Standards, expectations, hopes, and team goals were all set high from the very beginning of the Waconia softball team’s 2014 season, as the Wildcats returned a bulk of their 2013 squad, chomping at the bit for more.
WHS set its standards high from the beginning, playing in the championship game of the Mankato West tournament. Team goals also reached for the stars and included the desire for a conference championship and section title game.
“Although we did not reach either of those goals, I believe they were great goals for our team,” WHS head coach Audra Lehrke said. “We set high standards for ourselves so we could push each other every day.”
The Wildcats followed up the Mankato West tournament with an eight-game win streak that stretched into May. They finished the regular season 12-4 and were second in the Wright County Conference – East division with a 9-2 record. Waconia finished as runners up to Orono’s perfect 12-0 WCC record, having lost their two conference games in a Spartan doubleheader.
“We played some tough teams this season and even though we lost a few, they were very close games,” Lehrke said. “These games built up our team’s confidence that our program can compete with schools in our section.”
With a strong regular season, Waconia was seeded No. 7 in the Section 2AAA tournament and was set to face No. 10 Eden Prairie.
But the week the section tournament was slated to begin, the Wildcats suffered their biggest setback of the season. Junior and regular outfielder Madi Heckmann suffered a stroke, rocking the team.
“Our team is very close, so this was obviously a hard hit for her family as well as our team and program,” Lehrke said.
Heckmann’s diagnosis provided the team with some perspective and as she recovered at home, the Wildcats would go on to lose a 13-4 game to Eden Prairie in the first round of Section 2AAA, ending the season.
“Sports are not all about winning and losing but rather about having fun with your teammates, enjoying the game, and caring about each other,” Lehrke said. “I was very proud of our team to see how well everyone came together to help when needed. Madi is an amazing and tough young lady, and our team wishes her a speedy recovery.”
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their one “bad game” of the season was the Eden Prairie loss.
“However, this one game was not a summary of our season,” Lehrke said. “The girls played very well this year against some tough teams, despite how we ended in sections.”
The Wildcats relied heavily on senior pitcher Kiela DeVlaeminck this season. DeVlaeminck pitched in 17 games and emerged with a 10-3 record.
She threw 94.2 innings of action, allowing 49 runs (25 earned) on 103 hits. She walked 14 batters during the season and struck out an impressive 72. She finished the year with an earned run average of just 1.849.
Freshman Lexi Kretsch threw in seven games for WHS this season, going 1-3. She threw 24.1 innings, allowed 29 runs (18 earned) on 31 hits. She walked 11 and struck out 18. Kretsch finished the year with an ERA of 5.178.
At the plate, four Waconia varsity regulars boasted batting averages over .400, while five Wildcats had on base percentages over .400.
Kiela DeVlaeminck held a team-high batting average of .460, going 23-50 at the plate with 17 singles, four doubles, and two home runs. She knocked in 11 runs and had a team-high on base percentage of .491.
Sophomore Emily Anderson batted .457 and was 16-35. She had 14 singles and two doubles, 11 RBIs, and had an on base percentage of .457.
Junior Jordyn Goldschmidt batted .410, bolstered by 21 singles, and had an on base percentage of .438. Junior Kia Pankey also batted above .400, posting a .407 with 22 singles and an on base percentage of .462.
Junior Nicole Groeneveld had a team-high 14 RBIs in her 58 at bats. She batted .345 and had an on base percentage of .409.
As a team, the Wildcats batted .331 with an on base percentage of .372.
With four graduating seniors, the Wildcats are losing their starting pitcher-catcher combination of Kiela DeVlaeminck and Kenzie Clouse, along with Haley DeVlaeminck and McCall Helstrom.
Lehrke said it’s not only the seniors’ positions that will be hard to fill, but their leadership roles as well. However, she is confident in the depth of the program and the solid JV team in 2014.
“I am confident these girls will step up to fill needed positions,” she said. “Our catcher was a leader on the team for the last few years, however, the junior players are great leaders together and will not hesitate to take charge of leadership roles.”
The WHS team recently held its end of year banquet and gave out a number of awards. Six Wildcats received some kind of WCC honors, including All-Conference recipients Kiela DeVlaeminck, Kia Pankey, and Jordyn Goldschmidt, along with All-Conference Honorable Mention honorees Kenzie Clouse, Nicole Groeneveld, and Emily Anderson. Jenna VanDeVelde received All-Section honors, while the Golden Glove went to Clouse and the Golden Bat to Kiela DeVlaeminck. Team-voted awards included: Wildcat Award (Clouse, Pankey, Goldschmidt, Heckmann), Most Valuable Player (Kiela DeVlaeminck), and Most Improved Player (Anderson).
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com