Merrill softball girls work way onto Valley team

The Bluejay softball team put six members on either the All-Valley team this season after an 8-4 third-place finish.
Senior catcher Emily Heckendorf, junior shortstop Kaylin Byer and sophomore centerfielder Brianna LaMonica all earned First Team honors, and seniors Aly Brandvold (pitcher/OF) and Chelsey Dorgan (third base) and sophomore second-baseman Lindsay Krueger (utility) were picked for the Second Team.
“All six girls were very well deserving of the honor,” MHS coach Dave Brandvold said. “With an All State line-up that Stevens Point has, to have six girls on the all-conference team is tremendous. I’m very proud of these girls and their teammates for how hard they play and practice. They all have done everything we’ve asked of them all year.”
Heckendorf tied for 4th in batting at .500 and was 2nd with 20 RBI. She had 5 doubles and a triple. The slick-fielding Byer batted .421 with a .476 OBP, scored 14 runs in the WVC (tie 7th) and hit 4 doubles. LaMonica was 8th in Valley hitting at .477, with a .500 OBP and tied for 2nd with 20 runs scored. She had 3 doubles and 3 triples in conference.
“Emily was a strong hitter and leader,” MHS coach Dave Brandvold said. “She threw 7 people out in conference games and batted .500. Emily was also a clutch two out hitter as she drove in several runners this year with two out. She had a knack of getting the best part of the bat on the ball.
“Kaylin was our number two hitter in the line up and was one of our leaders in on base percentage. She hit over .400 on the year and led our team in steals with 14. Kaylin scored 27 runs and she was also very steady at short stop. She led the team in assists and constantly made critical plays ending scoring threats. She has been a 3 year starter and First Team AC in both the Great Northern and WVC.
“We had to find a spot that fit Bri and we did in center field. Her game speed helped her get to balls in the gaps and her bat was solid as our lead-off hitter. Brianna hit .473 with ten extra-base hits. She had 31 runs scored as Lindsay and Emily drove Kaylin and Bri around constantly. Bri will be solid up the middle for us the next two years.
Brandvold posted a 4-2 mark in WVC pitching, with a 3.12 ERA, and batted .294 with a .400 OBP. She had 3 doubles and triple. Dorgan was 10th in batting at .459, with a .487 OBP, and had 4 doubles, a triple and a home run, although several deep flies at home would have also been out. Krueger was 17th with a .381 BA, had a .400 OBP, hit 5 doubles and 3 triples, and gave 11 runs and 10 RBI.
“Aly was our do-everything person on the team,” Brandvold said. “She could hit for power and average at .371, steal bases, play outfield and pitch. Her softball IQ is very high so she could handle a lot of situations. She led the team with 50 strike outs and in wins with ten. Her leadership also helped keep the team together and close. Aly was captain for three different sports, so her leadership has been much appreciated in the school. She was all-conference in two sports and I think competing year round in different sports was really beneficial to her in tough situations.
“Chelsea was a rock at third base. She constantly took hard line drives and made fantastic plays. Her strength as a hitter was power and had we had a normal 200-foot fence at Ott’s Park we would have seen her hit many more home runs. Chelsey also hit .433 on the year. Most of her hits went for extra bases. She is also very humble and unassuming. Nothing ever shakes her and I will miss not coaching her any longer. She has some big plans ahead of her. Chelsea was probably the toughest kid on our team. She will be greatly missed.
“Lindsay is as good a hitter as we have and has perhaps the best-looking swing. Lindsay was our number 3 hitter and seldom did not deliver. She knew how to get the ball out of the infield when we most needed it. Lindsay also played a stellar second base and always played with enthusiasm. When we needed a light moment or break the tension in the game, Lindsay could accomplish that with her smile and personality. Lindsay gave everything she had to the team every game. She comes out all smiles but when the chips are down she is a fierce competitor.”
Pitcher Kelly Franks of SPASH was named the player of the year. Mike Matheis of Everest was coach of the year.

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