The West Central Tribune All-Area Softball Team returns in 2021 after there being no team in 2020 because of the pandemic.
This year’s squad features nine player first- and second-teams.
One first-team player for 2019 is back: Litchfield’s Avery Stilwell.
There are four players who were second-team selections in 2019. All made the first team in 2021: Litchfield’s Emma DeWolf, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Maret Gjerde, Paynesville’s Olivia Haines and Lac qui Parle Valley’s Cassie Olson .
Sixteen of the 18 players are juniors and seniors. There are two sophomores, Shakira Olson, from Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg and Taylor Shelstad of Lac qui Parle Valley.
LQPV, KMS and Litchfield lead the way with multiple selections. That’s four players for LQPV, four players for KMS and four players for Litchfield. Benson had two selections and Montevideo, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Paynesville and New London-Spicer each had one.
The West Central Tribune’s All-Area Softball Team was selected by the sports department based on nominations provided by area coaches.
Here is the All-Area softball team, presented in alphabetical order:
Benson, 1B, Sr.
Connelly finished her sophomore season as an all-conference mention in 2019 and returned for her senior year being the first selection for the Braves for All-West Central Conference.
Connelly had 46 hits, 31 RBI, 32 runs, had a team-best .505 batting average and stole team-record 34 stolen bases.
“Marissa is a complete softball player. She makes phenomenal plays at first base, can pick the ball out of the dirt well, helping her teammates out when needed,” Braves’ coach Barb Schwarz said. “She is wise and quick on the bases and has great perception and knowledge of the game. (She’s) simply an all-around player who could play any position.”
Connelly also played volleyball and basketball. She also participated in dance, National Honor Society, Business Professionals of America, Student Council, Band and Choir.
Connelly has committed to Minnesota State-Moorhead.
KMS, SS, Sr.
After making the all-area second team in 2019, Gjerde makes the first team to close out her senior year.
Gjerde led the Fighting Saints to a 20-6 record and was named the team’s Co-MVP.
In 87 at-bats, Gjerde held a team-leading .483 batting average and scored 47 runs.
She registered 42 hits with 23 RBI, 13 walks, nine doubles and three triples. She struck out twice all season.
In her career, Gjerde recorded 112 hits and 62 RBI, scored 107 runs, had 26 doubles, six triples and had a .461 batting average.
“One of the best softball players I’ve ever coached,” head coach Eileen Suter said. “(She) only struck out twice all season! Tough out!”
Gjerde earned all-conference in 2019 and 2021, was all-state academic, all-state second team and All-Section 3A in ‘19 and ‘21. She was also named to the 2021 All-Star Series.
Paynesville, SS, Sr.
Haines helped lead the Bulldogs to an 11-10 record, earning all-conference honors.
Haines had a .455 batting average and a .549 on-base percentage.
She had 30 hits, 30 runs, 23 RBI, 15 stolen bases, eight doubles and four home runs.
“Olivia was a true leader with a bunch of very young players on the team,” Bulldogs coach Zach Nelson said. “Being a starter since ninth-grade as a catcher, she moved to short without a complaint and set a great example for the rest of the team.”
Haines also played hockey for River Lakes. She’ll continue her hockey career at Gustavus Adolphus.
Litchfield, SS, Sr.
The two-time all-conference honorable mention had a .447 batting average (second-best on the team) and the second-best slugging percentage, with .763.
In 76 at-bats, she tallied 38 runs on 34 hits, 24 RBI and 21 walks. She joins Stilwell as an academic all-conference and all-section pick. She also earned all-state honorable-mention.
McCann ends her high school career with a .354 batting average and 87 runs on 86 hits, 64 RBI, 14 doubles, eight homers and five triples.
“Sydney has been a four-year starter at shortstop, She had a great senior season,” Braaten said. “She is a dynamic shortstop that made so many unbelievable plays defensively. She has a great eye at the plate. Her ability to get on base helped us score a lot of runs as she scored 38 of them.”
McCann also competed in volleyball and basketball and will be attending Grand Canyon University.
LQPV, 1B, Sr.
Olson made the second-team all-area roster in 2019 and concluded her senior year by helping lead the Eagles to the Camden Conference championship.
