Prep softball: Weber puts up gaudy numbers from leadoff spot, wins POY
By EDDIE CARIFIO
MAPLE PARK – Morgan Weber put up numbers reminiscent of a top-level No. 3 hitter – nine homers, 32 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .754.
But Weber’s gaudy numbers came while batting leadoff – a spot she’s held for the past three years.
The senior shortstop helped the Kaneland softball team reach a sectional final for the third straight year and was named the 2017 Daily Chronicle Softball Player of the Year.
“Not too many teams would put a hitter like her at the leadoff position,” Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler said. “Putting a hitter of her caliber up there immediately puts pitchers on their heels. Immediately she puts pressure on the pitcher, and we follow up with some small-ball capable kids and some speed. But her leadoff for us was the biggest contributing factor for us.”
Weber was a four-year starter at short for the Knights, who lost to Marengo in the Class 3A Sterling Sectional championship game. It was the second year in a row in a sectional final for Kaneland, which lost to Montini last year. In 2015, the Knights took third in the state.
All three years, Weber was not only at short but at the top of the Knights’ lineup.
“It’s difficult at times because you’re the first one to get all the pitches,” Weber said. “It could be good; it could be bad. It’s definitely been eye-opening for me because in travel I don’t bat leadoff. Past three years here I have. It shows my leadership as a player to open up the game, and shows my team what I can do as a leadoff hitter.”
Weber scored 40 times this year, belted five doubles and legged out three triples. She finished with an OPS of 1.272.
“The last few years there were no questions at all. She knew what her job was,” Kuefler said. “For a leadoff hitter to hit in the .400s, you don’t see that. And to still be able to put RBIs across the plate as a leadoff hitter, that’s big.”
Weber said she was surprised at both the success of the team and her personal results on the year.
“It went better than what I thought it would, honestly, teamwise,” Weber said. “For me personally, it went a lot better than I expected. I always knew I was a good player, but this year showed me the full potential of who I am.”
She said the key was staying as relaxed as possible on the field.
“Being a senior, there’s not much pressure – there’s still some being a senior leader – but I really went out there having a lot of fun,” Weber said. “I knew it was my last ride as a Kaneland Knight, and had a lot of fun and just stayed relaxed.”
Now she packs up from her home of four years, heading to Lewis University to continue her softball career.
Kuefler said the hole at both short and leadoff will be felt.
“She’s always been a great leader,” Kuefler said. “She’s never been a very boisterous leader, but she’s led with her actions. I think for me as a coach, it’s not going to hit me that she’s gone. She’s been a four-year starter here. It’s not going to hit me until we do that first lineup next year. You look out there and that mainstay in our middle infield is gone.”
Daily Chronicle 2017 Softball Player of the Year
POY – Morgan Weber, Kaneland
All-Area First Team
Haley Petragallo, jr., C/2B, Indian Creek – Petragallo hit .467 overall and .500 in Little 10 play, striking out only five times and getting on base at a .524 clip. She was a unanimous all-conference selection and helped the Timberwolves reach the semifinals of the Class 1A Somonauk Sectional.
Hannah Theobald, jr., 1B, Kaneland – Theobald hit .365 and blasted three homers for the Knights. She drove in 28 runs and scored 26 times.
Lexi Abruzzo, jr., 2B, Kaneland – Abruzzo finished with a .406 batting average, scoring 29 runs and driving in 22.
Lexi Howie, sr., SS, Genoa-Kingston – Howie hit .415 this year, scoring 44 times. She also had one of the top fielding percentages (.910) for an area shortstop.
Madison Wagner, jr., 3B, Genoa-Kingston – Wagner hits .456 this year driving in 38 runs and scoring 30 times. She had 15 doubles for the year.
Ashley Peterson, soph., OF, Genoa-Kingston – Peterson hit .481, and had 13 doubles and three triples. She drove in 26 runs and scored 34 times.
Payton Montgomery, sr., OF, DeKalb – The slap hitter hit a team-best .383. The speedster scored 23 times for DeKalb.
Amanda Swedberg, soph., OF, Sycamore – Swedberg hit .323 this year, .400 in conference play. She also was a force in center field, committing only two errors and finishing with three assists.
Donatella Somessi, fresh., OF, Kaneland – Somessi, or "Donnie Softball" to her coaches and teammates, hit .351 with four home runs for the Knights. She showcased a ton of power in her debut season with a .614 slugging percentage, five triples and eight doubles. She scored 34 times and drove in 20 runs mostly batting in the No. 2 hole.
Aly Jesionowski, sr., P, Kaneland – Jesionowski hit .342 for the Knights this year and was the team's top pitcher with a 14-7 record and a 2.84 ERA. She struck out 130 and walked 57 in 128 1/3 innings.
Emilee Erickson, fresh., P, Kaneland – Erickson went 9-3 with a 3.17 ERA, striking out 100 and walking 42 in 101 2/3 innings. She only had 13 at-bats and two hits, but one of those was a key run-scoring single in a Class 3A Sterling Sectional semifinal win against Belvidere.
Faith Reynolds, soph., P/1B, Sycamore – Reynolds led the team in most categories, both offensive and pitching. She hit .372 this year, including .410 with runners in scoring position. She had 22 RBIs, two home runs, and was 6-5 in the circle with a 3.74 ERA. She also committed only two errors between her time at pitcher and first.