Jacquline Nichols, senior, Royalton
Nichols, the Record All-Area Player of the Year, was not only a local standout, but one of the premier players in the state this spring, being selected to play in the Minnesota All-Star Series. Nichols was nearly impossible for opposing pitchers to retire, hitting .623 with an on-base percentage of .652 and slugging percentage of .985. She racked up 29 RBIs with 11 doubles, a triple, three homers and 11 stolen bases.
Sierra Virnig, senior, Little Falls
Virnig was a vital cog in the heart of the Little Falls lineup this season, helping the Flyers make a surprise run deep into the Section 6AA tournament. Virnig possessed electric extra-base power, slamming two doubles, three triples and a homer while putting up a .327 batting average.
Alea Cekalla, senior, Little Falls
In addition to handling almost all of the Flyers’ pitching duties throughout the season, Cekalla was one of the top hitters as an All-Granite Ridge Conference selection, batting .400 with four doubles and three triples. Her pitching was particular effective down the stretch, posting a 2.49 ERA as the Flyers won four of their final six games.
Shelbie Boser, junior, Pierz
Boser seized the reins as a leader for Pierz’ young roster this season, accumulating exceptional power numbers. She finished the spring with a sterling .528 batting average, hitting five doubles, a triple and a pair of homers. She also scored 18 runs and knocked in 13 while solidifying the Pioneers’ infield defense at short stop.
Katie Ripplinger, senior, Upsala
Ripplinger embodied all the tools desired of a strong leadoff hitter for Upsala’s offense, putting together a .490 batting average while also drawing six walks and stealing 12 bases. On top of that, Ripplinger provided stellar defense in the Cardinals’ infield, flashing great range to go with an accurate arm.
Kaelin Smieja, senior, Upsala
Smieja will leave big shoes to fill as the backbone of the Upsala lineup, finishing her career as a four-year starter, the past three as an all-conference catcher. Along with anchoring the team’s defense, Smieja hit .553 in the middle of the Cardinals’ batting order.
Lea Uzalac, senior, Pierz
Uzalac was one of the finest outfielders in the area this spring, serving as a fierce spark plug for the Pioneers. She hit for a .377 average and got on base at a clip of .468, helping her to score 17 runs, more than 20 percent of the team’s total. She also added three doubles, a triple and a trio of stolen bases.
Sarah Gold, sophomore, Little Falls
Gold’s season didn’t get off to the best of starts, but it would have been harder to script a much better finish. After starting the year 1-for-14, she caught fire and hit .429 the rest of the way, with her strong play coinciding with the Flyers’ strong finish to the season. Gold also collected six runs and eight RBIs in her first varsity, starting all 17 games.
Kayla Eli, sophomore, Royalton
If Eli’s stature stepping into the batter’s box didn’t intimidate opponents, her reputation did. Eli developed into one of the top deep threats in the area, evidenced by her setting a school record with four home runs this spring. She also set the table for a dangerous middle of the Royalton lineup, reaching at a .426 clip with a .655 slugging percentage and 17 RBIs.
Korlyna Keehr, senior, Little Falls
Mikayla Gottwalt, junior, Little Falls
Katelynn Kanieski, junior, Little Falls
Tiara Hopkins, senior, Pierz
Katelyn Waytashek, junior, Pierz
Brianna Meyer, freshman, Pierz
Nicole Popp, sophomore, Royalton
Simone Grittner, junior, Swanville
Sam Maciej, senior, Holdingford
Our selection process
Coaches from all six area softball teams (Little Falls, Pierz, Royalton, Swanville, Upsala and Holdingford) were asked to nominate players from their team that they believed deserved to be named to the nine-player all-area team (one pitcher, one catcher, four infielders and three outfielders), including their accomplishments from during the season. Coaches were also asked to list players they believed deserved to be considered for honorable mention recognition.
Criteria used to select the best possible candidates for the nine-member 2014 Record All-Area softball team were: postseason and regular season performance, strength of competition, strength of team played on, consistency, contributions toward team success, position and coaches’ input.
Players that were considered but not named to the nine-player team were given honorable mention distinction.