With just three departing seniors, the Waconia softball team is already excited to return much of its varsity lineup in 2014.
“We were a young team this year, so we are looking forward to next year having most of our players returning, especially our pitchers and catcher,” said WHS head coach Audra Lehrke.
Back behind the plate for Waconia will be catching regular Kenzie Clouse, while Kiela DeVlaeminck, Kaylee Vanderhoff, and Lexi Kretsch will return to the mound, along with upcoming pitcher Mackenzie Merritt.
In this 2013 season, DeVlaeminck was the ‘Cats go-to pitcher, tossing nearly 70 innings for WHS. She was 8-4 in her games and kept a low earned run average of 1.31. She tallied 62 strokes outs against 18 walks and allowed just 29 runs on 73 hits. Vanderhoff threw 30.2 innings for WHS and was 2-2 on the mound. She struck out 17, walked 20, and allowed 45 runs on 46 hits. Vanderhoff finished the season with a 4.79 ERA. Kretsch threw 17 innings, tallying one loss, and struck out 13 batters. Her ERA was 5.76 after allowing 23 runs (14 earned) on 28 hits.
Up and coming pitcher Merritt threw just five innings for WHS, allowing three runs on seven hits, but the ‘Cats are sure to see more of the eighth grader as a freshman next season.
As a team, Waconia finished the regular season 10-8, and second in their division of the Wright County Conference behind Orono, a state-qualifying team.
With the adjusted schedule due to a rainy start to the season, the Wildcats contested many double headers against conference teams. Waconia swept doubleheaders against Mound-Westonka and Orono, while splitting games with Holy Family. At a tournament in mid May, the Wildcats defeated Rochester Lourdes 18-0.
Waconia’s season ended in the play in round of the Section 2AAA tournament, when the No. 8 seeded Wildcats fell to the No. 9 seeded Chaska Hawks in a 9-2 game on May 23.
Lehrke said the team experienced early season success, but dropped off mid season.
“We plateaued in the middle of the season and could not seem to keep the momentum going the last few games and during play-offs,” she said.
Defensively, the Wildcats moved players around throughout the season to find the best combination of infield and outfielders for the team. But while the defense may have been in flux, the offense stayed strong throughout the year.
“We had many base hits from the entire batting order along with some power hits,” Lehrke said. “Jaci Reinke had five home runs this season, Kenzie Clouse and Kaylee Vanderhoff each hit their first home run this year.”
The Wildcats held a .297 team batting average with a total on base percentage of .365. Nicole Groeneveld held a team-high batting average of .417, going 20-48 at the plate. She hit 16 singles, three doubles, and the team’s only triple of the season.
Jaci Reinke had the team’s highest on base percentage of .515 and a batting average of .411. She was 23-56 with 11 singles, seven doubles, and five home runs to knock in a team-high 28 RBIs.
Haley DeVlaeminck (.383) and Jordyn Goldschmidt (.375) both batted well over .300 on the season.
DeVlaeminck and Clouse were also both double digit RBI leaders with 16 and 10 RBIs, respectively. DeVlaeminck had a team-high 14 doubles.
Reinke and seniors Ashlyn Pannier and Bianca Lenz leave the team this season. Reinke and Pannier were the team’s regular first and second basemen and helped cover the ever-changing shortstop position. Lenz often pinch ran for WHS.
While the ‘Cats will have to fill in some infield holes, a host of strong players will return including Clouse, Haley DeVlaeminck, Kiela DeVlaeminck, Goldschmidt, Groeneveld, Madi Heckmann, McCall Helstrom, Kia Pankey, Jenna Van De Velde, and Kaylee Vanderhoff, along with some faces from the jv level.
All-Conference awards went to Haley DeVlaeminck, Kiela DeVlaeminck, and Reinke, while Clouse, Groeneveld, and Goldschmidt were All-Conference Honorable Mention. Haley DeVlaeminck and Goldschmidt were also named All-Section players. Team awards included the Wildcat Award (Pankey and Heckmann), Most Improved (Heckmann), MVP (Reinke), Golden Bat (Groeneveld), and Gold Glove (Goldschmidt).