2012 ALL-AREA SOFTBALL TEAM: Six seniors, three juniors, one sophomore on Telegram softball team
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The 2012 softball season turned out to be the year for underdogs locally.
The Northwestern Tigers rebounded from a rough patch late in the season and advanced to the regional finals during playoffs. Their playoff run included a victory over Barron, which had defeated them twice in the regular season.
Solon Springs, still with a very young team, finished with a winning record in conference play and regained the respect of opponents.
Both Superior and Northwood also had winning season, with the Spartans ending their year at 14-10 overall and the Evergreens finishing one game over .500 at 9-8.
Joining Shelby Schultz on this year’s Superior Telegram All-Area Softball Team are five seniors, three juniors and one sophomore.
Also nominated were juniors Aliex Friend and Alie Larson and freshman Madeline Spangenberg of Northwestern; sophomore Rachal Fregin of Superior; and junior Valery Gary and sophomore Alicia Jensen of Solon Springs.
During the winter months, junior Tiana Arseneau spent many hours working on her pitching and hitting. She began the 2012 season ready to make an impact for the Tigers, but her hopes were quickly derailed.
“Tiana broke her ankle the second practice of the 2012 season,” said Scott Janigo, head coach of the Tigers.
Doctors told Arseneau she would need at least six weeks to recover, and the junior made it a goal to rejoin her teammates before the end of the season.
“She vowed to come back early from her injury and had specific dates for her return,” Janigo said. “Tiana returned within the six week timeframe and provided our team a huge lift in the batting order.”
Arseneau, a pitcher and infielder, finished the season with a .318 batting average and .396 on-base percentage. She had only three strikeouts in 44 plate appearances.
“Tiana was a huge reason for our team’s run near the end of the season,” Janigo said. “Tiana would easily be a first team all-conference selection had it not been for her ankle injury.”
Arseneau was an honorable mention selection on this year’s Heart O’ North All-Conference team. She was also named the Tigers’ Offensive Player of the Year.
In the past two seasons, Teagen Harings has pitched every game for the Northwood Evergreens.
“She was the team’s No. 1 pitcher,” Block said. “She finished the season with a record of 9-8, 3-5 in Central Lakeland Conference.”
Harings complied 100 strikeouts in 112 innings pitched in her final season with the Evergreens.
At the plate, Harings had a .333 batting average and a .438 on-base percentage. She was also among the team leaders in stolen bases (13) and runs scored (22).
“Teagen’s success has come from hard work, determination, and the love of the game,” Block said.
Harings was named to the 2012 Central Lakeland Conference All-Conference team and was a senior captain for the Evergreens. She was also selected as a 2012 WIAA Scholar Athlete, making her the first student from Northwood ever to earn the honor.
Since she was a sophomore, Lisa Featherly has been hammering the ball on the Northwood softball field. She continued the pattern in her senior year and was a catalyst for the Evergreens’ offense.
“Lisa batted clean-up all year and did an excellent job,” said Beth Block, head coach of the Evergreens. “Lisa was the catcher for the team, coming back from fracturing her leg before the tournaments last year.”
Featherly, a senior captain, led the team at the plate with a .447 batting average. She had a .500 on-base percentage and .596 slugging percentage, with 22 hits and 12 RBIs.
The senior was named to the 2012 Central Lakeland Conference All-Conference team.
“Lisa is a devoted softball player whose presence will be missed,” Block said.
Junior Taylor Johnson controlled the field from behind the plate this year; and at the plate, she also took control of the game.
“Taylor has worked very hard on her hitting and it was obvious this season,” said Spartan coach Amy Zembo. “In her 58 plate appearances she never struck out one time which is almost unheard of.”
Johnson had a .621 on-base percentage and .500 batting average for the Spartans in her junior season. She finished with 18 runs scored, 27 hits and a .574 slugging percentage.
“She is a leader on the field in the catcher position and in my opinion is hands down the best catcher in the conference,” Zembo said.
In every sport she plays, Jessica Lindstrom is gaining a reputation as a playmaker.
On the softball field, Lindstrom had a sophomore season filled with clutch moments, including her first home run at the Bloomer Tournament against New Richmond and a two-run walk-off hit against Proctor.
“She is one of the most determined and competitive players I have ever coached, and that is what makes her such a successful athlete,” Zembo said.
Lindstrom was second in RBIs (18) and led the Spartans in extra-base hits, with five doubles, six triples and one home run. The sophomore also had 24 hits, 24 runs scored and a .550 slugging percentage, while playing third base for Superior.
Lindstrom was named to the 2012 LSC All-Conference second team.
Sarah Miller has played a variety of positions for Northwestern in her three years with the team. This year Miller was an infielder for the Tigers, batting .377 with a .442 on-base percentage.
“Sarah is a versatile player,” Janigo said. “She played outfield her sophomore year a gained honorable mention. She moved to second base her junior and senior year and helped stabilize the right side of the infield.”
Milller was named to the HON All-Conference second team in both her junior and senior seasons.
This season she was also named Northwestern’s Co-MVP and received the Tigers’ 2012 Playmaker Award.
“Due to injury, Sarah played some shortstop this year and made some fantastic plays, hence the Playmaker Award given out as a team award,” Janigo said. “Sarah captained this year’s team and provided great leadership both on and off the field.”
Senior Taylor Thompson was pivotal in Superior’s offense this season.
“Taylor was a force to be reckoned with when she stepped in the box,” Zembo said. “She was our cleanup hitter and seemed to always come up big when we needed a key hit.”
Thompson had a .411 batting average for the season with 20 singles and 10 doubles for a .548 slugging percentage. The senior finished with a .488 on-base percentage and scored 15 runs for Superior.
As a pitcher, Thompson was 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA.
Thompson was named to the 2012 Lake Superior Conference All-Conference first team. She was also an honorable mention selection on the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association All-District team.
Alison Wainionpaa handled most of the pitching duties for Superior in 2012. She finished the season with a respectable 9-6 record, and Coach Zembo expects to see those numbers improve next year.
“Alison kept us in the game on several occasions this season,” Zembo said. “She has improved her control greatly and is becoming a more dominant pitcher in the area.”
Wainionpaa, a junior, ended the season with 131 strikeouts to go along with a 2.93 ERA.
“If she continues to work hard, she will be tough to beat next season,” Zembo said.
After a rough patch a few years ago, the Eagles softball team looks to be back on track; and senior Vanessa Zeman is partially to thank for the resurgence.
“Vanessa was the very heart and soul of our team this year,” said Dale Rajala, Solon Springs head coach. “She was the only senior and led our younger players in so many positive ways.”
The Eagles, who had just three wins two years ago, finished this season with nine games in the win column.
“We were 7-5 in our conference and really became a respected team this season,” Rajala said. “Vanessa was steady through all of it.”
The senior batted .486 with 16 RBIs, six doubles and two triples for the Eagles.
On the mound she was 3-3 this year, and she played exceptional defense at shortstop as well.
Zeman was named to the Indianhead All-Conference first team for the second consecutive year.
“She is one of the best softball players and competitors I have ever coached,” Rajala said. “She will be missed.”