Pitchers and catchers dominate all-area teamWithout Teagen Harings on the mound and Lisa Featherly behind the plate, the Northwood Evergreens would have been a very different team this season. The same can be said for Northwestern High School, where Liz Urbaniak and Tiana Arseneau rotated at pitcher and Kelcee Janigo anchored the catching position.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Without Teagen Harings on the mound and Lisa Featherly behind the plate, the Northwood Evergreens would have been a very different team this season.
The same can be said for Northwestern High School, where Liz Urbaniak and Tiana Arseneau rotated at pitcher and Kelcee Janigo anchored the catching position.
Superior and Solon Springs, both with young teams this season, looked to their pitchers to not only throw good games but to deliver at the plate.
Overall, it was a strong year for the No. 1 and 2 positions in softball the year, and many of 2011’s standouts will be back for 2012.
Joining Harings on the 2011 Superior Telegram All-Area Softball team are three of her Northwood teammates along with one Eagles player and three girls each from Superior and Northwestern.
Also nominated were Superior’s Jessica Lindstrom and Kari Miller.
As a freshman, Tiana Arseneau was named the Tigers’ rookie of the year. This year, the sophomore led Northwestern on offense while splitting time at pitcher and third base.
“Tiana is a great young talent,” said Tigers coach Scott Janigo. “She has a great eye at the plate.”
Arseneau had 26 hits and 16 runs scored for the Tigers this year. She finished the season with a .419 batting average and .458 on-base percentage. Her .532 slugging percentage was also a team best as she hit seven doubles, one triple and one home run.
“She is a wonderful team player, a very quiet leader at this point in her career,” Janigo said.
Arseneau was named the Tigers’ Most Valuable Offensive Player and was also selected to the Heart O’ North All-Conference second team as an infielder.
The senior class that vaulted the Evergreens into the limelight in recent years is moving on.
Annie Block, an infielder and backup pitcher for the Evergreens, is one of Northwood mainstays who has played her last high school game.
“Annie had a great year at first,” said Northwood coach Beth Block. “She scoops the ball so well and is tall enough to grab a ball thrown high and wide.”
Annie Block had 143 putouts at first base with three errors. Her .383 batting average was third highest on the team, as was her .431 on-base percentage.
Coach Block said another highlight for the senior has an out-of-the-park home run, her first ever. Annie Block also added four doubles and a triple for a .533 slugging percentage with 14 RBIs. She finished the year with 23 hits, second on the team.
Block was named to the 2011 Central Lakeland All-Conference team.
Another three-sport athlete who will be greatly missed by the Evergreens next season is Ashley Block.
She was second on the team in runs scored (24) and third in total hits (19), but the senior’s contributions on defense set her apart as a leader.
“Ashley was brought in from doing a great job in the outfield, to step into the role of shortstop,” Coach Block said. “She took on the challenge with hard work and faced it head on.”
At shortstop, Ashley Block’s defensive play in the regional finals helped give the Evergreens a 6-5 win over Drummond. With the bases loaded and only one out, she tracked down a fly ball and turned the double play to keep the score tied. Northwood then went on to claim victory in the bottom on the inning.
Offensively, Block batted .311 as the No. 2 batter in the lineup. She had four doubles and three triples to give her a .475 slugging percentage and was named to the 2011 Central Lakeland All-Conference team.
Just before Northwood began tournament play this season, the team suffered a major loss. Lisa Featherly, the Evergreens’ junior catcher, had a misstep in practice and ended up with a broken leg.
“That loss was crucial going into tournaments,” Coach Block said.
Not only was Featherly the team’s most experienced catcher, she was also Northwood’s leader in RBIs (23) and was second in batting average (.415), on-base percentage (4.89) and slugging percentage (.561).
“Lisa does an awesome job behind the plate,” Block said. “She is a dedicated player who not only performs well on defense but has a strong bat as well.”
For the season, Featherly had 17 hits, including four doubles and one triple.
She was named to the 2011 Central Lakeland Conference all-conference team.
