Without several top seniors from a competitive team of a year ago, including graduated star outfielder Anna Lauko, Whitefish Bay Now All-Suburban softball shortstop Summer Koehn knew she and the other seniors would have to work to make the Blue Dukes competitive this season.
Bay didn't quite have the pitching to compete at the higher levels in state softball circles, but behind Koehn, who also took her turns as closer and rally stopper in the circle for Bay, much was still accomplished in 2016 for the 11-14 Blue Dukes.
'I learned a lot from Anna (Lauko) in terms of leadership,' Koehn said. 'She and I worked together a lot last season. This year I tried to work with the younger girls trying to get them to improve, to better their games. And though I knew our pitching wasn't quite dominant, I knew I could always bring in a little more power when we needed it.
'I was happy that we got more competitive as the season went along.'
Veteran Bay coach Jess Middendorf was happy to have senior first-team All-North Shore Conference selection Koehn around.
'She led our team in almost all offensive categories and was a team captain for us,' Middendorf said. 'One of the most head's up players I have coached in the last five years and a great athlete at shortstop. Her quickness and range at shortstop really helped us out on defense. Not only was she a first team all-conference infielder in the league, she was also our back-up catcher and our top pitcher statistically on the team this year. (She's an) all-around great athlete deserving of recognition within the area.'
Koehn said she improved in almost all her offensive numbers this year, hitting .418 (33-79) with 13 doubles, three triples and four home runs, in addition to 24 RBIs, 28 runs scored, 12 walks, a .489 on-base percentage and an imposing .810 slugging percentage. She stole eight bases without getting caught.
She admitted to being a technique hitter, using a style that defenses try to adjust to but don't often succeed against.
'About 99 percent of the time, the ball's going down the third base line (when I'm hitting),' Koehn said. 'I get a lot of power and control that way. It's pretty funny, though, whenever I come to the plate, I hear opposing coaches yell, 'Move left.'
'I've tried for years (to use the entire field), but no matter what I do or how fast the pitcher is, the ball always goes to the left.'
She was also solid defensively with 72 assists and 33 putouts with two double-plays and 11 errors while manning the busiest position on the infield (.905 fielding percentage). She ranges well and has a strong arm.
Koehn said she can hardly remember a time when she wasn't playing softball.
'I think I started when I was seven or eight in rec softball,' she said. 'Then I got into the Junior Blue Dukes. The interesting thing was, was that I started out as a catcher. I think I played all of the positions at one point, though I admit I wasn't much of an an outfielder.
'In the end, I wound up playing a lot of shortstop and pitcher.'
In terms of pitching, the numbers weren't overpowering, but she had her moments. She posted a 1-1 record in 37-plus innings with four saves, 44 strikeouts and 20 walks. She had a 4.46 ERA in a very offensive-minded North Shore Conference.
In short, she admitted she wasn't pretty as a pitcher, but she got the job done. She'll remember one of her last moments, the NSC regular-season closer, where she pitched all eight innings of a 9-8 upset of Grafton that knocked the Black Hawks out of a tie for second in the league standings. She finished with nine strikeouts and five walks.
'That game was so much fun, it was really cool to do that,' she said. 'I could use the off-speed pitch to set things up and then sneak in a power pitch, and they couldn't catch up.'
The things she really prided herself most on this season were the intangible things.
'The best part of my defense this year was improving my communication skills,' she said. 'I tried to help both the outfielders and the infielders get into the right positions (for a given batter). Also keep them in a good, positive frame of mind.'
Koehn doesn't have a club team this summer but is working hard at her game as she plans to go to the University of Minnesota and try to walk onto the team.
The professed math lover said she's going to try and have fun at school, though she hasn't got a declared major yet.
She'll miss this Blue Dukes team, though.
'Though we didn't win as many games as we would have liked, it was still a fun year,' she said.