The Iowa Girls Coaches Association holds a senior all-star series every year.
Don't be surprised if many members of the 2019 All-Courier team are part of those 2020 All-Star games next summer.
Half of the 12-player team consists of juniors, setting up next season to be a very special season with a multitude of talent looking to go out in style next summer. All told, 10 of the 12 players were upperclassmen with nine of the players earning all-state honors by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association for the second straight year.
Of the 12 players that are part of the 2019 All-Courier team, seven were selected to last year's squad. Ottumwa and Albia, the two area teams to qualify for the state softball tournament, combined for eight All-Courier selections with the Bulldogs leading the way with five selections including a final All-Courier coach of the year honor for Frank Huston, who retired this season after leading the Bulldogs to a 28th state tournament appearance.
For the second straight year, an Albia softball player has been selected as the All-Courier player of the year. Alex Beard, the junior catcher of the Lady Dees, follows in the footsteps of Hannah Isley after producing one of the top seasons for area players at the plate with a .538 batting average, a .981 slugging percentage, 43 RBI and nine home runs that matches the area's top total with fellow All-Courier selections Kaylee Bix and Morgan Greiner of Ottumwa.
Huston, meanwhile, led the Bulldogs to a 33-9 record in his 53rd and final season as a head softball coach, matching former ADM and Cedar Rapids Jefferson coach Larry Neimeyer for state tournament appearances with 28. Huston finished with a career record of 1,853-508 (.785) at Gladbrook, Pekin and Ottumwa with the Bulldogs going 1,698-433 (.797) in 46 seasons under Huston.
It was a successful overall season for area softball with seven winning teams advancing to the regional semifinals. Besides Ottumwa and Albia, who qualified for the state tournament, Pekin and Fairfield advanced to the regional finals with the Panthers falling a run short of the 2A state tournament (falling 4-3 to Wapello) while the Trojans lost to North Scott, 3-0, after making it to the 4A regional finals for the second straight year.
This year's All-Courier softball team:
Jena Lawrence, Albia, Jr.
Lawrence is back on the All-Courier pitching staff, improving from a second-team to a first-team all-state selection by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association becoming part of a first-team all-state battery with Beard. She finished 18-5, the most wins recorded by any area pitcher, with a 2.49 ERA and 132 strikeouts against 64 walks. Lawrence also helped herself at the plate, batting .485 with 13 doubles and 41 runs driven in.
Allison Rebling, Fairfield, Jr.
The Trojan ace came on as the season concluded, earning all-district and all-conference honors while leading Fairfield back within a win of the state tournament. Rebling went 13-10, leading the Trojans making 24 starts and 28 overall appearances while pitching 149 1/3 innings. Rebling struck out 220 batters, allowing opponents to hit .131 and issuing a 2.53 ERA.
Kacy Nickerson, Ottumwa, Jr.
Nickerson, like Lawrence, moved from second-team to first-team all-state honors after becoming the first pitcher since Mandi Moore in 2013 to lead the Bulldogs to the state tournament. Nickerson went 17-5 this season with a 2.35 ERA, moving over 600 career strikeouts with 184 this season against just 34 walks. Like Lawrence, Nickerson also was one of the area's top hitting pitchers collecting a program-record 21 doubles while batting .416 and driving in 27 runs.
Alex Beard, Albia, Jr.
Beard was once again a force both at the plate and behind it for the Lady Dees. The first-team all-state selection threw out 10 baserunners and made just one error for the second straight year in 240 chances this season. Offensively, besides hitting .538 with a .981 slugging percentage and nine home runs, Beard led Albia with a .588 on-base percentage 43 RBIs, while leading the team with 56 hits.
Morgan Greiner, Ottumwa, Sr.
Greiner created plenty of offense for the Bulldogs out of the No. 2 hole for the second straight year, earning second-team all-state honors for her bat as well as the glove. The future Indian Hills Warrior made just five errors at third base this season, and hit .404 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs for the Bulldogs before suffering a season-ending torn ACL, missing Ottumwa's final seven games.
Kennedy Schroeder, Albia, Sr.
Schroeder capped her Albia career starting all 33 games for the Lady Dees at shortstop, recording the second-most defensive assists with 44, just two behind Lawrence. At the plate, Schroeder hit .505 with a .650 slugging percentage, a .562 on-base percentage, 52 hits, 12 doubles, 23 RBI and a team-leading 40 runs scored.
Hannah Simpson, Fairfield, Sr.