Olson had a .403 batting average, a .574 on-base percentage and a .625 slugging percentage.
Olson tallied 29 hits with 26 RBI, 11 doubles, one home run and one triple.
She scored 29 runs, walked 27 times and stole five bases.
Olson had a .986 fielding percentage.
“Cassidie leads with poise, patience and kindness,” Eagles’ coach Janet Larsen said. “She is willing to help others and encourages them to reach their goals, as well as put in hard work of her own to accomplish personal goals. She is an excellent student, a true team player and a gem to coach.”
Olson was named to the all-star series, was an all-state honorable mention, earned academic all-conference and was all-conference.
Olson is a member of the National Honors Society and was a three-sport letter winner, competing in volleyball, basketball and was the softball captain. Olson is also a lifeguard.
Montevideo, C/CF, Sr.
Zola Olson led the Thunder Hawks to a 10-11 record, earning all-conference honors and being an all-state honorable-mention.
Olson set a school record with a .589 on-base percentage in 2021. She also batted .545 with a .697 slugging percentage, recording 36 hits, 22 runs and 17 stolen bases.
Olson had an .897 fielding percentage with 45 putouts.
“Zola was a very dynamic player for this year's season,” Thunder Hawks coach Madison Sletta said. “She is a three-year starter on varsity and played a variety of positions throughout her career, including center field, catcher, shortstop and third base. Zola could be counted on to fill in at nearly any position and worked to be the best at those positions. On the bases, Zola was quick and pushed to get extra bases.”
Zola also participated in choir, Future Farmers of America, swimming and basketball.
Zola has committed to playing softball at Ridgewater College in Willmar.
LPQV, P, Jr.
Sawatzky made a strong contribution to the Eagles, going 16-5 for the 20-5 team, earning her the 2021 Camden Conference MVP.
In 119 innings, Sawatzky struck out 181 and walked 55. She had eight shutouts and five no-hitters. She finished the season with a 1.38 ERA of 1.38 and a .955 fielding percentage.
For her career, Sawatzky went 19-7 with nine shutouts and six no-hitters. She will be going into her senior season with 205 career strikeouts and 80 walks in 149 innings.
“Rylee is deserving of this award as she is motivated to succeed and encourages her teammates to succeed as well,” Eagle coach Janet Larsen said. “Her hard work is commendable and is executed on the mound and at the plate. She is a great asset to any team.”
At the plate, Sawatzky had 36 hits with 32 RBI, 34 runs, 11 doubles, one triple and one home run. She finished with a .450 batting average.
Along with conference MVP, Sawatzky earned all-state honorable mention.
Sawatzky also has been a part of the 2021, 2020 and 2019 state dance team champion LQPV/Dawson-Boyd Silhouettes. She was a captain of the 2020 team and earned all-conference in jazz.
Sawatzky also participates in volleyball, Agape Singers and National Honor Society.
Litchfield, C, Sr.
Returning to the all-area first team for the second time is Stilwell, who helped lead the Dragons to an 18-8 record and second in Section 3AA.
In 26 games, Stilwell tallied 54 hits with 19 doubles and seven home runs, racking up 38 RBIs with a team-leading .568 batting average.
She was named academic all-conference, all-section, all-state first team and was voted to play in the Senior All-Star Series.
Stilwell finished her career with a .461 batting average with 99 RBI, 45 runs, 42 doubles, one triple and 19 home runs in 77 games.
“Avery is a special player,” Litchfield coach Luke Braaten said. “She has been a four-year starter at catcher. She works hard and has a great attitude … There is no better defensive catcher or hitter that I have seen all year. She is a game-changer.”
Stilwell also played tennis and hockey and has accepted a scholarship to play tennis at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, C, Jr.
Despite the Jaguars finishing the season with a 3-18 record, Winter was a Class A all-state second-team recipient.
She finished with a team-leading .551 batting average and had an on-base percentage of .625.
She recorded 32 hits, 29 runs, 25 stolen bases and 16 RBI. Winter walked nine times and struck out three.
Defensively, Winter had 89 putouts, 20 assists and a .939 fielding percentage.
