Gaftonâs Tanski, Lennon join All-North Shore 1st team along with Portâs Wagner
Lauren LennonSenior leadership usually grabs most of the spotlight in postseason softball honors.
But underclassmen stole a good portion of the show in this yearâs All-North Shore Conference voting by coaches, who awarded six of the 11 positions on the first team to non-seniors.
The top squad includes three local players who will be back again next season â Graftonâs Amber Tanski and Laura Lennon and Port Washingtonâs Samantha Wagner.
Tanski, a junior third baseman, joins the list of the conferenceâs best infielders.
Lennon and Wagner, both sophomores, make up two-thirds of the first-team outfield.
Named to the All-NSC second team were two local pitchers â Grafton senior Aly Bartel and Port Washington junior Ali Bichler â and Grafton catcher Casey Assmann, a senior.
Tanski combined speed and bat skills with steady defense to give Grafton one of the leagueâs best all-around players.
She batted .333 in conference games, scored 13 runs and stole eight bases.
âAmber is a three-year varsity player who did a really nice job for us in the No. 2 spot,â said Grafton coach Stu Hannam, whose team finished third in the league with an 11-3 record.
âShe has a very quick bat and had an on-base percentage close to .500. She was very steady, very reliable.â
Tanski was an all-league second-team selection last year.
Lennon, a speedy center fielder, gave the Black Hawks one of the North Shoreâs top scoring threats. Besides hitting .385, she led the league with 23 steals, more than twice as many as anyone else and only one shy of the conference single-season record.
Lennon showed her defensive prowess by tracking down fly balls in the gap and committing only one error.
âLauren had a tremendous season, especially for a sophomore,â Hannam said. âShe has nice power and is super fast, which put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.â
Playing a similar role for Port was Wagner, a left fielder who led her team in virtually every major offensive category.
She hit .426 in NSC games, led the league in runs batted in (28) and runs scored (23), was second in total bases (39) and stole 10 bases. It all happened in her first varsity season after spending last year at the junior-varsity level.
âSam had a great year for us,â Port coach Steve Schmidt said. âShe has a lot of talent, and it all came down to her believing in herself.â
Wagner was solid defensively, committing only two errors in 64 chances.
Bartel and Bichler both compiled impressive pitching numbers but were overshadowed by two elite hurlers âfirst-team selections Hannah Klebesadel of champion Germantown and Rachel Behnken of runner-up Homestead.
Klebesadel was named Player of the Year by the coaches.
The left-handed Bartel went 9-3 in league games with an earned-run average of 1.40. She pitched seven complete games and struck out 65 and walked just 14 in 76-2/3 innings.
âAly was very deserving of her honor as a senior,â Hannam said. âShe wasnât overpowering but had excellent control and did a great job of keeping the ball down.â
When she wasnât contributing at the plate as one of Portâs top hitters, Bichler kept the team in contention with her right arm. She had an 8-5 record and 2.79 ERA in conference games, striking out 55 and walking only seven in 75-1/3 innings.
Bichler had the leagueâs third-highest batting average (.457) and drove in 17 runs for the 8-6 Pirates.
âAli had great control and mixed her pitches really well,â Schmidt said. âShe was able to keep hitters off balance a lot.â
Assmann, who earned All-NSC first-team honors as an infielder last season, didnât flinch when moved to catcher this spring. Instead, she simply excelled, Hannam said.
As Graftonâs cleanup hitter, Assmann batted .444 in the conference, had 16 RBI and scored 14 runs. She also handled pitches deftly and threw out all but one would-be base stealer.
âCasey had a really nice season,â Hannam said. âIf we had kept her at shortstop, she would have been first-team all-conference again, but we needed her at catcher for the team to be successful.
âAmy Keel (of Homestead) was the best catcher in the conference, but Casey was right behind her.â
Seven local players received honorable mention in the voting. They were Graftonâs Sarah Fischer (infielder) and Amanda Hunt (utility/designated hitter) and Portâs Mikayla Hilton (catcher), Kelsey Braam (infielder), Kelsey Brockman (infielder), Celia Van Pietersom (outfielder) and
Jessica Flack (utility/designated hitter).
Fischer, a sophomore, batted .262 and had an on-base percentage over .500 as the Hawksâ leadoff hitter. She was solid defensively and had a strong throwing arm, Hannam said.
Hunt, a freshman, contributed as an infielder and pitcher. She hit .310 and was 2-0 as a pitcher, with a 1.34 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 15-2/3 innings.
Hilton, a sophomore, was one of the Piratesâ best power hitters. She batted .373 and drove in 17 runs.
The left side of Portâs infield was led by Brockman, a freshman shortstop, and Braam, a junior third baseman.
Brockman hit .356, scored 16 runs and had eight steals. Braam batted .320 and continued to improve after moving from shortstop to third this year, Schmidt said.
Portâs most patient hitter and one of its best base runners, Van Pietersom batted .408. The junior walked 10 times, had 10 steals and was one of the Piratesâ top defensive outfielders, Schmidt said.
Flack, a senior, showed her versatility by playing in the outfield, infield and catcher. She hit .326 and scored 14 runs.
âJessica worked really hard and came on her senior year after playing three years on the JV team,â Schmidt said.
âIt was nice to see her have such a good final season.â