Based on this year's First Team and Second Team All-Area Softball selections, call this the season of the battery.
Of the 18 players on this year's teams, 10 are pitchers or catchers -- five of each -- and only one other position -- third base -- featured more than one player.
The four pitchers on this year's First Team combined for 47 wins, and the three First-Team catchers all hit .362 or better. In addition to their hitting prowess, their coaches also raved about their defensive abilities.
While the area did not produce a state-tournament team this season, the future appears bright for area teams. The First and Second teams feature eight seniors but 10 of the 18 players were juniors or sophomores, and six of the 18 are sophomores.
Three First Team players -- Lac qui Parle Valley's Haley Wollschlager, Morris/Chokio-Alberta's Liz Dietz and KMS' Katie Krieger -- are repeat selections.
Lac qui Parle Valley, P, Sr.
A repeat All-Area First-Teamer, Wollschlager brought the Eagles to the brink of their first state tournament. LQPV finished 19-6 and advanced to the Section 3A title game.
Wollschlager posted a 15-4 record with a 1.29 earned-run average and 210 strikeouts in 120 innings pitched. Those numbers were a major factor in Wollschlager's selection to the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches' Association Class A All-State First Team for a second time, but she also was an effective player at the plate.
Midway through the playoffs, Wollschlager was hitting .257 with a .403 on-base percentage, and she scored 24 runs, drove in six runs and stole 12 bases. She had four doubles, a triple and a home run, and she also played in MFCA's All-Star Series. She was All-Camden Conference three times and was this year's MVP.
Morris/Chokio-Alberta, P, Sr.
Dietz was also an All-Area First-Teamer last season, and she was equally valuable this year as she led the 20-3 Tigers to the Section 3AA semifinals.
Dietz was a force in the pitching circle, posting a 13-1 record with a 1.48 earned-run average. She struck out 62 batters in almost 76 innings pitched.
The Tigers senior was also one of the area's top hitters, finishing the season with a .389 batting average, 33 runs batted in and 21 runs scored. "Liz is a strong pitcher who is always around the plate," said Tigers head coach Mary Holmberg. "A three-year starter, her experience has been a key to our success this year."
KMS, P/SS, Sr.
The Saints senior is one of three repeat All-Area First-Teamers -- joining Wollschlager and Dietz -- and she also earned second-team All-State honors after a first-team selection last season. Krieger helped lead the Saints to a 21-4 record, with two of those losses coming against section finalist LQPV, and they won three playoff games before being eliminated.
Krieger was a team leader on offense and defense. She posted a 10-1 mark in the pitching circle with a 2.06 earned-run average and 59 strikeouts in 68 innings.
At the plate, Krieger displayed solid power. She hit .373 with 31 hits, including nine doubles. She drove in 17 runs and scored 36 runs. She's been the Saints' MVP the last two seasons and her 133 career hits are third all-time. "She could play anywhere you ask," said Saints head coach Eileen Suter. "She's a strong defensive player and excellent hitter with good speed on the bases."
Dawson-Boyd, P, Sr.
Bothun was the Blackjacks' spark on offense and in the pitching circle this season. She hit .488 with six home runs, 11 doubles and she stole 21 bases. She was 9-9 -- three of her losses were 1-0 defeats -- and she struck out 158 in 119 innings pitched. Bothun was team captain, a five-year varsity starter and a four-time All-Camden Conference selection. "Mary is the best all-around player I've coached in my 15 years at Dawson-Boyd," said Blackjacks head coach John Nevins.
Litchfield, C, So.
Stilwell was the Dragons' top player in a year when they posted a 17-7 record and made a deep run in the Section 5AA playoffs. She had 31 base hits and averaged .378 with a 1.179 OPS. She hit seven home runs, drove in 28 runs and scored 17 runs. Only a sophomore, Stilwell has a .402 career batting average with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs. She was the Dragons' offensive player of the year, an All-Wright County Conference selection and an All-Section 5AA pick. "Avery is a great hitting catcher with a strong arm," said Dragons head coach Luke Braaten. "She has thrown out 13 base runners and picked off another 12."
KMS, LF, Sr.
Rudningen was a solid presence in the outfield for the Saints and was also the team's top hitter. She had 38 base hits, posting a team-best .487 batting average with six doubles and six triples -- tying a team single-season record -- and she led the Saints with 36 runs batted in. She finished her career with 107 hits, a .457 average and 93 RBIs. Rudningen's efforts earned her a spot on the Class A All-State Honorable Mention team. "She made a number of outstanding catches in the playoffs, and she's a strong left-handed hitter," said Saints head coach Eileen Suter.
Paynesville, C/3B, So.
Haines was top offensive threat for the Bulldogs while also playing two of the game's more demanding defensive positions at catcher and third base. She hit .435 with 28 RBIs and she scored 16 runs. In two varsity seasons, Haines has a .362 batting average with five home runs, seven doubles and 46 RBIs. "Olivia did a great job for us at catcher this year," said Bulldogs head coach Tim Woehler, "She came through in clutch situations time after time, driving runs in."
Minnewaska, C, Jr.
