Grafton outfielder, Port catcher among the best in talent-laden conference
In a softball league filled with outstanding players, earning a top spot in postseason honors is a tough task.
Two local juniors â€” Graftonâ€™s Lauren Lennon and Port Washingtonâ€™s Mikayla Hilton â€” both passed the test with flying colors this season by receiving All-North Shore Conference first-team accolades.
Lennon was chosen as one of the leagueâ€™s top three outfielders in the coaches voting, and Hilton was named the top catcher.
Lennon earned first-team recognition for the second straight year for her strong all-around play. She had the leagueâ€™s eighth-best batting average at .463 and led the NSC with 21 steals.
She had a .732 slugging average, scored 18 runs and drove in 10 runs.
â€śOur plan was to get Lauren on base and have her score, and she did that most of the time,â€ť said Grafton coach Ken Hunt, whose team tied for third place in the conference with an 8-6 record.
â€śShe actually struggled early in the season, for the first four or five games, but then came on strong the rest of the way.â€ť
Hilton was one of the conferenceâ€™s top hitters and led Port in virtually every offensive category. She hit .468, sixth-best in league play, and had a .872 slugging average with four homers, five doubles and 19 RBI.
Hilton, who received honorable mention in all-league voting last year, developed into one of the Piratesâ€™ most reliable players.
â€śThe last two years, Mikayla has gotten better and better,â€ť said Port coach Steve Schmit, whose squad was fifth with a 6-8 league mark.
â€śHopefully, she will be even better next season and be another key player for us again.â€ť
Three Grafton players were named to the all-conference second team: pitcher Amanda Hunt and infielders Sheena Croatt and Amber Tanski.
Hunt, a sophomore, posted a 4-5 record with a 3.33 earned-run average. She struck out 63 batters in 65 innings and had nine complete games.
Hunt, who received honorable mention last season, was also Graftonâ€™s leading hitter. She batted .469, fourth-best in the conference, and had a .612 slugging average, drove in 14 runs and stole nine bases.
â€śAmanda had a very good season, and sheâ€™s still young,â€ť coach Hunt said of his daughter.
Croatt and Tanski, both seniors, gave Grafton two of the conferenceâ€™s steadiest infielders.
Croatt batted .302, had 13 RBI and tied for second in the league with 13 steals. As a first baseman, her 109 putouts were the second-most in the conference.
â€śShe was really solid around the bag,â€ť coach Hunt said.
Tanski, an All-NSC first-team pick last year, had another excellent season at shortstop. She hit .400 and shared second in the conference with 13 steals.
â€śAmber did well despite missing most of the second half of the season with an injury,â€ť her coach said.
Receiving honorable mention were four Grafton players, pitcher Emmy Kabitzke, catcher Sarah Fischer, infielder Taylor Thiede and utility player Kate Lennon; and three Port players, pitcher Ali Bichler, infielder Stephanie Volesky and utility player Jill VandeBoom.
Kabitzke, a sophomore, had a 4-1 record in limited duty. In 31 innings, she struck out 20 and had a 2.26 ERA. She also batted .266 with nine RBI.
Fischer, a junior, hit .353 with 10 RBI and nine steals. A workhorse behind the plate, she caught every inning this season, her coach said.
Thiede, a junior second baseman, batted .333 and scored 14 runs. A reliable defensive player, she had 22 assists.
Lennon, a junior, hit .276 and had eight steals while playing a variety of infield and outfield positions.
Bichler, a senior, was an all-league second-team selection last year but was slowed this season by a back injury. She had a 6-4 record and 2.14 ERA in 59 innings, striking out 27.
Bichler also excelled at the plate and batted .474, third best in the conference.
Volesky, a junior, was one of the areaâ€™s best defensive first baseman. She had 71 putouts and no errors in conference game. She hit .178, scored 10 runs and had five RBI.
VandeBoom, a senior, batted .242 with eight runs and five steals as an outfielder, catcher and pitcher. She scored eight runs.
Champion Germantown (14-0) and runner-up Homestead (12-2) dominated the all-conference voting.
Germantown had four first-team picks, including pitcher Lauren Renard, who shared Player of the Year honors with Homestead pitcher Rachel Behnken.
Behnken was one of Homesteadâ€™s three first-team selections.
Image Information: GRAFTON OUTFIELDER Lauren Lennon (left) and Port Washington catcher Mikayla Hilton (right) received All-North Shore Conference first-team honors in a recent vote of coaches. Photos by Sam Arendt