Fresh off going 25-9 and winning the conference crown outright for the first time in program history as well as hanging up its third consecutive regional championship plaque, the Highland High School softball team recently held its 2016 awards banquet.
There were five team members who were bestowed with a prestigious award.
Center fielder Lauren Wright, the team’s only senior member, was chosen as the 2016 Highland Bulldog Outstanding Offensive Player; junior pitcher/designated player Aubrey Hacke was named the Most Valuable Player; junior third baseman Reily Kassay was the recipient of the 110 Percent Award; junior catcher Jillian Garbett was selected as the Best Defensive Player; and junior backup catcher/pinch hitter Megan Frey received the Highland Bulldog Award.
MVP: Aubrey Hacke
On a team that won 25 games, wins the conference outright, wins a the third regional championship in a row and is one hit away from winning a sectional, there are worthy candidates for MVP honors. But arguably no player did more than Hacke, a true double-threat who excelled both at the dish and in the circle.
With the bat in her hands, The junior ranked second on the Bulldogs in batting average (.413), hits (43), on-base percentage (.504) and slugging percentage (.596), while she topped the team in RBI (35) and . Hacke also swung ot a hefty .458 batting average with runners in scoring position, struck out only seven times in 127 plate appearances and added nine doubles, two triples and two home runs.
With the ball in her hands, Hacke posted 7-4 win-loss record and a 1.916 earned run average. She also struck out 75 compared to 26 walks in 87 2/3 innings of service. Among her wins were the regional championship over Columbia, the 8-2 win over Triad in which she did not allow an earned run and HHS clinched the conference championship, a 2-0 one-hit win over Belleville West, a nine-inning, 146-pitch, 6-5 win over one of the best team’s in the state in Gillespie, an 8-2 victory over Class 2A state runner-up Dupo. Her four losses came by a total of five runs. Among her four losses were a 3-1 five-hitter against O’Fallon, a 1-0 four-hitter against Belleville East and a 1-0 three-hitter against Freeburg.
En route to being named to the MVC All-Conference Second Team, Hacke had a 2-1 pitching record with a 1.81 earned run average while also hitting .484 with a .515 on-base percentage in conference games.
Offensive Player of Year: Lauren Wright
Wright, the team’s mainstay leadoff hitter and center fielder the past two seasons, is the Offensive Player of the Year and that is quite an honor, considering Highland had a great intrasquad batting race going on for most of the season. Four players hit over .400 the majority of the season and three topped out with lofty .400 averages.
Wright, the team’s lone senior, ended up leading the Bulldogs in the majority of offensive statistics, including her exalted 420 batting average. The St. Louis College of Pharmacy pledge also ranked first in all of the following categories: on-base percentage (.515), slugging percentage (.607), OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) at 1.111, plate appearances (127), hits (47), runs (43), walks (21), triples (five), singles (33), total bases (68), stolen bases (16), reached base on errors (10), quality at-bats (six-plus pitches in an at-bat) at 73. She also contributed a home run, eight doubles and 19 RBI while also reaching base in all of Highland’s 34 games this season.
Wright was chosen to the MVC All-Conference First Team after leading the conference in batting average (.576) and on-base percentage (.650).
110 Percent Award: Reily Kassay
Kassay, the team’s third baseman the past two years, went above and beyond what was expected at practice and at games, giving a 110-percent effort throughout the season both on offense and defense. Her hard work and determination paid off big for the team, especially in the crucial games at the end of the season. Kassay’s batting average increased substantially in the last two weeks of the season and she provided much-needed offense to the Bulldog lineup.
In HHS’ 10-1 drubbing of Triad to lock up the MVC title outright, she went 3-for-4 with one double, two RBI and three runs scored. In the Bulldogs’ three playoff victories, Kassay went 8-for-10 with seven RBI, five runs, three walks and one triple. Her performance in the clutch down the stretch of the season was highlighted by her performance in the 11-6 win over Columbia in the regional final where she reached base all five times after going a perfect 3-for-3 with two walks, two RBI and two runs.
Kassay ended up hitting .385 with a .422 on-base percentage, a .523 slugging percentage, 42 hits, eight doubles, two triples, one homer, 25 runs and 16 RBI.
Kassay joined Wright as an MVC All-Conference First Team selection after putting together a .313 batting average and a .333 on-base average in addition to making some great defensive plays in conference games.
Best Defensive Player: Jillian Garbett
As Highland’s best defensive softball player this spring, Garbett was involved in nearly 4,000 plays this season. She recorded 10 assists and 171 putouts while committing only four errors for a .978 fielding percentage.
From her position behind the plate, Garbett caught four different pitchers through more than 30 games. She caught thousands of pitches in her more than 200 innings serving as the backstop. She saved countless wild pitches, cut down several base runners trying to steal, and relayed the pitch calls from the dugout to the mound with precision, all to help the team succeed on the scoreboard in 25 of its 34 ballgames this season.
An all-conference second team selection, Garbett turned in some great defensive games in conference play while hitting .286 with a .400 on-base percentage.
Highland Bulldog Award: Megan Frey
Frey won this award because she displays the desire, determination and attitude to do whatever the team needed or asked of her in order to compete. She was one of the most coachable players on the squad. Although you didn’t see her contributions in the team’s box score or on the stat sheet, Frey’s presence was important in every game this season. She saw action at every game, whether it was handling the pitchers’ pre-game warm-ups, getting a pitcher ready in the bullpen or keeping the outfielders loose between innings.
While making team history by winning the MVC title outright for the first time ever with an 8-2 record, sophomore pitcher Kirsten Plocher and sophomore left fielder Lauren Baer joined Wright and Kassay as MVC All-Conference First Team honorees, while junior first baseman Hannah Miener joined Hacke and Garbett on the all-conference second team, and freshman shortstop Lily Garbett, Jillian’s younger sister, was picked as an all-conference honorable mention.
Plocher was the the most successful pitcher in the conference with a 6-1 record. She also posted a 2.53 ERA in league play.
Overall for the season, Plocher led HHS in wins (12-2), innings pitched (91), and strikeouts (77). She only allowed 68 hits and 35 walks in her 91 innings of work while finishing with an impressive ERA of 2.23.
In addition to claiming the conference championship and third straight regional title, HHS (25-9) finished with most likely the highest batting average in school history at .335. Last year’s 24-10 team had a .307 average. This year’s team produced 336 hits in 1,003 at-bats. year’s. The Bulldogs had five players finish with batting averages over .300.
Baer paced the conference with two home runs while compiling a .367 batting average and a .457 on-base percentage in MVC play. Baer finished the season with a .327 batting average, a .400 on-base percentage. She also led the team in homers (three) and tied for the lead in slugging percentage (.596) while also contributing10 doubles, two triples, 25 runs and 21 RBI.
Not only did Lilly Garbett do a solid job in the hole at short as a freshman, but she had one of highest batting averages in the conference at .455 and her on-base percentage of .486. Overall, the freshman finished off one of the most impressive freshman campaigns in school history with an outstanding .409 batting average, a team-best 12 doubles while also tying for the most hits (47). She also finished second in RBI (33) and tied for second in runs (25) to go with a .456 on-base percentage, a 583 slugging percentage, two homers and one triple.
In conference games, Miener hit .382 and had a .400 on-base percentage. Overall, Miener chipped in 10 doubles, a .292 batting average, a .359 on-base percentage, one triple, 27 RBI and 17 runs.