Softball holds awards banquet

Norv and Mary Coblentz · Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Several awards were handed out to the West Liberty softball team's members at their end of the season potluck banquet at the West Liberty Middle School, July 24. Awards included team awards, varsity letters and all-conference and all-district honors.

The Comets' varsity squad had a winning season in 2014, the first time since 1997. Their 16-13 record will likely continue to improve over the next years as the team is "a young, very talented, athletic team," according to West Liberty Head Coach Dave Reynolds. "We're going to be a force to be reckoned with from here on out."

The team placed third in the River Valley Conference South Division, and at least split with every team in the conference except Mid-Prairie, who placed fifth at the state tournament.

The team loses two seniors to graduation, pitcher Hailey Cox and first baseman Merideth Nichols. Each received their fourth varsity letter in softball. Cox pitched in 22 games and had a 13-6 record. She was selected to play in the Senior All-Star Game which was held at Wilton, July 28. Merideth Nichols made "amazing catches" at first base and batted in 14 runs.

Kayla Kaalberg was the team's only junior. She received her fourth varsity letter and led the team in steals at 17. She batted .430 and was the lead-off hitter. "She's one of the fastest players in the league," Reynolds said.

There were five sophomores on the team: Hailey Daufeldt, Audra Bridenstine, Ella Hambright, Kyleigh Becker and Shelby Rock. Bridenstine received her third varsity letter for softball. "She caught every inning" of all the team's 29 games this season, Reynolds said. She batted .571, a new school record, and had an on-base percentage of .591, also a new school record. She had only three strikeouts in 105 at-bats. Daufeldt received her third varsity softball letter as well. At shortstop every inning of every game, "she made very few errors, has a great arm," Reynolds said. She led the team in runs batted in with 23. Hambright was a runner mostly for the Comets and was recognized with the junior varsity team. Becker received her second varsity letter in softball. She is the "ultimate utility player" who played mostly in the outfield this season. Rock received her second varsity softball letter. She mostly played third base. "She improved this year," Reynolds said.

The team also had five freshmen: Jenna Giamba, Kelzi Mather, Elizabeth Pearson, Morgan Nichols and Haddie Anderson. Giamba, Mather and Pearson were recognized with the JV team. Morgan Nichols received her second varsity letter and played left and right field with some third base. "She has the potential to hit the ball over every outfielder's head," Reynolds said. Anderson is "an amazing athlete and could probably play any position on the field," Reynolds said. She hit .375 and had 22 RBIs.

There were seven eighth graders who were listed on the varsity roster: Karina Legget, Alyssa Snider, Emily Vance, Tatum Koenig, Emma Martin, Brookelyn Harned and Breana Thurness. All but Koenig and Thurness were recognized with the JV team. Koenig's first-year letter was received on her behalf by her mother at the awards banquet. "She runs like a deer and made some amazing catches in center field," Reynolds said. Thurness received her first varsity letter in softball. "She is a heck of a hitter and a heck of a first baseman," Reynolds said.

Reynolds announced that several Comets received Academic All-Conference recognition for the River Valley Conference. Those recognized were Mather, Daufeldt, Hambright, Anderson, Becker, Rock, Kaalberg, Merideth Nichols and Bridenstine. The varsity team also received district and state recognition for their team's grade point average of 3.87.

Four awards voted on by team members were given. Most Improved went to Hambright for the varsity and to Giamba for the JV. The Heart Award was given to Daufeldt. Inspiration Award went to Kaalberg. Anderson received the Golden Glove Award.

The MVP/Coaches' Appreciation Award was given to Bridenstine who "led the team in just about every category," Reynolds said.

Captains for the 2015 season were announced and will be Bridenstine and Kaalberg.

RVC awards were announced. Kaalberg got first team in outfield. Cox got second team for pitcher. Bridenstine and Daufeldt received honorable mention. Bridenstine was also named to the Southeast All-District team, "a very big honor," Reynolds said.

Hall touched on the JV season before recognizing each JV player. The JV team was 13-7 and had double-header games for the first time this season. They adjusted well. "There were a lot of good changes," Hall said. "The kids have a lot of good ball in their future." Hall thanked the girls' parents, especially for their flexibility and getting the girls where they needed to be.

Hambright "is always in a good mood and improved so much this year," Hall said. Giamba "made huge strides this year and learned a new position." Pearson, Mather and Legget were not able to attend the banquet, but they worked hard this season. Alyssa Snider was out part of the early season because of an injury but "caught up quickly." Emily Vance improved on her slapping, Emma Martin "doesn't get rattled." Harned "loves softball and her position of catching."

Hall also thanked K. Nichols for her help "behind the scenes keeping everything together."

Thank you cards signed by team members were distributed to those who supported the team with monetary donations and time. Reynolds' thanks included parents, the West Liberty Booster Club, Kelly Morrison, David John, Cory and Chris Kaalberg, Assistant Volunteer Coach Kris Nichols, Assistant Coach Trish Hall and those who helped with fundraising.

West Liberty individual season stats: Kayla Kaalberg (23 games) 34-79, 24 runs, 1 double, 7 RBIs, 1 sacrifice, 13 walks, 17 stolen bases, 1 HBP; Tatum Koenig (20 games) 27-67, 21 runs, 5 doubles, 8 RBIs, 4 sacrifices, 8 walks, 8 stolen bases, 1 HBP; Emma Martin (8 games) 2-9, 4 runs, 1 sacrifice, 1 walk, 1 stolen base; Hailey Cox (29 games) 26-87, 4 runs, 5 doubles, 17 RBIs, 3 sacrifices, 12 walks, 1 HBP; Hailey Daufeldt (29 games) 36-95, 25 runs, 7 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homeruns, 23 RBIs, 12 walks, 7 stolen bases, 2 HBP; Brookelyn Harned (19 games) 3-11, 11 runs, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 2 stolen bases; Merideth Nichols (20 games) 14-51, 6 runs, 4 doubles, 14 RBIs, 2 sacrifices, 5 walks, 2 stolen bases, 2 HBP; (18 games) 8-50, 6 runs, 1 double, 8 RBIs, 3 walks; Audra Bridenstine (29 games) 60-105, 29 runs, 7 doubles, 20 RBIs, 5 walks, 8 stolen bases; Ella Hambright (8 games) 2 runs, 1 RBI, 1 walk; Haddie Anderson (26 games) 33-88, 19 runs, 9 doubles, 1 triple, 22 RBIs, 2 walks, 6 stolen bases, 1 HBP; Breana Thurness (23 games) 11-44, 6 runs, 2 doubles, 7 RBIs, 1 sacrifice, 4 walks, 1 stolen base, 1 HBP; Kyleigh Becker (29 games) 26-76, 12 runs, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homerun, 13 RBIs, 1 sacrifice, 4 walks, 1 stolen base; Shelby Rock (28 games) 19-72, 8 runs, 6 doubles, 11 RBIs, 5 sacrifices, 6 walks, 3 stolen bases, 1 HBP.
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