Nine softball Cardinals named all-Big 8

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Rob Reischel
Middleton freshman pitcher Lauren Banke was named second-team all-Big Eight./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s girls softball team enjoyed a sensational season.

There was a Big Eight Conference championship. A regional title. And a 17-5 overall record.

So it was no surprise that the Cardinals did extremely well when it came to all-conference voting, landing nine players on the all-Big Eight team.

Sophomore center fielder Rachel Everson was named first-team all-league, while freshman pitcher Lauren Banke, freshman left fielder Jessica Parente and junior first baseman Shelby Ballweg were second-team all-conference choices.

Senior shortstop Katie Fermanich, senior catcher Amber Karn, senior right fielder Abby Henke, senior second baseman Morgan Schmitt and sophomore pitcher Makenzie Kopp were all named honorable-mention all-conference, as well.

Everson had a memorable spring.

Everson batted .495, which was the highest among the Cardinals’ regulars. Everson had a team-high 47 hits, led the Cardinals with 12 walks, tied for first with 27 runs scored, and was second on the team with 28 RBI.

Defensively, Everson didn’t commit an error all season, had 50 putouts and two assists. She’s already drawing interest from NCAA Division 1 schools Syracuse and Bowling Green.

“Rachel lives and breaths softball,” Middleton coach Cherie Hellenbrand said. “Her high level of commitment and work ethic have taken her to the elite level. I felt she deserved to be Player of the Year in the Big Eight. 

“What makes Rachel so special is she is willing to do anything for the team. She is always encouraging her teammates and building team morale. 

“She is mentally disciplined, she can wait for the outside pitch to travel into the zone and then takes it to opposite field. For inside pitches she has quick hands to get through the zone and hits for power. The Middleton program will be fortunate to have her back for two more years.”

Parente batted .407, led the Cardinals with 34 RBI and tied for second with three home runs. Parente also led Middleton with 12 doubles and tied for second on the team in hits (33).

“It was great to have another strong left handed hitter in the lineup,” Hellenbrand said of Parente. “Jess has a very smooth swing and works hard on her fundamentals all year long. 

“Even though she was a freshman, she has lots of experience playing elite softball with her travel ball team. She was used to the pressure situation and would come through with the big hit.”

Ballweg batted .393 and led Middleton with five home runs. Ballweg tied for second in runs scored (25) and also tied for second in RBI (28).

“She made some outstanding plays at first,” Hellenbrand said. “She was the go-to power hitter in the No. 4 spot. 

“She is extremely smart, both academically and on the softball field. I really felt she deserved first-team, but I know she will keep working hard and earn it next year.”

Middleton’s pitching was a major question mark heading into the year. But the duo of Banke and Kopp answered all questions.

Banke went 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA, struck out 36 and walked 28. Kopp went 9-2 with a 3.80 ERA, struck out 38 and walked 17.

“The biggest question coming into the 2015 season was who was going to replace four-year starter Ashley Stormer,” Hellenbrand said. “Both Makenzie Kopp and Lauren Banke worked extremely hard all winter long. A big reason we were able to win the conference was having two top-notch pitchers. Both were able to utilize multiple pitches and hit the corners of the plate. 

“I was also impressed with their composure on the mound. When they would get into tough situations they could bear down and focus on one pitch at a time. With both of their strong work ethic they will continue to improve and be a strong force for the program for the next few years.”

Fermanich batted .309, had six doubles, two home runs and 17 RBI. Fermanich also scored 25 runs, drew 11 walks and stole four bases.

“Key player for the team this year,” Hellenbrand said of Fermanich, the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter. “Great athlete and great veteran player. I feel the conference coaches really underestimated Katie’s abilities and she deserved more than honorable mention.”

Karn batted .310 and tied for the team-lead with 27 runs scored. She also had six doubles, stole 10 bases and threw out eight of the 10 runners that tried stealing on her.

“Amber did an outstanding job working with the two pitchers and always made them look good,” Hellenbrand said. “Players and coaches in the conference respected her and did not run on her. Amber was definitely overlooked.”

Henke batted .388, with two home runs, eight doubles and 18 RBI. She also scored 24 runs, stole 10 bases and committed just one error all season.

“Great outfielder and one of the best arms in the conference,” Hellenbrand said of Henke. “She was also a solid hitter for us and had key hits to drive in runs.” 

Schmitt batted .333 with 15 RBI and 10 walks. She also stole four bases and was a model of consistency at second base.

“She had great range and always remained calm under pressure,” Hellenbrand said of Schmitt. “She was a leader on the field. She would often call timeout to talk with our young pitchers. She utilized her senior leadership to guide them and kept their confidence up.”


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