With the spring season shorter than others, the Journal Sports Director has less opportunities to form opinions on softball players. Stats overall are also incomplete. And thus a carefully done top 20 is tough to do. Only an unofficial ranking will precede each player. Below are the softball players who stood out over the past decade. Players who missed a season aren’t included. Those from Houston are only 2013-on. Thanks to Lee Epps, John Fenske, Jerry Chase; Kati Bergey, Jeff Johnson and Tris Tollefson for their assistance.
The best softball program was easily Chatfield. At the top of their list is (#1) Lexi Chase (2015-2020). COVID-19 annulled her senior year. It would’ve been year six. The only Gopher to ever play as a seventh grader, she five-times helped Chatfield to TRC-West titles and five-times pitched in Austin including as a seventh grader (squaring off against FC/L’s star Morgan Malley). Chatfield’s records in that era: 19-6, 18-5, 22-2, 19-4, and 19-6 (97-23). Chase was four times All-TRC, once AA All-State HM, once 2nd team AA All-State, and twice 1st team AA All-State. Her career stats are outstanding; 605 Ks, 81 BBs in 384 2/3 IP, 50-13 record, 1.76 ERA, six perfect games, .494 average. Her freshman (11-2, 145 Ks in 76 IP, .829 ERA; .494, 27 RBI, 28 R), sophomore (14-2, 185 Ks in 96 1/3 IP, .287 ERA; .400 average, 2 HR, 18 RBI) and junior years (15-5, 202 Ks in 118 2/3 IP, 1.12 ERA; .541 average, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 25 R) were amazing. Former Coach Johnson: “Spent more time on the diamond working on her skills than any athlete I’ve seen and it showed…pure hitter that would hit the ball where it was pitched.” Coach Chase (dad): “A natural …in summers she spends time giving pitching/hitting lessons to the youth… with her wealth of knowledge, she could easily be a varsity coach in the future.” A key classmate in that run was Carlie Berge (2016-2020). On most any other team, she would’ve been a #1 pitcher. Berge (P/1B/3B) was thrice All-TRC (5-1 record, .351 average as a junior; 5-2 record as a sophomore). Coach Chase: “Intimidating on the mound and at the plate… a left-handed hitter with good power.” A year older but part of the run was another exceptional Gopher, (#3) Belle Berg. The five-year starting shortstop (2015-2019) was four times All-TRC and AA 2nd Team All-State as a junior (near .500 average, 8 HRs, 32 RBI, 33 R) while playing in the All-Star Series as a senior (.376, 2 HRs, 27 R). Her sophomore year (.402, 6 HRs, 32 RBI, 37 R) was excellent also. Berg finished her career with 23 HRs and over 100 RBIs. Coach Chase: “A gifted SS with a gun for an arm (and) quick release.” Johnson: “Came on to varsity like a storm, fast and furious.” The trio were key parts to Chatfield’s 2017 team that started 22-0. Graduating in 2016 were (#16) Sydney Gould and (#9) Megan LaPlante. Gould (catcher, 2014-2016) made All-TRC twice, and AA All-State as a senior. Johnson: “(One of) the most athletic softball players that I coached… her arm was amazing.” LaPlante (3B) was a five-year starter who was twice All-TRC plus AA All-State HM as a senior. She played (2012-2016) on teams that went 91-30, including two Section runner-up squads. Johnson: “One of the best third basemen I’ve seen… she was tough, had a great glove, and a great arm. She was also quick, so she was able to cover every bunting situation.” Gould hit around .400 three straight years, LaPlante twice. Each had multiple career HRs. The Class of 2015 featured (#6) Kirsten Keefe and (#11) Brook Irish, who went 73-25 over four years. Keefe (2011-2015) was a five-year starter (CF) who was twice All-TRC. She hit around .400 or better at least three times. Johnson: “One of the toughest outs in softball. If you needed someone to get on base or come up with a big hit, you wanted Kirsten up to bat.” Irish (2012-2015, P/1B) was thrice All-TRC (14 HRs, 69 RBIs from 2013-2015). Johnson: “When Brook was on, she was one of the most dangerous hitters to pitch to. I saw her hit a ball 300 feet one game. When the ball was hit, I could hear the opposing coach say ‘Oh Dear Lord.’” The class of 2014 produced (#5) Sydney Irish (2011-2014). Thrice All-TRC, Irish was a four-year short-stop who hit over .400 three straight years, scoring over 100 runs in the span. Johnson: “One of the best batting averages in southeast Minnesota her junior and senior years… one of the best shortstops we’ve seen in the area.” In the very early part of the decade, (#13) MaKenzie Miller (OF/1B, 2010-2013), (#14) Tori Woltz (1B, 2009-2012), (#22) Sarah Costello (3B/OF, 2009-2012), and Katie Jech (P, 2009-2012) were standouts. A huge playoff win over L-A in 2012 (Section Runner-Up finish) was a crowning achievement for them. Johnson (on Miller): “Softball IQ was off the chart. She knew how to play the game, and that was hard.” Woltz was twice All-TRC (.370, five HRs as a junior; seven HRs, 35 RBIs as a senior). Johnson: “Had a great swing and led team in RBIs two years in a row.” Costello had 6 HRs as a senior. Johnson: “Definition of a team player…her move from 3B to OF senior year was the main reason (Chatfield) upset #2 in state L-A (in the section playoffs).” Jech had a 15-3 pitching record as a senior.
