Blint, Bliven named Coaches of the YearNew London’s Morgan Christner, Emily Parks earn all-area honors, Sammi Goble selected from Mt. Pleasant team
Southeast Iowa displayed some of the state's best softball this season, evidenced by the three Golden Triangle New Service teams that finished their 2013 campaigns with a trip to Ft. Dodge.
Class 4A Washington, 3A Mid-Prairie and 1A New London each earned a spot at the state tournament this year, and as a result, players from those three teams make up the majority of the all-GTNS squad.
Washington upset Solon in its first state tournament game and went on to finish fourth overall. Mid-Prairie fell in its state tournament opener but won out in the consolation bracket to place fifth.
New London cruised through its regional games, earning a state tournament berth after missing by just one game last season. But the Tigers weren’t content just to qualify — they won their first two games, earning a spot in the state championship, and the 10th-ranked Tigers went home with a runner-up trophy.
Their efforts this season land first-year co-coaches Duane Blint and Paula Bliven, as well as two of their players, on the all-GTNS team.
Blint and Bliven led the young Tiger team to a final record of 32-10, playing tough teams throughout the season and navigating through a gauntlet at the end. The Tigers toppled No. 7 Earlham to qualify for state, and then defeated No. 2 Martensdale-St. Mary's and No. 4 Newell-Fonda on their way to the state title game. They fell in the championship, 5-4, to top-ranked Akron-Westfield.
A state runner-up trophy and all-state honors make for a pretty good haul in their first year of coaching, and now Blint and Bliven can add recognition as the all-GTNS Coaches of the Year to that list as well.
Two of the Tiger players also earned all-GTNS honors for the first time: Morgan Christner and Emily Parks.
Christner, a freshman pitcher, struck out 379 batters this season, second among pitchers across all classes in the state, and she maintained a 1.34 ERA over more than 250 innings. The Tigers' ace was on the mound in nearly every game this season, finishing with a record of 31-9.
Her value also extends beyond the circle — she had a team-high 21 doubles and a .614 slugging percentage on the year.
Catching for Christner all season was Parks, who earns an all-GTNS utility spot.
The sophomore topped the Tigers at the plate with a .447 batting average, and her hits often came at key times for the Tigers.
Her speed and smarts on the base paths were also a big asset for New London, as she led the team with 30 steals on the season.
Batting third and fourth respectively, Christner and Parks had 41 RBIs apiece this season to lead the team in that category. Both players earned first team all-state honors and all-tournament team recognition for their efforts at state and throughout the season.
While New London claims the first four spots, the next four go to Washington — and leading the way is all-GTNS captain, Kaitlin Buchholz.
Buchholz, like two of her teammates, makes a return appearance on the all-area team. The senior played a big role in taking Washington to its second straight state tournament and to a 30-13 overall record.
Buchholz led the team with a slugging percentage and batting average that were off the charts at .736 and .453, respectively. The catcher also claimed the top spot on her team in RBIs, triples, doubles and hits. She earned first team all-state honors for her efforts this season and was also named the Southeast Conference's Player of the Year.
Second baseman Maddie Bohr was the perfect complement to Buchholz’s power hitting, using her contact and speed to rack up 60 hits on the season, the second-highest on the team. Another first team all-state selection, Bohr also matched Buchholz’s .474 on-base percentage this season. The senior had a .397 batting mark, stole 28 bases and walked 20 times to earn all-area honors for the second straight year.
Washington's Ashley Rausch, who was named third team all-state also finds herself back on the all-GTNS team, once again earning the honor for her efforts on the mound this season. She started 27 of the team’s 43 games and was 17-11 on the season. The junior threw 164 2/3 innings while holding a 2.42 ERA, helping her team to a successful run in the postseason. Though she makes the team as a pitcher, Rausch wasn’t far behind Buchholz as a power hitter. The junior had the second-most RBIs (49) and was also second in slugging percentage at .609.
Making her first appearance on the all-GTNS team is senior Sammy Ellingson, who rounds out the list of Demon players with a spot in the outfield. She started the 40 games she appeared in. Ellingson had the fourth highest average on the team at .393. She also had a team-leading 19 sacrifices. She was fourth on the team in slugging, and took home third team all-state recognition this season.
Representing the area's final state qualifier, Mid-Prairie, is senior Felicia Schulty. The outfielder paced her team in every form of hitting. Her slugging and batting average were .656 and .412, respectively. She brought in 49 runners and hit 14 doubles. The senior will leave big shoes for the Golden Hawks to fill.
Six other players chosen for the all-GTNS team fell short of the state tournament but still left their marks on the season.
Two of those players come from Fairfield, as junior Sydney Burnett and eighth-grader Kenady Waugh land on the all-area team.
Burnett made the cut as one of the three outfielders, batting .342 with 21 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. She scored 41 runs, ripped 13 doubles and motored around the bases for four triples. The junior also popped a couple of homers this season to make a return appearance on the all-GTNS team.
Waugh earns all-area honors for the first time in her first year on the varsity team. The starting shortstop for the Trojans this season batted .391 to capture one of the four infield spots. Waugh scored 45 runs while driving in 21 of them, collected 15 two-baggers and reached base at a .436 clip.
Mt. Pleasant's Sammi Goble had a team-high 11 doubles and crushed six triples in her last season as a Panther. She had a team-high batting average of .403 and also led Mt. Pleasant in slugging percentage at .597. She was second in on-base percentage at .432. The senior shortstop picked up her fifth varsity letter, earned all-conference and all-district honors this season, and now earns all-GTNS recognition for the second straight time as an infielder.
Rounding out the infield and representing Highland is senior Paige Weiland. The Husky led her squad in nearly every statistical category. She put up a .448 average and had 42 steals. Her on base percentage of .504 was second on the team. The senior’s 56 hits in 36 games made her a lock for all-GTNS honors.
Taking the catcher spot is Cardinal senior Lindsay Moore, who led her team both at the plate on offense and behind it on defense. She stroked six home runs and 18 doubles while batting .475 and reaching base at an astounding .542 rate. Her fielding percentage was .961 and she nabbed five runners who tried to steal on her.
The final all-GTNS honor goes to Pekin's Cheyann Lankford, who makes her second appearance on the team. Lankford, who claims a utility spot, pitched and played shortstop for the Panthers. At the plate, she batted .426 and drove in 25 runs while scoring 46. Lankford also shined from the pitching circle as she went 16-5 with an ERA of 2.50 while holding opponents to a .216 batting average.
The all-GTNS team was chosen by Ashlee De Wit of the Mt. Pleasant News, Andy Hallman of the Fairfield Ledger and Xiomara Levsen of the Washington Evening Journal.