Vertz, Thompson split top softball player honor

Pulaski, Bonduel the top teams as well
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

Area high school softball teams enjoyed plenty of success during the spring season, with a few teams and several individuals standing out.

It was Pulaski junior Morgan Vertz and Bonduel junior Hailee Thompson who were the top performers throughout the season, and were named the NEW Media Inc. Players of the Year for their efforts.

Both players were named Co-Players of the Year in their respective conferences and landed on all-state second teams.

“My success definitely doesn’t just come overnight, the hours I put in during the offseason is what made me so successful this year,” said Vertz. “The training I do at Velocity Training is truly where I saw my skills advance.”

Thompson noted several things for her success, including her teammates, the Fear Softball Program and her strength coach.

“Lastly, I feel as though my faith has helped me become the player I am along with helping me have a great high school career so far,” said Thompson. “I put all faith and trust in God to help guide me throughout my journey as a softball player.”

Vertz was the Co-Player of the Year in the Fox River Classic Conference after a big season at the plate and in the circle.

In conference play alone, she pitched 100⅓ innings, with 153 punchouts and only 19 walks. She allowed just 24 runs across the 18 games she pitched and helped her team win 14 games.

“Repetition. Pitching is such a detailed skill to have. One inch or second could make the difference between a ball or strike or determine where the ball is going,” said Vertz on her pitching success. “So this offseason, I worked on all the small things to go into the season at my best.”

As if her stats in the circle weren’t enough, Vertz hit for a .474 average in FRCC play.

Eleven of the junior’s 27 hits went for extra bases, including four long balls. She drove in 27 runs and scored 14 times. Vertz walked 10 times and was a strikeout victim just four times.

“Growing up, the love for the game was found on the mound, but coming into this year, I had a goal for myself that I wanted to be a threat at the plate,” said Vertz. “I put in many hours this offseason and after practices to get more swings in. After putting in the work, I saw it all pay off during the season.”

Vertz top individual moment from the season came when she pitched 12 innings and struck out 21 batters against De Pere.

“As a team my favorite moment was our grit to see the game into the very last out, so my favorite moment would be all our walk-off hits and celebrating with the team,” said Vertz.

Thompson starred at the plate for Bonduel, while playing providing great defense from her shortstop position.

She finished the season with a .533 batting average, posting 40 hits across 24 games.

Thompson popped 11 home runs to go along with nine doubles. She drove in 40 runs and scored 43 times.

Thompson walked 11 times and struck out just twice. She stole 15 bases.

“I knew my team would need a lot of people to step up this year if we wanted a long postseason run, or even just a good regular season in general,” said Thompson. “I decided to step into that role and try my hardest to be the teammate my team needed both on and off the field.”

Some of Thompson’s best games came late in the regular season when the team was chasing a Central Wisconsin Conference-East Division title, and then carried over into the postseason.

Five of her home runs came in the final three regular season games and the team’s first postseason contest. She drove in 13 runs between those four games and the second postseason contest.

“Me personally, I love pressure, I feel as though I perform better under pressure and I just continue to strive to be that person my teammates count on to deliver on the field,” said Thompson. “I prefer to be down in the count during my at-bats, it helps me to focus in and just put the ball in play to advance my teammates on the bases.”

The junior’s top individual moment from this season was breaking the school’s home run record, an accolade she’s been after since she was a freshman.

“My favorite team memories would have to be all the bus rides with loud music, our victory over Amherst at home, and just the countless hours I got to spend with this amazing team,” said Thompson.

Honorable mentions

Vertz and Thompson weren’t the only area players to earn Player of the Year honors in conference play.

Tigerton’s Abby Swartz and Bowler/Gresham’s Emma May split the top honor in the CWC-North after great seasons at the plate. Emma Kristof starred for the Gillett/Suring co-op and was the top player in the Marinette & Oconto Conference.

Wittenberg-Birnamwood’s Rory Salvesen and Oconto Falls’ Amelia Danielczak both produced big freshman seasons as hitters to earn all-conference first team nods. Salvesen also made the all-state second team.

Pulaski’s Molly Molthen also excelled as a freshman, making the all-conference first team and all-state honorable mention team.

Team of the Year

Thompson and Vertz not only had great individual seasons, but were part of some strong teams. Bonduel and Pulaski were tabbed the area’s top teams after memorable springs.

Bonduel earned a share of the CWC-East title after matching Amherst with an 11-3 record. The Bears won a regional title before being eliminated by eventual state champion Iola-Scandinavia. Bonduel went 18-6 overall.

Pulaski came in second in the tough FRCC, going 15-3 and finishing just one game behind Green Bay Preble. The Red Raiders won a regional title on a walk-off wild pitch. Pulaski went 17-6 on the season.