FC/L’s top player of the decade was easily (#2) Morgan Malley (2011-2015). A five-year pitcher, the Falcons had three winning seasons in the decade, Malley’s sophomore (13-4), junior (15-5), and senior years (20-7). They won playoff games and made the Section Final Four twice, her junior and senior years. They were 1A Runner-Up in 2015. Malley made All-TRC five times, Class A All-State twice, and played in the All-Star Series as a senior. She went 57-31 on the mound for her career (769 Ks in 579 IPs, 1.94 ERA, three no-hitters, 19 shut-outs). Sophomore (10-3, 127 Ks in 87 IP, 1.93 ERA, .348), junior (14-3, 182 Ks in 119 IP, 1.06 ERA, .355, 3 HRs, 18 R) and senior years (19-6, 261 Ks in 168 IP, .920 ERA, .449, 7 HRs, 23 RBI, 34 R) were special. Former Coach Tollefson: “Morgan was a tremendous softball player! She could do it all!” She was aided by 2016 graduates Shelby Ebner (2012-2016, catcher) and Megan Hendrickson (2013-2016, 2B), who were each twice All-TRC. Tollefson; “Many coaches today call the pitches, but Shelby handled that throughout her career and she called a great game behind the plate. (Megan) was like a coach on the field for us…knew the game well… a very ‘heady’ player.” Haley Polin (2014-2017) was another aid to FC/L’s strong run. She was also All-TRC twice. Tollefson: “A coach’s dream, as she could play many defensive positions (LF, 3B, SS, catcher).” Playing just two years, but making All-TRC both times was (#25) Jordan O’Connor (2012-2013, OF) (hitting .408 and .353 with 47 total RBIs). Tollefson: “A great offensive player…the ball jumped off her bat.” A couple early decade players who were likely multiple time All-TRC picker were (#21) Connor Nagle (2008-2011) and Brooke Ruesink (2008-2011). Tollefson (on Nagle): “Great all-around player that could beat you several ways.” Tollefson (on Ruesink): “One of those athletes that could fill in in a pinch…once pitched a varsity game and got the win when she had no pitching experience.”
GMLOK’s best softball of the decade came from 2015-2019 (four winning seasons, two good play-off runs). The Bulldogs had their best ever season in 2017 (18-6), led by seniors (#7) Courtney Schmidt (2013-2017), (#18) Alayna Meskill (2013-2017), and (#17) Gretchen Corson (2014-2017). Schmidt started five years at shortstop, was named All-TRC twice, made Class AA All-State and played in the All-Star Series as a senior (.412, 21 R). Coach Fenske: “She had the best glove out of all the players, boys or girls, that I have coached…a true Bulldog, never afraid of the ball.” Meskill (P) was also a five-year player, another two-time All-TRC pick. She had a big senior year (16-6, 2.14 ERA, 120 Ks in 193 IP). Fenske: “Miss reliable… you knew she was always gonna go out and work hard, throw strikes, and usually get the victory (with the team’s help).” Corson (CF) was a three-time All-TRC pick (.366, 3 HRs, 28 RBIs as a senior). Fenske: “A very strong-minded player that didn’t like to come in second… super-fast.” Also part of that run was (#19) Liz Jacobsen. A four-year starter at catcher (2016-2019), Jacobsen earned All-TRC thrice. Fenske: “A player that every coach would want on their team…always wanting to improve.” Earlier in the decade, (#20) Steph Russell (OF/P) was a key asset. The Bulldogs went from 0-20 to 9-12 from her sophomore to senior years (where she hit 4 HRs). Fenske: “Great athlete that could play anywhere on the field and be good at it.” Jamie Stevens (1B/P, 2012-2015) was also a two-time All-TRC pick for GMLOK.
