DeMOTTE — No softball pitcher — even the best ones — relished the chance at facing Kankakee Valley’s lineup.
It was a Murderer’s Row of thumpers that included Division I prospects Maddie Swart (Purdue-Fort Wayne) and Kaylee Barrett (Indiana State) and one of the school’s top run producers in Emma Sark, who will play at Marian University next season.
But as good as her teammates were, it was KVHS junior Madey Flick who had the breakout season, combining a power stroke with a high average to finish with perhaps the most complete season by a middle-of-the-order player this spring.
Flick, the 2019 Rensselaer Republican Softball Player of the Year, led the 13-14 Kougars in several offensive categories, including average (.406), RBIs (33), hits (39), at-bats (96) and plate appearances (102). She was second in home runs (6) and runs (24).
Flick knew she would have to step up her game to keep pace with a KV senior trio that has enjoyed many deserved accolades over the past four years.
“I really wanted to stand out because they’re amazing girls and they deserve all they get,” Flick said. “But I also wanted to step up and contribute.”
She need not worry. She was coming off an outstanding sophomore season, hitting .441 with 17 extra-base hits (including 14 doubles) and 30 RBIs for a team that piled up 325 runs on the season or over 10 runs per game.
A former member of the girls’ basketball team, Flick used the off-season between here sophomore and junior years to concentrate on softball only. She isn’t completely surprised by her 2019 numbers.
“I put in the work,” she said, “so I knew good things were going to come from it. I just have to do it again next year.”
Flick also entered the 2019 season with a different philosophy when it comes to hitting. She wasn’t just looking for bloop hits and seeing-eye singles.
“My mentality totally shifted,” she said. “I was taught don’t swing for the fences because you’re going to mess up. But my mentality was swing for the fences, swing as hard as you can. You can’t hit the ball hard if you don’t swing hard.”
With a new approach at the plate, Flick’s home run numbers jumped from three to six, which ranked just behind Barrett’s seven for the team lead.
Currently a member of the Indiana Shock summer softball team, Flick credits hitting coach Rachel Folden for fine-tuning her swing.
Lock for Flick to be in the middle of many of KV’s scoring rallies next spring. She will be joined by classmates and fellow “Maddies” Madisyn DeKock and Maddie Anaszewicz, who had breakout seasons as varsity players.
“This was really the first varsity season for a lot of them,” Flick said of a lineup that featured five first-year players. “We just have to keep building their confidence. They definitely have the talent in them.”
It was a frustrating finish for the Kougars, whose returning ace pitcher, sophomore Mary Kate Shultz, went down early due to a back injury.
“We were relying on her because we didn’t know what was coming up,” Flick said. “She definitely wanted to be on the field. We’re ready for her to come back.”
Meanwhile, Flick has secured her future in the sport by verbally committing to Trine University in Angola, Indiana. She took a peek at other college programs, but felt Trine was the best fit.
“I just stepped on Trine University and it felt like home,” she said. “I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. I just knew I wanted to play with a good team. Even through they’re Division 3, they’re very successful.”
Before she moves to the college level, Flick, who has been on two state runner-up teams, hopes to help the Kougars collect a sectional title in her final season. KV has been placed back in Class 3A after two years at 4A due to the success factor and is expected to challenge for a sectional title in 2020.
It will feel different for Flick, who is used to playing with the best group of players in school history over the past three seasons.
“I’ve played with them forever,” Flick said of the senior class. “I just feel like we have really good energy; we feed off each other and rely on each other. I’m definitely going to miss them.”
Here is a look at this year’s Rensselaer Republican all-area softball teams:
Madey Flick, jr., Kankakee Valley: A three-year varsity performer for coach Brian Flynn’s squad, Flick had her best season yet to earn Player of the Year honors. She hit .406 with 39 hits and showed surprising pop with six home runs. She added six doubles, drove in 33 runs and scored 24. She also played a solid third base for the Kougars.
Maddie Swart, sr., Kankakee Valley: One of the state’s all-time leading hitters — she finished her career with 209, ranking her fourth overall — Swart was a four-year starter for the Kougars. A slap hitter at the top of the lineup her first three seasons, she moved into a run-producing role this spring, hitting .367 with 33 hits, including eight doubles. The Purdue University-Fort Wayne recruit had two triples and a home run and scored 27 runs. Swart played catcher and outfield before moving to shortstop this spring — her natural position in summer ball — where she played spectacularly.
Odyssey Whitcomb, sr., Tri-County: A four-year all-conference player for the Cavaliers, Whitcomb had another fantastic season at the plate, hitting a team-best .571 (also tops in the area) with seven doubles and 25 RBIs. The Ancilla College recruit also had a homer for an improved Cavs squad.
Jaimie Diedam, sr., South Newton: Another four-year starter for her team, Diedam had one of her most productive seasons in the middle of the Rebels’ order. She hit .500 with 34 hits and eight doubles. She added two triples and a home run and scored 36 runs.
Grace Hollopeter, frosh, North Newton: One of the area’s best lead-off hitters, Hollopeter had a memorable debut season, hitting .500 with 32 hits, including nine doubles, a triple and four home runs. She drove in 18 runs, scored 25 and stole 26. She struck out just once in 64 at-bats for coach Scott Rouch.
Hayley Warne, sr., South Newton: A four-year varsity player — including one season at RCHS — Warne remained consistent throughout her career. She hit .444 this spring, collecting 32 hits with seven doubles and a triple. She drove in 25 runs and scored 19 while playing solid defense.
