa Union/Golden Triangle coverage area. The area had a handful of teams who were seemingly on the bubble to make a run at the state tournament, although nobody could quite break through and earn their spot in Ft. Dodge.
This year’s team includes players from seven different teams. Highland had four selections to lead the way.
The team of 13 includes four seniors, six juniors, two sophomores and one eighth-grader. Zoey Wright of Pekin is the team’s captain, and Winfield-Mt. Union coach Walt Jackson heads the team.
Listed below is the full All-GTNS small school softball team for the 2019 season.
Coach: Walt Jackson, Winfield-Mt. Union: The W-MU girls had quite a bit of promise coming into the 2019 season with the vast majority of their team back from last year. New head coach Walt Jackson stepped in to lead the young Wolves to an 18-9 record.
W-MU started off hot, winning seven of their first eight games, and ended up with seven more victories than last season. In the postseason, the Wolves pummeled Tri-County 9-1 before losing a 2-1 nail-biter to BGM.
Captain: Zoey Wright, senior, Pekin: The top player in the region this spring was Wright, who hit safely 54 times in 107 at-bats for an incredible .505 average that rose to a .527 on-base percentage when you add her four walks drawn and one hit-by-pitch.
The Panther standout also scored 43 runs and drove in 34 more herself with the help of 12 doubles, three triples and seven home runs, compiling an .869 slugging percentage. Wright was a threat on the base paths as well, successfully converting all 14 of her attempted stolen bases.
Pitcher: Madie Anderson, sophomore, Winfield-Mt. Union: You don’t get much more unhittable than W-MU sophomore Anderson. She went 17-8 this season, pitching over 97 percent of the Wolves’ innings.
Anderson finished the year with an ERA of 1.84, and struck out 290 batters, which was second in Class 1A.
Pitcher: Megan Hoenig, senior, Highland: Hoenig had a 16-5 record for a 17-9 Highland team. Hoenig gave up just 34 earned runs in 127 innings pitched for a 1.87 earned run average. She struck out 106 batters with an outstandingly low total of just eight walks. She never hit a batter in 517 opponents’ at bats. Opponents batted .250 against her.
Catcher: Layney Loyd, junior, New London: New London’s power behind the plate can not be tamed. Loyd led the Tigers with a .577 average this season, hitting 10 doubles, a triple, two home runs and 14 RBIs.
Loyd proved to be one of the more versatile catchers in the area with her work on the basepaths as well. She attempted 17 stolen bases this season, and got in safely every single time.
Infield: Abbie Miller, senior, Highland: Miller was an all-state selection for the Huskies (17-9). She established a new team record for runs batted in with 47. She also holds the career home run record at Highland, clouting four dingers this year to go with seven doubles and two triples. She batted. 444 with a .728 slugging percentage. She struck out just six times in 81 at bats.
Infield: Emilee Linder, junior, Pekin: The star on many other teams, Linder hit for a .455 average with 45 hits including including seven doubles, five triples and one home run.
Linder scored 32 runs and drove in another 13 and was 10-for-12 on stolen base attempts.
Infield: Lexi Jirak, junior, Van Buren: The Warrior infielder hit .441 to lead the team and was second with a .455 on-base percentage and .591 slugging clip. She hit safely 41 times and drew five walks, scoring 24 runs. Jirak also had 10 extra-base hits, including eight doubles and two home runs while driving in 22 RBIs with just nine strikeouts in 93 at-bats.
Infield: Chelsey Huff, sophomore, Van Buren: The young infielder also pitched and went 8-8 in 19 appearances covering nearly 109 innings while holding her opponents to an E.R.A. of 2.51 with just 39 of the 88 runs scored on her watch considered to be “earned.”
Huff also struck out 78 and walked just 29 while hitting 10 batters with pitches. At the plate, she was tops on the team with 42 hits, 30 runs scored, 11 doubles, five home runs, 26 RBIs, a .438 batting average, a .476 on-base average and a .708 slugging clip
Outfield: Dani Laughlin, eighth-grader, Highland: Laughlin patrolled centerfield for the Huskies (17-9).
She led the team in batting average at .468 and had an on base percentage of .506. She had 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Laughlin shined after Coach Carrie Wieland moved her from the bottom of the batting order to the leadoff position.
Outfield: Emily Yahnke, junior, Highland: Yahnke used her state track meet speed to lead the Huskies in on base percentage at .519 while batting .406. She had 17 stolen bases in 21 attempts. She totaled 14 RBI, three triples and two doubles.
Outfield: Kara Krieger, junior, New London: Nobody knocked in more runs for the Tigers in 2019 than their center fielder. Krieger brought a load of power to the middle of the New London lineup, hitting .387 with 12 doubles, one triple, two home runs and 28 RBIs.
Krieger is one of the many returning players who can turn New London back into a state tournament contender next season. The Tigers will return their top seven hitters from this year.
Utility: Maddie Cloke, junior, Cardinal: The star Comet led Cardinal in hits(39), runs scored(26), average(.470), O.B.P.(.511), and slugging(.542). Cloke was also third in doubles(6) and RBIs(15.) Another impressive feature of her game is her plate discipline where she struck out just four times in 83 at-bats.
Utility: Cassidy Rourke, senior, Mid-Prairie: Playing in the tough River Valley Conference, Rourke was the Golden Hawks main pitcher. She had 67 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents batted .270 against her.
Rourke often helped her cause, leading the team with eight home runs and three triples. She also had three doubles for a .636 slugging percentage with a .378 on base percentage.
The All-GTNS small school softball team was selected by Andy Krutsinger of the Mt. Pleasant News, Doug Brenneman of the Washington Evening Journal and Justin Webster of the Fairfield Ledger.