Mabel-Canton softball was also good late in the decade. The Cougars twice won 1A East titles, advancing to Austin. The 2017 team was first (14-7), led by senior (#4) Coranda Vickerman (SS, 2012-2017). As a senior, she was All-State Class A HM (.566, 30 RBI, 30 R, 17 SB). She was very good as a junior also (.417, 33 RBI, 23 R, 18 SBs). Vickerman hit around .300 or better five years making All-SEC four times. Coach Bergey: “A phenomenal athlete. Defensively, she covered a lot of ground and had great arm strength. Offensively, she was a triple threat…power, average, and could steal bases.” Two years later (2019), seniors (#15) Lexi Thorson and Maddy Michels (both 2015-2019) helped M-C to a second 1A East title, a 1A Runner-Up finish (15-8). The two-time All-SEC pick Thorson (1B) hit over .360 five times with a trio of 20-plus RBI seasons. Her career average was .413 (137 R, 94 RBI, nine 3Bs, five HRs). Bergey: “Spent most of her career as our lead-off hitter…so patient at the plate… did a great job of getting on base.” Michels (catcher) was also All-SEC twice. Bergey: “An excellent catcher… one of the hardest workers I have coached.” Another key player both runs was (#12) Kenidi McCabe (2017-active). The two-time All-SEC pick hit over .450 three straight years. Frosh (.481, four HRs, 20 R, 24 RBI) and sophomore years (.487, 25 R, 20 RBI) were particularly impressive. Bergey: “Similar (to Vickerman)… covers a ton of ground, the balls she is able to knock down and field is amazing. Offensively, she is explosive… crushes the ball every time she hits it.” Earlier in the decade, in M-C’s leaner years, Lydia Geving (2009-2013) and Abby Hanson (SS, 2010-2014) were each three-time All-SEC picks. Geving (catcher) did so missing her senior year to injury. Hannah Nolte (3B, 2011-2015) was also a key player. A two-time All-SEC pick, Nolte hit .400-plus twice including senior year (.426, 2 HR, 24 R, 24 RBI).
Houston and R-P’s softball stock waned as the decade closed. The Hurricanes were exceptional before the Journal started covering them. The first acclaimed Houstonite the Journal covered was #10 Abbey Loken (2011-2014). Loken (P) was thrice All-SEC, once All-State HM, and played in the All-Star Series as a senior. She was the last Houston pitcher to get her team to Austin (2013), the ‘Canes last best season (13-5). Alexa Horihan (3B) graduated a year later (2012-2015). She was a three-time All-SEC pick (.382 as a senior). Cortney Johnston (2014-2016) was a two-year pitcher after Loken, earning All-SEC twice. Then came a pair of three-time All-SEC picks. Making All-league three straight years was (#8) Amber Chapel (CF, 2015-2018). She hit over .300 four straight years including over .400 as a senior. Gifted defensively too, Chapel had at least seven career home runs. She was Class A 2nd Team All-State in 2018. A six-year player who made All-SEC as a seventh grader, freshman, and senior was (#23) Alyssa Rostad (OF/C). R-P’s last two-time All-TRC pick was (#24) Keela Brand (2011-2014). The hard-hitting catcher played on R-P’s last winning team in 2013 (10-9). Kenzie Lind (2009-2013) made All-TRC twice in 2011 and 2012.
*Stats are determined by Paul Trende, from multiple sources (and are subject to discrepancy). All-TRC softball for 2010-2012 could not be found.
With the expansion of the Fillmore County Journal, its sports section will also expand into new markets. We look forward to this additional coverage.