The Trojans' first baseman has been a big part of consecutive regional championship game appearances in her first two seasons of varsity softball leading Fairfield at the plate collecting a team-best 58 hits, .475 batting average, a .672 slugging percentage, a .559 on-base percentage and 33 runs driving in. Simpson tied Coty Engle with a team-leading 11 doubles and matched Jenna Norris with a team-leading three home runs, helping the Trojans to a 22-19 record that including a Southeast Conference championship and a second straight trip to the Class 4A regional finals.
Kaylee Bix, Ottumwa, Jr.
Bix earned second-team all-state honors, starting at shortstop in all 40 Ottumwa games (the Bulldogs earned two forfeit wins against Des Moines North) while producing her best season yet at the plate. Bix matched Greiner with nine home runs, leading Ottumwa with 40 runs driven in and 44 more runs scored hit eight homers and drove in a team-high 42 runs. Bix batted .419, slugged .798 and reached base 52 percent of the time.
Reina Taylor, EBF, Sr.
Taylor had a team-leading 11 doubles at the plate and earned first-team all-state honors in Class 3A. While Taylor had most of her success in the pitching circle for the Rockets, leading the EBF pitching staff with a 15-9 record, a 1.96 ERA, 150 innings pitched over 24 starts with 84 strikeouts recorded, Taylor proved to be just as good in the outfield making 12 starts in center committing just one error over the course of the entire season with 67 defensive assists and 36 put outs as EBF finished 24-11.
Zoey Wright, Pekin, Sr.
Wright was a sure-handed outfielder and strong hitter for the Panthers once again this season. The senior hit .505 with seven home runs, 34 RBI, and led the Panthers with 22 extra-base hits. She also stole 14 of 14 bases, collected 54 hits and scored a team-high 43 runs. In the field, she made just three errors for the second straight year as the Panthers finished one win short of qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in 55 years.
Hannah Huisinga, Ottumwa, Jr.
Huisinga was selected first-team all-conference after hitting at .381 with a .568 slugging percentage and a .475 on-base percentage. Huisinga led Ottumwa, going 13-13 in stolen bases with 45 hits, 42 runs scored and 29 runs driven in. The junior center fielder will always be remembered for leading the Bulldogs with four hits and four runs driven in, finishing a triple shy of the cycle in a 12-9 win over Muscatine that led Ottumwa to state in Frank Huston's final season as a head softball coach.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Frank Huston, Ottumwa
What else needs to be said about Huston? The wins and career milestones aside, the reaction of the Bulldog players following the announcement on the field of his decision to retire said it all as players immediately broke down in tears following the conclusion of Ottumwa's final game, a 4-1 loss in the Class 5A state softball tournament against Indianola.
Huston admits he seriously considered retiring after his 52nd season, but an extra-inning loss to Indianola in the regional finals sparked the only head coach the Ottumwa softball program has ever had to make one more run at one more state tournament. While the Bulldogs did start the season ranked in the top 10, and remained there throughout the course of the season, Huston earns this honor due to the fact that his team made it to state despite the season-injury loss suffered by senior third baseman Morgan Greiner and needing to win a extra-inning regional final on the road at Muscatine.
In 53 years, Huston led Ottumwa to state championships in 1976 and 1995 along with guiding the Bulldogs to 15 final-four appearances, five trips to the state championship game and 50 state tournament victories. Huston coached 101 All-State players and 79 college softball players/signees including 12 Division 1 players. The 1990 National Softball Coach of the Year, 1994 Iowa Softball Hall of Fame inductee, 2013 IGHSAU Golden Plaque Award recipient and 2019 Dan Staggs Award winner will go out earning one more coaching honor as the Courier's top softball coach this season.
2019 ALL-COURIER SOFTBALL
Pitchers — Jena Lawrence, Albia, Jr.; Allison Rebling, Fairfield, Jr.; Kacy Nickerson, Ottumwa, Jr.
Catcher — Alex Beard, Albia, Jr.
Infielders — Morgan Greiner, Ottumwa, Sr.; Kennedy Schroeder, Albia, Sr.; Hannah Simpson, Fairfield, Fr.; Kaylee Bix, Ottumwa, Jr.
Outfielders — Reina Taylor, EBF, Sr.; Zoey Wright, Pekin, Sr.; Hannah Huisinga, Ottumwa, Jr.
Utility — Chelsey Huff, Van Buren, Sooh.
Player of the year — Alex Beard, Albia
Coach of the year — Frank Huston, Ottumwa
Albia — Mackenna Jones, McKenna Ross
Cardinal — Alexia McClure, Maddie Cloke, Rachel Lewman
Davis County — Bailea Yahnke, Sophia Young
EBF — Emma Lenox, Madysen Wade
Fairfield — Coty Engle, Shaylin Drish
Ottumwa — Jillian Heaton, Abby Bowers
Pekin — Ellie Ledger, Emilee Linder
Van Buren — Lexi Jirak