Winter was voted most valuable batter for the Jaguars and is a captain for next season’s team.
“Kylie deserves this award because of her work ethic,” Jaguars’ coach Eric Primus said. “She stays after practice almost daily, taking extra swings and this was her first year as a catcher. We needed someone to step up and she did. She is a great team leader.”
Winter also plays volleyball.
New London-Spicer, C, Sr.
Deming was named to the All-Wright County Conference All-Section 3AA team, batting .393 and a career .359 average She finishes in the top-10 all-time at NLS for hits, doubles, triples and steals.
“Brianna has been our ‘All Everything’ this past season,” Wildcats’ coach Melissa Bergeson said.
Litchfield, 3B, Sr.
The three-sporter was named academic all-conference and all-conference team.
The senior had 38 hits, 22 RBI, 20 runs, seven doubles and two homers. DeWolf and a batting average of .418.
“Emma is a great fielder with a strong arm and can take away the bunt game from the other team,” Braaten said. “Her ability to get on base and get clutch hits helped us make it to the section finals.”
Litchfield, P, Jr.
Draeger finished the season with a 16-6 record, pitched more than 131 innings, recording 124 strikeouts, 31 walks and a 2.13 ERA.
She earned honorable mention in all-conference, was named all-section, and all-state honorable mention.
“Taylor became our starting pitcher as a freshman. She is a huge reason we won so many games,” Braaten said.
KMS, P/2B, Sr.
Krieger had 23 hits with 24 RBI and scored 38 runs. She also recorded 12 stolen bases, four doubles, three triples and a home run.
As a pitcher, Krieger finished 15-6 with 115 innings pitched. She struck out 89 batters, walked 36 and had two no hitters.
Krieger earned all-conference, all section, and Co-Fighting Saints MVP.
“Hardest worker I’ve ever coached and a great attitude,” Saints’ coach Eileen Suter said.
Lac qui Parle Valley, SS, Sr.
Batting .452 with a .679 slugging percentage, Lund was named an all-state honorable mention and all-conference.
Lund scored 48 runs, tallied 38 hits, 23 RBI, nine doubles, two triples and two homers.
Along with being National Honor Society Historian, Lund was an A honor student and was the captain on the softball, basketball and volleyball teams.
“Macie is a great leader both on and off the field/court,” Larsen said. “She exudes confidence by leading her team with grit, determination, and high expectations. She listens to her coaches, works hard on improving areas of weakness, and thrives on the success her team accomplishes together.”
Benson, CF, Sr.
Moesenthin batted .430 and slugged .624, smacking two home runs and 12 doubles with 40 hits and 19 RBI. She also had a .918 fielding percentage and made the All-Section 6A team as well as being named the West Central Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“Ellie has a knack for chasing down balls. She is fun to watch as she never gives up, rarely bails to chase on a ball,” said Schwarz, Benson’s head coach. “She has made amazing catches because of this; dives, shoestring catches have become the norm.”
KMS, LF, Sr.
She’s an all-state honorable-mention who also earned all-conference honors for the Fighting Saints. She batted .365 (31 of 85) with 37 runs, six doubles, two triple and 19 RBI. She had 16 stolen bases. Defensively, she had 16 putouts and one assist.
“(She’s) a great lead-off hitter (and) solid all around player,” Suter said.!
KMS, CF, So.
Already an all-state honorable-mention who earned all-conference and all-section honors, Olson batted .367 (29 of 79) with 38 runs, four doubles, four triples and 29 RBI. She stole 17 bases and walked 11 times. Defensively, she had 23 putouts and two assists.
“(She’s) fast (and) covers a lot of ground,” Suter said. “(She) can bunt for a base hit or hit it deep.”
LQPV, LF, So.
In her first year out for softball, Shelstad batted .520 (39 of 75) with a .598 on-base percentage and a .707 slugging percentage. She scored 47 runs and hit nine doubles, one triple and one homer with 23 RBI and 15 stolen bases. She also runs cross-country and plays basketball.
“Taylor is deserving of this award as she is an extremely versatile softball player,” Larsen said. “She can play any infield or outfield position. She is a smart ball player, patient at the plate, and very fast on the bases.”