Kee softball team makes history during 34-10, State Runner-Up campaign

by Val Meyer

As the monumental 2014 season comes to an end for the Kee softball team, the Hawks know that they have a lot to be proud of. The Kee diamond dwellers put in a lot of time throughout this past off-season to sharpen their skills, and that hard work paid off with history-making results, as the Lady Hawks posted first-ever program milestones of an Upper Iowa Conference championship, a Class 1A Regional championship, and a Class 1A State Tournament Runner-Up finish, all while posting a school record for victories in a season with a 34-10 record.
“Winning the quarterfinal and semifinal games (at the State Tournament) were huge accomplishments for this team,” Kee softball coach Liz Hill said. “These girls deserved to be at State.”
After knocking off second-rated Lynnville-Sully and then fourth-rated AGWSR in those quarterfinal and semifinal games, respectively, at the State Tournament, Kee’s postseason glory was finally dealt its first blow in the Class 1A championship game against Akron-Westfield, the defending Class 1A State Champions and winners of four of the past five Class 1A State Tournament titles. The Hawks actually held a 1-0 lead over the undefeated Westerners for the first three innings, but the softball dynasty awakened and won its 54th consecutive game with a 12-1 defeat of the softball Hawks.
Though the Hawks had been defeated by Akron-Westfield in the championship game, Kee had more support than it could have ever wished for. In addition to the support throughout the team’s postseason success, the bus that carried the team through its most glorious week was also escorted through Waukon by the Waukon Police Department on its way home, and once the team hit Churchtown, there were fire trucks from Lansing waiting to take the girls into Lansing, and then make their way to New Albin in celebration of the team’s historic feat.
From Fort Dodge, the girls had a majority of their fans that attended the State Tournament games following the bus home. “The ride home was emotional for everyone,” Coach Hill said. “The team was not sad, but overjoyed that the community cared so much for the softball program.”
Throughout this historic, 34-10 season, Kee was faced against many large schools and was able to become a better ball club from facing schools with better competition, according to Coach Hill. “We played close with the big schools,” she stated. “Next year and in the future we will have to take the close games and pull out a win.”
The Kee softball and baseball fields in New Albin were under construction for the first half of the season, and the Kee softball team was allowed to play on the Waukon High School softball field. Finding a time and place to practice was a struggle for the softball team, but the situations worked out in the end. “We appreciate Waukon letting us use their field while ours was under construction,” Coach Hill said.
This year’s softball team has to say good-bye to three seniors that have been a part of the softball program throughout their four years of high school. Each of these has made significant contributions to a Kee softball program that was winless just two short seasons ago but has since been transformed into one of the best programs in the state of Iowa.
Coach Hill says that shortstop Kaylee Darling will be missed for her base running and her ability to make great plays, catcher Ellie Heiderscheit will be missed for her experienced catching and knowledge behind the plate, and center fielder Jordan Colsch will be missed for her great arm and her ability to make good plays. “These three girls will all be greatly missed,” Coach Hill stated. “We will miss their leadership next year, and we now have some big shoes to fill for next season.”
That veteran leadership was supplemented nicely by the skills and talent of a strong nucleus of underclassmen who look to continue what was started this year. Those youthful contributions resulted in most of this year’s statistical leadership, as eighth grader Kendra Cooper posted team highs of 67 hits, seven home runs, 47 runs batted in (RBI) and a .462 batting average. She was closely followed in second place by sophomore Ellie Cooper’s 48 runs scored, freshman Courtney Cooper’s six home runs, and junior Valerie Meyer’s .458 batting average and 40 RBI that were helped along by her team-leading total of 19 doubles on the season. Darling and Heiderscheit provided their own statistical leadership with 52 runs scored and a .983 field percentage, respectively, with Ellie Cooper also striking out just four times this season in 135 at-bats.
The sister Cooper tandem of Kendra and Courtney also shouldered all of Kee’s pitching duties this season in a one-two tandem difficult to beat in doubleheader action this summer. Kendra threw a team-high 160-2/3 innings with 172 strike-outs and an earned run average (ERA) of just 1.52 on her way to a 22-5 season record. Courtney posted 144 strike-outs in 97-2/3 innings on the mound enroute to a 2.29 ERA and a 12-5 mark in the circle.
For their efforts this season, both Cooper sisters earned First Team All-State and All-Northeast District honors for Class 1A from the Iowa Girls Coaches Association (IGCA). They were joined by Meyer in their All-District accolades, with Meyer also receiving Third Team All-State honors. Coach Hill was also honored as Coach of the Year for the Class 1A Northeast District by the IGCA.
In addition to those broader awards, there were numerous Lady Hawks recognized by their Upper Iowa Conference (UIC) colleagues with All-Conference honors this season. The Hawks won their first-ever UIC season championship with a record of 20-2 against league opponents this season.
Receiving First Team All-Conference honors was pitcher Kendra Cooper, shortstop Darling for infield play and Meyer for her work in the outfield. Second Team All-Conference recognition was bestowed upon pitcher Courtney Cooper, catcher Heiderscheit, and second baseman Ellie Cooper for infield. Junior first baseman Molly Walleser was awarded All-Conference honorable mention.
For off-season work, Coach Hill says the Hawks will continue to hit throughout the winter, as well as work on fielding and lift weights. “Dreams don’t work unless you do” was the motto for this past season for the Hawks, and Coach Hill says it will take hard work to get where the girls want to be next year.
Coach Hill, Assistant Coach Tiffanie Peters and the rest of the softball team would like to extend their appreciation for support between donations, welcome home escorts, the building of the new field, having Waukon letting them use their field and also having New Albin Savings Bank host a meal in honor of Kee softball. Hill also said that she would like to thank Waukon, Lansing and the New Albin communities for going above and beyond to make the 2014 season an unforgettable one. “The last game was a tough loss, but the community was able to bring us back up and helped us remember what we did was historical,” she summarized.