This season was an absolute success for the North Callaway varsity softball team that was highlighted by going 10-0 to win the Eastern Missouri Conference title.
The Ladybird's also went 20-6 overall to earn a spot at sectionals, but their greatest accomplishment was probably defeating area powerhouse Centralia 5-2 on Oct. 9 to earn the Class 2, District 8, championship.
"The team set the goal of winning conference and districts and they did just that," said coach Brandi Thomsen. "I am very proud of their work ethic and commitment this season."
One reason for all the good times at North Callaway this year was the consistently superior play of Kallie Jo Lehenbauer. Highlights for the senior in 2017 included a .464 batting average with 20 RBI, two homeruns, five doubles and three triples.
"Offensively we had the entire team contribute big in some form throughout the season. Some stand outs would be Lehenbauer and Hanna Knipp, who had a .444 batting average and led us in RBIs with 30 and homeruns with three," Thomsen said. "Lani Wilson ended the season with a .388 batting average with 29 RBI and four triples."
The other side of this effort for the Ladybird's was largely predicated upon the pitching prowess of Kenzie Ausfahl. Considering she had a earned run average 1.53 with 142 strikeouts, combine that with Lehenbauer's fielding acumen at shortstop and Ellie Eckert's strong glove at second base and North Callaway's middle infield became a wasteland to opposing hitters, especially those who lacked power.
"Cameran Knipp was a rock for us behind the plate, catching the majority of our games and having only one error," said Thomsen. "Harper Thomsen was our team leader on the infield and played a solid third base for us all season. Erica Garrett also did a great job for us in right field having some spectacular catches."
What's next for this team is to first say goodbye to all those it lost to graduation. Once the Ladybird's know how they at least want to start filling those gaps, the squad will then commence offseason training. That final step isn't quite as easy as it sounds, though, mostly because many of the members of this team that aren't graduating are either playing a winter sport or are part of a travel softball program.
"Garrett, Hanna Knipp, Lehenbauer and Carley VanBoening will all be greatly missed but I am hopeful we will have underclassmen work hard in the off-season to fill their positions both in the field and at the plate," Thomsen said. "The offseason is difficult for us to all get together as many of our athletes are involved in other sports or competitive travel ball. We will get together when we can to talk strategy for next year and what each player will need to do to prepare for the upcoming season."