Madisyn DeKock, jr., Kankakee Valley: DeKock was a surprising offensive force in her first season as a full-time player for the Kougars, hitting .354 with 29 hits, including six home runs and six doubles. She drove in 22 runs and scored 20 while playing a solid first base.
Kenzie Moore, frosh, Rensselaer Central: Moore excelled in her first season at the varsity level, hitting .382 with 26 hits, including five doubles. She scored 21 runs and drove in 11 for the young Bombers, who started four freshmen this spring.
Emma Sark, sr., Kankakee Valley: Sark moved into a full-time catcher role late last season and played that position all of 2019. A Marian University recruit, she hit a robust .408 with 31 hits, including a team-best 10 doubles. She added a home run, plated 18 runs and scored 13.
Kaylee Barrett, sr., Kankakee Valley: The area’s home run leader with seven, Barrett finished as KV’s all-time leader in homers with 27. She reached base 40 percent of the time for KV, scoring 22 runs and plating 19. The Indiana State recruit had 22 hits with four doubles and a triple.
Addy Koebcke, frosh, Rensselaer Central: Koebcke had the best first season ever for a first-year player at RCHS, leading the team in homers with six, including two in one game. She hit for average (.408), power (6 homers, 5 doubles, triple) and served as the team’s best run producer with 25 RBIs. She scored 20 runs and had 31 total hits.
Alexis Conrad, frosh, South Newton: A first-year player, Conrad fit in nicely with team veterans, hitting .382 on the season. She had 29 hits, including seven doubles, and drove in 11 runs. She also scored 19 times.
Alexis Broyles, frosh, Kankakee Valley: Thrown into the starting role from the first game due to injury to ace Mary Kate Shultz, Broyles performed well in her first season. She finished with an area-best eight wins (8-6 overall) in 20 starts with seven complete games. She struck out 65 batters over 99 innings pitched and had an ERA of 5.87 against a lineup of state-ranked teams.
Jaelin Marks, frosh, South Newton: Another talented freshman, Marks had the area’s best ERA at 2.82 in 21 starts. She finished 8-5 with 73 strikeouts over 131 1/3 innings, which also led the area.
Mayah Alberts, soph, Tri-County: A two-year starter, Alberts had a break-out season this spring, hitting .460 with 23 hits, including a pair of home runs. She had five doubles, three triples and drove in 21 runs.
Madison Zeldenrust, frosh, Covenant Christian: Though she had a much smaller sample size than many area players, Zeldenrust still managed to hit .439 as a first-year player, collecting 19 hits, including a home run. She also had six doubles.
Elizabeth Garing, sr., South Newton: Garing hit .373 on the season, with nine of her 19 hits going for two-baggers. She scored 19 runs and added a home run in her final season.
Emily Pilarski, soph, West Central: An all-conference pick, Pilarski led the Trojans with a .422 average. She had 35 hits, including five doubles, and drove n a team-best 20 runs. She also scored 23 runs, finishing second to teammate Jillian Hauptli (33).
Macie Northcutt, soph, Rensselaer Central: A two-year varsity player, Northcutt took over the catcher duties this spring. She hit .386 in her first season as a starter, collecting 27 hits with six doubles. She drove in 18 runs.
Paige Lattimore, frosh, Rensselaer Central: The team’s top pitcher and one of its best hitters at the top of the lineup, Lattimore hit a team-best .413 for the Bombers. She had 31 hits to tie teammate Koebcke for most on the team, finishing with seven doubles and 21 runs scored.
Chloe Auxier, sr., Tri-County: The Triton College recruit hit .403 in her fourth season as a varsity starter. She had 27 hits with five doubles and a triple and drove in 18 in another all-conference finish.
Sarah Lanie, frosh, South Newton: One of many talented freshmen on this year’s all-area teams, Lanie hit .421 in her first season, spraying the field with 32 hits, including six doubles. She drove in 18 runs.
Shanelle Embery, sr., South Newton: The team’s catcher for the past four seasons, Embery had another productive spring at the plate, hitting .377 with 23 hits, including four doubles. She drove in 13 runs and scored 17.
Emma Nielsen, soph, West Central: A two-year varsity starter, Nielsen had a break-out season at the plate, hitting .361 with 30 hits, including five doubles. She drove in 20 runs and scored 23, which led the Trojans.
Lindsey Zeldenrust, sr., Covenant Christian: A four-year starter for the Knights, Zeldenrust shared time between the infield and the circle this spring. She hit .385 with five of her 15 hits going for extra-bases. She will play softball at Olivet Nazarene next spring.
Bailee LaCosse, jr., Tri-County: The team’s top pitcher (7-11, 105 2.3 innings), LaCosse was also a productive hitter for the Cavaliers. She hit .358 with 19 hits, including five doubles. She drove in 10 runs.
Bailey Craig, sr., North Newton: This former Bomber played two seasons at North Newton, enjoying her best spring in 2019. She hit .333 with 18 hits and 10 runs scored. She had five doubles and 15 RBIs and signed a letter of intent to play softball with Calumet College of St. Joseph’s this spring.
AREA’S BEST OF
Batting Average: Odyssey Whitcomb, Tri-County (.571)
Hitter: Madey Flick, Kankakee Valley (39 hits)
Run Producer: Madey Flick, Kankakee Valley (33 RBIs)
Home Run Hitter: Kaylee Barrett, Kankakee Valley (7)
Thief: Grace Hollopeter, North Newton (26 steals)
Gap Hitter: Emma Sark, Kankakee Valley (10 doubles)
Getting On Base: Jaimie Diedam, South Newton (36 runs)
Strikeout Artist: Kailyn Kroll, North Newton (100)