Nickerson named to 5A All-District Southeast softball squad

Ottumwa junior Kacy Nickerson, seen here delivering a pitch to the plate on Tuesday at Kruger Seeds Field inside the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge on Tuesday against Waukee during the Class 5A state softball tournament, joined teammate Morgan Greiner on the IGCA Class 5A West All-District team.

For the third straight year, Ottumwa High School softball teammates Kacy Nickerson and Morgan Greiner were named to the Class 5A West all-district team by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association. The Bulldog teammates, key members of Ottumwa's 28th and final state tournament qualifying team under head coach Frank Huston, were two of the 12 area athletes to earn all-district softball postseason honors.

Nickerson, a junior, was again the top pitcher for the Bulldogs going 17-5 this season with a 2.35 ERA, moving over 600 career strikeouts with 184 this season against just 34 walks. Nickerson also set a prorgram record with 21 doubles, batting .416 as the Bulldogs' leadoff hitter, driving in 27 runs while also hitting her first four career home runs.

Greiner, the Bulldogs' senior third baseman and No. 2 hitter in the lineup, batted .404 while matching Kaylee Bix with a team-leading nine home runs and was tied for second with Bix driving 34 runs despite missing Ottumwa's final seven games with a season-ending torn ACL and meniscus in her left knee. Greiner was second to Bix in slugging percentage on the team with a .731 mark, including seven doubles with 42 hits and 24 runs scored.

Ottumwa shared the CIML Metro with Des Moines East, finishing 16-4 with four-game season splits against East and Des Moines Hoover. After falling one win short of the state tournament each of the past two years, Ottumwa won a thrilling 12-9 regional final in nine innings at Muscatine, allowing Huston to match Larry Neimeyer for state tournament appearances with 28 in his 53rd and final season as a head softball coach.

In Class 4A, Fairfield teammates Allison Rebling and Hannah Simpson were named to the Southeast All-District team. Rebling, a junior, led the Trojans in the pitching circle with 13 wins, 24 starts and 28 overall appearances pitching 149 1/3 innings while striking out 220 batters and issuing a 2.63 ERA.

Simpson, meanwhile, led 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.

Three Albia players and Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont senior Reina Taylor were named to the Class 3A Southeast District team.

Alex Beard had her best season in her junior year at the plate for the Lady Dees, who qualified for state for the third straight year. Beard led the team in most statistical categories on offense batting .538 with a .981 slugging percentage, .588 on-base percentage, nine homers, 17 doubles and 43 runs driven in.

Beard's junior teammate and battery mate Jena Lawrence, joined Beard and Kennedy Schroeder on the 3A Southeast all-district team. Lawrence moved within range of 100 career victories in the pitching circle heading into her senior season, going 18-5 with a 2.49 ERA, 132 strikeouts and 64 walks. Lawrence also hit .485 this season, almost 100 points higher than last year, with 48 hits including 13 doubles, three home runs and 41 runs driven.

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.

Taylor had a team-leading 11 doubles at the plate, but led the EBF pitching staff with a 15-9 record, a 1.96 ERA, 150 innings pitched over 24 starts with 84 strikeouts recorded. The Rockets posted another winning season, going 24-11 including an early-season upset of Albia as the Lady Dees would rebound to successfully defend their South Central Conference title on the way to recording a 27-6 record.

In Class 2A, Pekin teammates Zoey Wright and Emilee Linder joined Van Buren junior Lexi Jirak on the Southeast all-district team. The Panthers and Warriors both posted winning records and met in the regional semifinals, won by Pekin 4-3 in Keosauqua on the way to hosting a regional final for the first time in program history.

Wright led the Panthers within a win of the program's first state softball appearance in 55 years, starting all 33 games while collecting a team-high 54 hits, 12 doubles, seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 43 runs scored. The senior center fielder had a team-leading .505 batting average and a .869 slugging percentage.

Linder, meanwhile, edged Wright for the team lead in on-base percentage with a .530 average (Wright finished at .527). Linder, batting leadoff for 19-14 Pekin, batted .455 and slugged .657 with 45 hits, seven doubles and a team-best five triples while scoring 32 runs. Wright (14) and Linder (12) were the top two base stealers for the Panthers in the first year under head coach Shelby Atwood.

Jirak led the Warriors with a .441 batting average, collecting 41 hits including eight doubles and two home runs with 24 runs scored and 22 more runs driven in. Jirak lifted the 15-12 Warriors to a postseason road upset at Highland with a grand slam home run in the regional quarterfinals the held up in a 4-3 win over the Huskies.

In Class 1A, Sigourney junior Megan Stuhr was named to the South Central all-district team. Stuhr was the team leader for the Savages in hits (54), runs scored (54), doubles (14), home runs (6), walks (19), batting average (.535), slugging percentage (.871) and on-base percentage (.612) helping Sigourney advance to the regional semifinals before bowing out with a loss to South Iowa Cedar League rival North Mahaska, ending the season with a record of 18-14.

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