Nickerson earns first-team all-state honors

Kacy Nickerson winds up for a pitch against Waukee during Class 5A state softball tournament action for the Ottumwa Bulldogs earlier this season at Kruger Seeds Field inside the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.

OTTUMWA — The honors just keep rolling in for Ottumwa junior Kacy Nickerson.

Ditto for Albia teammates Alex Beard and Jena Lawrence, who joined Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont senior Reina Taylor as three of the first-team selections on the Class 3A Iowa Girls Coaches Association All-State softball teams. Nickerson, meanwhile, was one of three Ottumwa Bulldogs selected to the IGCA Class 5A all-state team, named a first-team selection after a record-breaking season at the plate and another stellar year in the pitching circle.

Nickerson helped guide Ottumwa to the Class 5A state softball tournament in the final season under head coach Frank Huston. As the ace of the Bulldog pitching staff, Nickerson went 17-5 this season with a 2.35 ERA, moving over 600 career strikeouts with 184 this season against just 34 walks.

At the plate, Nickerson set a program record with 21 doubles. The lead-off hitter for OHS batted .416, driving in 27 runs while also hitting her first four career home runs during the 2019 season.

Nickerson's teammates, Morgan Greiner and Kaylee Bix, were named second-team all-state selections in Class 5A by the IGCA. Greiner and Bix shared the Ottumwa team lead this season in home runs with nine each.

Bix had a team-leading 40 runs driven in while Greiner drove in 34 runs. The two started together on the left side of the Ottumwa infield (Greiner at third and Bix at shortstop) throughout the first 33 games of the season before a torn ACL and meniscus ended Greiner's season against Johnston in the final game of the 2019 Ottumwa Classic on July 6.

Beard and Lawrence, meanwhile, had another successful season as the main battery mates of the Lady Dees. Albia qualified for state for an unprecedented third consecutive year, finishing tied for seventh in the Class 3A tournament this season with a final record of 27-6.

Beard, a recruiting prospect of head coach Lindsay Diehl and the Indian Hills Warriors, had her best season in her junior year at the plate for the Lady Dees. The Albia catcher 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.

Lawrence, meanwhile, 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 highlighted by a walk-off three-run home run to beat North Polk, 9-6, in a nine-inning Class 3A regional final.

Kennedy Schroeder gave Albia three all-state players after being selected to Class 3A's second team by the IGCA. The Lady Dee senior shortstop capped her softball career starting all 33 games for the Lady Dees, recording the second-most defensive assists with 44 while hitting .505 with a .650 slugging percentage, a .562 on-base percentage, 52 hits, 12 doubles, 23 RBI and a team-leading 40 runs scored on offense.

Taylor, meanwhile, had a team-leading 11 doubles at the plate for the Rockets during a 24-11 season. Taylor also paced the EBF pitching staff with a 15-9 record, a 1.96 ERA, 150 innings pitched over 24 starts with 84 strikeouts recorded.

Second-team all-state honors went to Fairfield freshman Hannah Simpson in Class 4A. The younger sister of all-state Fairfield baseball first baseman Austin Simpson led the Southeast Conference champion Trojan softball team with 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. The Trojans finished 22-19 record, earning a second straight trip to the Class 4A regional finals.

In Class 2A, Pekin teammates Zoey Wright and Emilee Linder joined Van Buren junior Lexi Jirak were named Class 2A IGCA all-state selections. Wright and Jirak were both second-team selections with Wright leading the Panthers to a 19-win season, finishing one victory short of qualifying for state, starting all 33 games while collecting a team-high 54 hits, 12 doubles, seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 43 runs scored.

The Panthers' 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.

Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.