Daily Telegram 2008 All-Area Softball team
By: Emily Kram, The Daily Telegram
It was a year of ups and downs for local softball teams.
The experienced teams from Northwood High School and Superior High School each rolled to championship titles in their respective conferences. The young teams of Northwestern and Solon Springs, meanwhile, worked on improving their skills and growing as teams that will contend next season.
The Spartans and Evergreens will both be saying goodbye to many seniors, five of whom were named to the Daily Telegram All-Area Softball team. Three juniors, one sophomore and one freshman were also honored.
Joining Amanda LeBard on the All-Area team are nine other players who excelled this season. Members of the 2008 squad are listed below in alphabetical order.
Also nominated were juniors Ashlee Blegen and Ashley Ericson and sophomore Tressa Harings from Northwood; senior Chelsey Jarzin from Superior; sophomore Taylor Prior of Northwestern; and senior Kate Klinzing and junior Leslie Zamzow from Solon Springs.
Britnee Blake was steady at shortstop this season, and the Spartans have been able to depend on the junior since she began playing her first year.
“Britnee has played her position well since she’s been a freshman,” said Amy Zembo, Superior High School head softball coach. “She’s quick and has great fielding range.”
At the plate, Blake finished the season with a .278 batting percentage and a .376 on-base percentage. She also had a .403 slugging percentage as she had 14 singles, four doubles one triple and one home run.
“Offensively, she has been our No. 2 hitter and can always be counted on to lay down the bunt,” Zembo said. “Britnee has a great understanding of the game, especially when running the bases.”
Blake scored 20 runs for the Spartans this season and also had nine RBIs. She was named honorable mention in the Lake Superior Conference All-Conference selections.
Few freshmen have the confidence to start at first base for their teams and make plays when they count. Annie Block excelled as the freshman first baseman for Northwood High School this season. She had a .968 fielding percentage, the best on the Evergreens team this season.
“She displayed poise at first despite being a freshman,” said Beth Block, head coach of the Evergreens. She led the team’s fielding percentage with only three errors in 117 put-outs.”
Annie Block had the third highest batting average on the team for most of the year and finished with a .311 average. She also tied for the leader in RBIs with 14.
Block was named to the Central Lakeland Conference All-Conference team this season
Junior Emily Eisenmann, who played second base for the Spartans, spent the season batting No. 3 in Superior’s lineup. In that spot, she prospered for the team.
“Almost half of her hits were extra base hits,” Zembo said. “She led the team in doubles, triples and RBIs.”
Eisenmann finished the season with 10 doubles, two triples, 14 singles and 17 RBIs. She also scored 12 runs and had an on-base percentage of .354. Her slugging percentage was an impressive .513 and she batted .333.
“She tends to hit opposite field and that often took the left fielder by surprise playing too shallow,” Zembo said.
Eisenmann was named to the LSC All-Conference second team this year.
When Taylor Fellbaum wanted to steal a base, nothing could stand in her way. The Evergreen senior shortstop was a perfect 17-of-17 on steal attempts this season, leading the team in total stolen bases.
As one of a handful of seniors on the Northwood team this season, Fellbaum was key to the Evergreens’ success.
“She was a team leader and captain and showed great work ethic,” Block said.
Fellbaum was named to the Central Lakeland Conference All-Conference team this season, and her control at the plate will be missed by the Evergreens next year.
If Northwood needed a hit, Fellbaum could usually be counted on to provide it. She ended her senior season with a .426 batting average.
Although only a junior, Salann Gilbert knew she would have to be a leader on the Solon Springs High School softball team this year. After all, she was the only pitcher on the Eagles roster.
“She is an amazing softball player,” said Bonnie Pfeffer, head coach of the Eagles. “She was our rock. Being the only pitcher she definitely came through for her team.”
On offense, Gilbert also did well. She hit .444 in the regular season and finished the year with a .417 overall batting average.
In leadership, Gilbert contributed the most to her team. Pfeffer said Gilbert, along with team captain Kate Klinzing, led the Eagles all year.
“I didn’t expect anything less from either girl,” Pfeffer said. “They impressed me day after day, and I’m proud of their efforts this season.”
When Ashley Martin was behind the plate this season, the Spartans had an edge.
“Ashley has become one of the premier catchers in the area,” Zembo said. “Her quickness and strong arm made every team think twice about attempting a steal.”
The senior catcher also worked well with Superior’s pitchers.
“It takes a strong understanding of the game and recognizing hitters’ weaknesses to be able to successfully call a game,” Zembo said. “Ashley fit the bill, she called every game this season and did a fantastic job.
On offense, Martin was the Spartans’ lead-off hitter, who “could always be counted on to reach base.” She finished the season with a .438 on-base percentage and a .361 batting average. Martin also had a .614 slugging percentage as she had 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 16 singles. She scored 21 runs in the year and batted in 10 more.
Erin Okonek is another senior who will be missed by the Evergreens. As a catcher, Okonek made few mistakes, ending the season with a .959 fielding percentage.
“She was team captain and worked hard behind the plate,” Block said. “When not catching, she played either second or third base.”
On offense, Okonek was also very reliable for the Evergreens. She led Northwood for most of the year in batting and finished the season with a .422 batting average. In addition, Okonek was tied for the most RBIs this year with 14.
Okonek was named to the Central Lakeland Conference All-Conference team.
“Ashlee is the most versatile player I have coached,” Coach Zembo said. “She found her home in center field this season and filled the shoes of standout player Taylor VanDamme quite well. Her ability to read the ball off the bat gave her those extra steps needed to run down the ball.”
The Spartan senior was named to the LSC All-Conference second team this year as much for her offense as her defense.
“Ashlee batted in the clean-up spot and hit the ball as hard as anybody, forcing several defensive miscues,” Zembo said. “Her patience at the plate enabled her to lead the team in walks and also have the fewest strikeouts.”
Olson had 21 singles, one double and 15 runs scored this season. She ended the year with eight RBIs, a .297 batting average and a .464 on-base percentage.
Only a sophomore, Northwestern High School catcher Marissa was named to the Heart O’ North All-Conference first team this season as a standout on a young Tigers squad.
“Marissa was our all-around leader on the team, she did it all,” said Jeremy Bird, head coach of the Tigers. “She was an amazing hitter, fast on the bases and her strong arm behind the plate made it tough to steal on her.”
Pooler had a .419 batting average, three doubles, two triples and a home run. For the year, Pooler went 18-for-43 at the plate and had only three strike outs.
“Whether we were winning or losing this year, she always gave her best effort and wanted to do her personal best,” Bird said.
Pooler’s desire to do her best runs almost to the extreme, as Bird found out at the end of the season.
“With only three strikeouts in the conference, she thought she still could have done better batting,” Bird said. “I told her at the end of the season she only had three strikeouts and her comment was, ‘Wow ... that seems bad. What can I do different next year?’”