Stai was one of the area's top offensive players this season and was a solid defensive presence behind the plate. She hit .492 with 65 hits, and she also drove in 34 runs. She was trouble for opponents on the base paths, as well, finishing with 26 stolen bases. Stai was the Lakers' MVP and top offensive player and earned All-West Central Conference. "Michele has caught the last two years and both years she led the team in hits, batting average, on-base percentage and RBIs," said Lakers head coach Tabatha Swenson. "She's a straight-A student-athlete, works hard in the offseason and is defensively solid behind the plate."
Morris/Chokio-Alberta, 1B, Sr.
Solvie was a constant power threat and a top defensive player at first base. She had 33 hits and a .465 batting average. Solvie hit four home runs, had eight doubles, drove in 29 runs and scored 23 times. "Jennifer has been an extremely talented hitter for us," said Tigers head coach Mary Holmberg, "and she is an excellent fielding first baseman."
New London-Spicer, 3B, Jr.
A solid all-around player for the Wildcats, Nordmeyer hit .412 with three home runs, 11 doubles and 22 runs batted in. In her career, Nordmeyer is hitting .411 with 12 home runs, 27 doubles, 64 RBIs and a 1.186 OPS. "Katelyn is a consummate power hitter," said Wildcats head coach Melissa Bergeson. "We call her Miss May because she always saves her best hitting for sections. She is a great third baseman with the strongest arm I have seen."
MACCRAY, P/IF, Jr.
Heida led the Wolverines offensively and in the pitching circle. She hit .438 with 16 runs batted in, 22 runs scored and she also stole 10 bases. Heida also posted an 8-3 record with a 3.08 earned-run average. After a couple of down years, Heida helped lead the team back into contention in the Camden Conference. MACCRAY finished 15-7 overall with a 13-5 conference mark and won two Section 3A playoff games. "Jaimi is just steady," said MACCRAY head coach Nancy Thoma. "When everything around her is falling apart, she is always positive and in control."
Litchfield, 3B, So.
DeWolf helped propel the Dragons' offense hitting .381 with a .995 OPS. She had 32 hits, including four home runs and six doubles, she drove in 19 runs and scored 16 runs. She finished the season with a .424 on-base percentage. "Emma is a great fielding third baseman with a strong arm," said Dragons head coach Luke Braaten. "She played a huge role, offensively and defensively, in helping the Dragons win the Wright County Conference West."
Lac qui Parle Valley, RF, So.
Olson packed a lot of punch for the 19-6 Eagles. She hit a solid .524 with 33 hits, a .587 on-base percentage and a .778 slugging percentage. She had nine doubles, two triples and a home run, drove in 16 runners and scored 18 runs. On defense, she had a .923 fielding percentage.
KMS, CF, So.
Gjerde was an impressive two-way player for the Saints, playing top-notch defense in center and hitting .421 with 32 hits. She had nine doubles, scored 30 runs and drove in 13. She committed just one error and sports a .955 fielding percentage. She's a career .449 hitter with 17 doubles, 39 RBIs and 60 runs scored, and she has a .958 fielding percentage. "Maret is an outstandings outfielder who reads the ball well off the bat," said Saints head coach Eileen Suter. "She has strong hitting and bunting skills, as well. Really understands the game and how to play."
ACGC, C, Sr.
A solid defensive player and a terror at the plate, Wilner hit .564 with 31 hits, and she drove in 11 runs and scored 22 runs. She's a career .439 hitter with a .477 on-base percentage and a 1.054 OPS. She was named the West Central Conference's defensive player of the year. "Pailey led ACGC's offensive attack, ending the year with the fourth-highest batting average in school history," said Falcons head coach Bradley Nelson. "Her leadership will be missed next year."
Morris/Chokio-Alberta, 2B, Sr.
Decker hit .500 with 27 hits, and she also drove in 18 runs and scored 21 times. She finished her career with a .383 average, 39 RBIs and 45 runs scored. "Riley is a spark plug for us," said Tigers head coach Mary Holmberg. "She is a leader on the fields and communicates continuously. Riley makes good contact with the ball and is a fierce competitor."
Paynesville, P/SS/CF, Jr.
Schaefer posted 10 wins in the pitching circle and was one of the Bulldogs' top hitters with a .397 average, a .460 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter, she hit two home runs, drove in 16 runs, stole 16 bases and scored 21 runs. In her three varsity seasons, Schaefer is hitting .326 with seven doubles, three home runs and 38 RBIs and is a two-time all-conference and all-section pick. "Abby did a great job batting leadoff for us," said Bulldogs head coach Tim Woehler. "She can do it all."
Morris/Chokio-Alberta, C, So.
Bowman was a top offensive threat on a power-packed offensive team, hitting .493 with 37 hits, including eight doubles, and she drove in 19 runs. Already a three-year All-West Central Conference selection as a sophomore, she has 85 career hits, 20 doubles and 52 RBIs while hitting .375. "Emma is a strong hitter and savvy base runner," said Tigers head coach Mary Holmberg. "Defensively, as a catcher, she seldom lets balls pass, blocks well and gets the ball out of her glove quickly."
Note: Nominations were not received for BOLD, Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Montevideo, Renville County West and Hancock