Telegram 2022 All-Area Softball Player of the Year: Raye plays with a chip on her shoulder
For the second straight year, Superior's Emma Raye is the Telegram's Player of the Year.
SUPERIOR — A few days after the Superior Spartans lost 10-0 in the WIAA Division 1 state softball semifinals to Kaukauna, catcher Emma Raye was back in the batting cage at NBC Spartan Sports Complex.
The junior said she was disappointed she didn't hit better at the state tournament, and especially that she didn't get a hit against the No. 1-ranked Galloping Ghosts.
"I have that chip on my shoulder," she said. "I wanted to do better against Kaukauna. I wanted to get a hit."
This from the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Division 1 Player of the Year, from a player who verbally committed to play Division 1 softball for Wisconsin-Madison, from a now two-time Superior Telegram All-Area Softball Player of the Year.
Raye batted .506, with eight doubles, three triples, six home runs, 24 runs batted in and 16 stolen bases. She was rock solid behind the plate, picking off 11 runners and recording a .984 fielding percentage.
And still, she strives to improve.
Raye wants to bat over .500 again next year and keep picking off runners on defense. Beyond that, she said she also wants to work on her communication and leadership skills.
The 2022 Spartans won Superior's first sectional title since 1993, which earned them a spot at the state tournament. What was that like for Raye, who told the Telegram in 2021 her goal was to get to state and win a title?
"Honestly, it was such a thrill. I mean, when that girl from Stevens Point flew out to Natalee (Sigfrids), pretty much guaranteeing us to go to state, I was so excited. I looked at Haley (Zembo), and I started charging towards her because I was like, ‘We finally did it!'" Raye said.
The magic continued when the Spartans shut out No. 4 seed Cedarburg 10-0, but unfortunately, Kaukauna ended the Spartans' postseason dreams on their way to a second consecutive state championship.
Raye said the Spartans have what it takes to make it back to Goodman Diamond in Madison.
"Next year I’m just hoping that we have a little edge — a little chip on our shoulder — since we lost to Kaukauna, and hopefully come back and win it next year," she said.
Superior coach Mike Sather agreed they have talent up and down the lineup. The Spartans lost a starter in Sigfrids to graduation, as well as role players in Kaylee Baker and Brooke Hendry. But otherwise, they return the rest of the team, and Sather said expectations will be high.
"I’m just hoping we can keep our heads, keep trying to improve and understand that nothing’s a given, especially in Wisconsin when you play single elimination when the playoffs come," he said. "Nobody is handing you anything, and I really think teams are going to be playing harder against us. They’re sitting at home right now trying to figure out ‘How are we going to beat Superior next year?’"
Love of the game
When asked what makes Raye a special player, Sather pointed to the physical attributes that make her a talented athlete — her height, her strength, her speed. She can throw a softball almost 70 mph, and for someone who is 5-foot-9, Sather said Raye is lightning-fast.
In addition, she puts in the work to improve, she wants to compete and she loves the game of softball.
Raye always played with older girls on youth teams and Sather said she found success.
"When she was in 12U, she was hitting home runs on a 200-foot fence that the high school girls played on, so she always had that success that just breeds the love for playing and makes you want to play more," he said.
And yet, the honors Raye has received and the attention she's gotten over the years haven't gone to her head.
"You couldn’t find a nicer person — that’s what kills me," Sather said. "Sometimes you get athletes who think they know everything — they’re hard to coach — but I love having her on the team. She’s funny, she's fun and she helps everybody else out. It’s just great."
Raye's favorite thing about playing catcher is picking off runners.
One of the highlights of the season for her was picking off a runner to end the game when the Spartans faced Wausau East in the regional semifinals.
"We were up 8-1. There were runners on second and first, and the runner on first took too big of a lead with two outs and I just picked her off to end the game," Raye said. "I don’t know why that sticks with me. It was probably one of my favorite plays."
It's something Raye has become known for, and she said having a reliable first baseman makes all the difference.
"Having Indigo (Fish) at first base is amazing because she knows exactly when it’s coming, and she slaps the tag down. She’s honestly my favorite first baseman," Raye said.
Raye was on her way to lift weights when she got a text message from her future teammate at Wisconsin, Cedarburg's Patyn Monticelli, letting her know she had been named the WFSCA D1 Player of the Year.
"I was just in shock. Usually this award goes to some top-notch pitchers, which I thought it would maybe go to a Kaukauna player because they won state. I know lots of great softball players, especially in the D1 division, so being picked was overall so exciting and such a great honor," she said.
When Sather heard the news, he said he was excited for Raye and for the coaches who have guided her at Superior.
"I actually got kind of emotional," he said. "It’s unbelievable to be named a state player of the year. That’s quite an honor."
But anyone who thinks Raye will let her foot off the gas better think again.
Since the fall when she announced her verbal commitment to UW, Raye said she feels like more people are watching to see if she lives up to the hype. That's something she thinks will continue during her senior season.
"They’re going to be looking at me seeing if I’m good enough to play D1," she said. "So I honestly have taken it as kind of a fire — like a challenge — to push myself to prove to them that, yeah, I’m good enough to be D1."
Superior Telegram Softball Players of the Year
2022 — Emma Raye, Jr., Superior
2021 — Emma Raye, Soph., Superior
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
*A player of the year was not named as the prep softball season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.