The Merrill girls softball team placed four girls on the recently-elected All-Valley squad, senior second-baseman Reegan Byer to the First Team, junior pitcher Makayla Heckendorf to the Second Team and Honorable Mention for senior catcher Leesha Kleinschmidt and center-fielder Mariah Turenne.
Byer hit .395 with a .465 on-base %, with six doubles.
Heckendorf had the third-best ERA in the league at 3.14, and she struck out 48 and walked 20. She gave up 35 earned runs of 49 total. She batted .229 with a .325 OBP.
“Reegan has been a starter on varsity each of my three years with the program,” MHS coach Matt Ellenbecker said. “She has always been in one of the top three spots in our lineup during that time and has shown versatility across the infield. Reegan has been receiving All-Conference recognition since her sophomore year, so she is a proven productive player, but she has brought a lot of value to this team as a leader. She is one of our most vocal players and has consistently provided our teams a voice. Her commitment to the team and desire to compete and improve will be missed.
“Makayla built on a really good sophomore year when she received Honorable Mention and coaches noticed it. She improved both in the circle and in the batter’s box to become a very important player and one of the best in the conference. I’m really excited about the strides that Makayla took as a team leader this year. She is super competitive and that showed more on the field and in our dugout this year. On a team that can get quiet at times during games, she became vocal and supportive of all her teammates. Makayla was the only player to get multiple votes for each of our team awards: MVP, Most Improved, Teammate, and Gold Glove. I really look forward to her continuing to improve as a player and as a leader going into next season.
Kleinschmidt had the ninth-best WVC BA of .429 and she had a .448 OBP with three doubles and a home run. Turenne hit .290 with a .313 OBP with one double.
“Leesha is another three-year starter for us and this is her second year receiving All-Conference recognition,” Ellenbecker said. “She became a very good catcher for us over the years and that is reflected in her winning our Gold Glove award. She was an awesome hitter for us with some pretty good pop at the plate, as well, and without a doubt our best and most instinctive base runner. She is just a ball player. Leesha really loved playing ball and you could clearly see that on game day.
“Mariah really started playing outfield full-time last year. She is a very good athlete so we moved her out there to try to take advantage of her speed and talents. She was very tentative at first and at times still can be, but she made tremendous strides out in center field in the last year, and that is the primary reason she won our Most Improved award. Conference coaches obviously noticed as well, as she received multiple votes as a Second Team player. She has shown that when she is confident she can be a solid hitter, as well, so I am happy to see what she’ll do as she continues to play this summer and work on getting ready for her senior season.”
Merrill tied for fifth after a 4-8 campaign.