When softball season finally arrived, Superior's Emma Raye admitted she was a little nervous.

The sophomore catcher's freshman season evaporated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her jitters didn't last long though, as Raye dominated her first season of high school softball, batting .560 with seven home runs, four triples, 11 doubles and 35 RBI. Her OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) was a whopping 1.653.

"Although I have been playing softball my whole life, it is a little different atmosphere, so as I began to sink in and connect with my team, it all just became normal and I knew that I wanted to make an impact," she said.

The impact Raye made for the Spartans reverberated throughout the Lake Superior Conference and beyond, making Raye the Telegram's 2021 All-Area Softball Player of the Year. She's the first sophomore to receive the honor since Superior's Amanda LeBard in 2006.

RELATED: Superior Telegram 2021 All-Area Softball Team

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When it came time to vote on all-conference honors, the coaches awarded Raye the most points of any player in the LSC and named her first-team all-conference, said Spartan head coach Mike Sather. She was also named to the All-District 1 team and was a first-team All-State selection.

Part of that comes from her skill set — Raye is a well-rounded player, Sather said.

"She’s the whole package," he said. "She hits with average, hits with power. She’s outstanding defensively. She has a very, very strong arm. She has great hands. It doesn’t matter what position you put her in, and she’s one of the fastest runners on our team."

The other part is her role on the team outside of her stats. Sather said he knew Raye had talent coming in to high school, but she's also a good person who connects with her teammates.

Superior’s Emma Raye is the 2021 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior’s Emma Raye is the 2021 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

"She was a strong leader the whole time, she’s a fun person to be around and she competes every game," he said.

Leadership is one of the areas where Raye felt she grew. She said she relied on her teammates to push her and to lift her up, and she tried to do the same for them.

The connection the players have runs deep. Many of the girls have played together since they were young children.

"Our high school team this year is literally my 10U team. We’ve grown up playing together, and I feel like the connection was really good," she said.

Despite losing 3-1 to Stevens Point in the WIAA Division I Regional Finals, the Spartans could have made a deep postseason run if a few plays had gone their way, Raye said. She hopes to build on the progress they made this year.

Superior’s Emma Raye poses for a portrait near the batting cage at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex Monday, July 19, 2021. Raye is the 2021 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year.  (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior’s Emma Raye poses for a portrait near the batting cage at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex Monday, July 19, 2021. Raye is the 2021 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

"I think we could win a state championship if we all keep working hard," she said. "This year we had the opportunity to make it to state, but we were just one hit short or one play short."

Personally, Raye hopes to move up the rankings among the state's top batters. She was No. 8 this season. Her goal is to be No. 1.

Until then, she's traveling the U.S. with the Twin Cities-based Midwest Speed 16U softball team. They recently wrapped up a two-week trip to Colorado and Missouri.

"I’m just proud of what we accomplished this year," Raye said. "I know we’ve had some setbacks, but I believe we can overcome them. I think this is probably going to be one of the best teams Superior’s ever had."

Superior’s Emma Raye poses along the fence at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex Monday, July 19, 2021. Raye is the 2021 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year.  (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior’s Emma Raye poses along the fence at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex Monday, July 19, 2021. Raye is the 2021 Superior Telegram Softball Player of the Year. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

2021 Telegram All-Area Softball Team

After losing the 2020 softball season to COVID-19, the players on the 2021 Telegram All-Area Softball Team didn't miss a beat.

It includes seniors Chesie McLaughlin of Superior, Muree Ahlberg of Northwood/Solon Springs and Northwestern's Allison Luoma and Kayla Schultz; juniors Ruby Moore and Abby Wennersten of Northwestern and Annika Patrick and Zoey Vaara of Northwood/Solon Springs; and a trio of Spartan sophomores in Emma Raye, Haley Zembo and Indigo Fish.

Superior Telegram Softball Players of the Year

2021 — Emma Raye, Soph., Superior

2020*

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