The 2019 Superior Telegram All-Area Softball Team was the toughest one to pick in its 18 years of existence.
There certainly was no shortage of talent on our three local teams that combined for a record of 56-11 and three conference championships.
The Superior High School Spartans were 20-4, which included 6-0 in the Lake Superior Conference.
The Northwestern Tigers went 19-5 and shared the Heart O’ North Conference championship with Bloomer with a 13-1 record. The Tigers and Blackhawks split during the regular season, but Bloomer won the rubber match with a 1-0 victory in the sectional semifinals.
The Solon Springs Eagles turned in a 17-2 record, the best in school history. They also won just their second Indianhead Conference title with a record of 15-1. Their only other conference title was in 2014.
One player that was pretty easy to include on the team was Superior’s Mady Stariha, the 2019 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year.
The senior pitcher was 16-3 this season, including 4-0 in the LSC, with 166 strikeouts and 34 walks. She allowed 70 hits and 20 runs (16 earned) while carrying an ERA of 0.906.
“Not only is Mady the best pitcher in the Lake Superior Conference, but she is one of the best all-around players,” Sather said. “An outstanding pitcher, hitter and fielding … she can do it all.”
Stariha was also pretty impressive as a junior with a 17-4 record and 172 strikeouts, which helped her land a Division 1 offer from Binghamton (N.Y.).
“We were all pretty excited about getting a D1 offer, but there was a red flag when I couldn’t get the degree I wanted (accounting),” Stariha said. “So I thought putting my future and education before my softball career was more important.”
Stariha eventually found that Minnesota Duluth offered accounting, and it was also interested in her playing for the Bulldogs, so she made the choice to stay closer to home.
“I’m extremely excited to be playing for the Bulldogs and excited to play with Erin (Thompson) again," she said. "The team has a tight bond and we’ll be doing summer workouts together. It just feels like a good community to be a part of.”
Thompson, a freshman this season at UMD, was Stariha’s teammate with the Spartans. Her stellar senior season led to her being named the 2018 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year, with Stariha a close second.
“Erin deserved it 100%,” Staiha said. “She’s so good and is always consistent with her bat and at shortstop. She was amazing.”
Despite all of her success, Stariha is quick to credit those who helped her along the way, starting with her father, Joe Stariha.
“He’s always been the one that pushed me, starting with pitching and hitting in the third grade," she said. "He also drove me to the Twin Cities for camps and then to play softball all around the area. He’s the one who made me as good as I am.”
Mady Stariha also couldn’t imagine playing for any coaches other than Spartan head coach Mike Sather and pitching coach Davey Myer.
“Coach Sather is amazing,” Stariha said. “He’s so funny and lighthearted but he gets the job done and puts his foot down when needed. We all heard he was a very good player himself, but he’s so humble and doesn’t talk about it at all.
“Coach Davey would always come after work and stay for more than two hours to work with the pitchers and catchers," she said. "I owe him a lot, he taught me my change-up and it was really a helpful tool in my tool box."
Over her career, Stariha has tossed three perfect games, seven no-hitters and 10 one-hitters. While none of her pitching gems stand out, she does know that the defense behind her deserves a lot of credit and the Spartan catcher McKenzie Lehto, also a member of this year’s Telegram team, has been on the receiving end of most of them.
“None of the games really stick out, but I know that all of them were team efforts, it wasn’t just me,” Stariha said. “I had to pitch my best in the perfect game, but the defense couldn’t make an error, either. Our defense has been so strong and I had all the trust in the world in them."
Stariha is also dangerous with the bat with a .409 batting average with 27 hits., one home run and 22 RBIs. She also led the Spartans with 22 RBIs and 12 doubles.
“I remember coach Sather didn’t put in the line up my freshman year,” Sather said. “Then he let pinch hit one game, I hit a line drive double and ever since that he trusted me completely. Even when I began this season 0-for-7, I thought he was going to pull me, but he still had confidence in me.”
Joining Stariha and Lehto on the Telegram All-Area Team are Superior’s Madison Sislo, Chesie McLaughlin and Ruby Moore; Solon Springs’ Morgan Anderson and Kylli Rajala; and Northwestern's Tory Anderson, Mac Correll, Allison Luoma, Brooke Ogren and Karsyn Jones.
NOTES: Seven players return from the 2018 team: Stariha, Anderson, Rajala, Anderson, Correll, Luoma and Jones. … Also nominated from Solon Springs were Allison Androsky, Muree Ahlberg and Taylor Routley.
Softball Players of the Year
2019 — Mady Stariha, Sr., Superior
2018 — Erin Thompson,Sr., Superior
2017 — Brandie Goldberg, Sr., Superior
2016 — Brandie Goldberg, Jr., Superior
2015 — Maddie Spangenberg, Sr., Northwestern
2014 — Kaitlin Heinen, Jr., Superior
2013 — Jessica Lindstrom, Jr., Superior
2012 — Shelby Schultz, Sr., Northwestern
2011 — Teagen Harings, Jr., Northwood
2010 — Katie Sohn, Sr., Northwood
2009 — Lindsay Garay, Sr., Northwestern
2008 — Amanda LeBard, Sr., Superior
2007 — Taylor VanDamme, Sr., Superior
2006 — Amanda LeBard, So., Superior
2005 — Kalli Kucharyski, Sr., Superior
2004 — Kalli Kucharyski, Jr., Superior
2003 — Kalli Kucharyski, So., Superior
2002 — Leah Moder, Sr., Superior