The Superior Spartans experienced a dramatic spike in numbers this season as a talented group of freshmen took the field for the first time.
Some freshmen needed time to learn the intricacies of varsity athletics, but Emily Hansen jumped right in at short stop and finished the year leading the team in two offensive categories.
“Her speed was a big factor offensively,” said Spartan coach Amy Zembo. “She was a threat from both the left and right side, and she led the team in hits and runs.”
Hansen finished her freshman year with 23 hits and 20 runs scored. She also hit .323 at the plate and made good use of her speed in the field.
Hansen was named honorable mention on this year’s Lake Superior Conference All-Conference team.
“Emily plays her position so well,” said Spartan coach Amy Zembo. “Her athleticism and determination will give her continued success for years to come.”
Kelcee Janigo never asked to be the Tigers’ catcher, but once she accepted the role, it was hers for good.
“Kelcee took over as catcher in her sophomore year by default,” Coach Janigo said. “She has excelled in the position since.
“As a junior she provided leadership and stability behind the plate for our pitchers and (as a senior) has become one of the better leadoff batters in the conference.”
Janigo had 21 hits for the Tigers, including four doubles, one triple and one home run. She finished the season with a .309 average, a .382 on-base percentage and a .441 slugging percentage. She struck out only twice in her senior season in 68 at bats and scored 20 runs for Northwestern.
“Her enthusiasm and love for the game is contagious with the other players,” Coach Janigo said. “As a senior, she took on the role as captain to help guide the team to a second place finish in the HON Conference with a 9-5 record.”
Janigo was named the Tigers’ co-MPV with fellow senior Liz Urbaniak, and she also made HON first team all-conference as a catcher.
On a team filled with youngsters, Cassy O’Neill was the senior leader for the Spartans this year.
The center fielder gave Superior confidence in the outfield, and she also provided much-needed offense to start the season.
“Cassy had another great year in the outfield, with a .985 fielding percentage,” Zembo said. “And she was an early threat at the plate, hitting safely in nine of her first 12 games.”
For the season, O’Neill hit .343 with 13 RBIs and eight extra-base hits. She was named to the LSC All-Conference second team.
“As a senior, she will be tough to replace in center field next season,” Zembo said.
Superior will return its top pitcher next season in Taylor Thompson.
The junior finished this year with a 7-4 pitching record and 3.47 ERA, totaling 49 strikeouts.
“Taylor had a good year on the mound,” Zembo said. “She proved to have control hitting her marks well.”
Thompson also helped her own cause by stepping up at the plate. She hit .364 on the season to lead the Spartans.
“The second half of the season she became our strongest, most consistent hitter,” Zembo said.
Thompson was an LSC All-Conference honorable mention selection.
Liz Urbaniak is comfortable almost anywhere on the field in softball. She’s played first base, third base and pitched in her four years with the Tigers, and the senior has excelled at every position.
“Liz is an outstanding pitcher and infielder,” Coach Janigo said. “She moved to first base this year when she wasn’t pitching and really helped stabilize the position.”
Urbaniak was named HON All-Conference first team as an infielder this year, which followed second-team honors last season as a pitcher.
She had 20 hits and 13 runs scored for the Tigers this season, hitting .300 with a .448 slugging percentage. Urbaniak also had three doubles, two triples and one home run to go along with nine RBIs and a .324 on-base percentage.
Urbaniak was named the Tigers’ co-MPV along with Kelcee Janigo.
“She was one of our senior captains who helped guide our team to a 9-5 conference record,” Scott Janigo said.
Junior Vanessa Zeman provided the Solon Springs Eagles with two key elements they needed to succeed this year — leadership and versatility.
“She was the very heart of the team in her leadership and playing style, on the mound and at shortstop,” said Eagles coach Dale Rajala. “She led a very young team this year that doubled our win total from last season.”
Zeman batted .467 overall this year and .531 in conference play. She was named an Indianhead All-Conference selection.
“She is exactly what a coach wants in a player, and I’m excited to get her back again next year,” Rajala said.