Tiger players, coaches receive all-state honors
If the New London softball team wasn’t getting recognized during the season, the awards are certainly rolling in now.
Three Tiger softball players were given all-state honors by the Iowa Girls’ Coaches Association (IGCA) — including two first team selections — and their coaches were chosen as the Class 1A Coaches of the Year.
Morgan Christner and Emily Parks were named first team all-state, and Sami Koontz received second team all-state honors.
Duane Blint and Paula Bliven, New London co-head coaches, also received all state honors.
The young Tiger squad went largely unnoticed by many this year, not breaking into the Class 1A rankings until mid-season and never climbing past the No. 10 spot — despite a campaign last year that brought them within one game of the state tournament.
But even though they were 10th-ranked, they finished the season at No. 2 when they made it all the way to the state championship game, upsetting three higher-ranked teams before falling to No. 1 Akron-Westfield in the fight for the state title.
New London’s efforts this season have earned many Tigers conference and district honors, and three players have now been recognized as all-state athletes as well.
Christner, a freshman, struck out an impressive 379 batters this season, second among pitchers across all classes in the state. The speed and movement of her pitchers left even some of the state’s best hitters off-balance, and helped her to a 1.34 ERA over more than 250 innings and a pitching record of 31-9.
She also led the team in a couple hitting categories, with 21 doubles and a .614 slugging percentage.
Joining Christner on the first team is Parks, a sophomore catcher, who topped the Tigers at the plate with a .447 batting average. Her timely hitting throughout the season was a big asset for the Tigers. She was also a leader on the basepaths, with a team-high 30 stolen bases.
Batting third and fourth respectively, Christner and Parks — both of whom were named to the all-tournament team at state — each had 41 RBIs this season to lead the team in that category.
One runner they often knocked in was Koontz, the Tigers’ leadoff batter, who had a team-high on-base percentage of .516 and earned second team all-state honors.
The New London junior walked a team-high 19 times and led the squad with 51 runs scored. She also stole 29 bases.
All three of New London’s all-state selections will be able to play for the Tigers again next season; the young team lost just one player, Caitlin Chiri, to graduation.
The squad was also led by a pair of rookies, so to speak. Blint and Bliven — who, as co-coaches, received Coach of the Year honors from the IGCA — were in their first season at the helm of the Tiger team.
They led the squad to an overall record of 32-10 and guided the Tigers to a state runner-up trophy.