Eight Comets named NEIC Softball All-Conference

By John Burbridge sports@charlescitypress.com

There have been .400 hitters in the major leagues since Ted Williams was the last to “officially” hit on or above that mark in 1941.

The reason why the subsequent .400 hitters don’t get credit is because they didn’t accumulate the required number of at-bats or plate appearances.

As a whole, the Charles City Comets softball team is a squib hit away from .400 (.398). And as for the required number at-bats … a team total of 981 may be enough to suggest that the average is not a fluke.

Combine that with an on-base percentage of .477, a slugging percentage of .582, 190 stolen bases, and a pitching staff that has held opponents to a John Henry Williams (Ted’s son) -like .162 batting average, it’s easy to fathom why the 33-6 Comets are the No. 2-seed in the Class 4A bracket at next week’s State Softball Championships at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.

It’s also not surprising that Charles City is well-represented among the All-Northeast Iowa Conference softball selections.

A total of eight players were honored from the team that won the NEIC with a 16-2 record — a second straight conference title for the Comets.

Six of Charles City’s selections were named to the first team — seniors Kelby Katcher, Payton Reams, Taylor Schmidt and Ciana Sonberg; junior Sami Heyer; and sophomore Lisabeth Fiser.

Charles City incoming freshman Ashlyn Hoeft was named to the second team; and Comet junior Cora Crooks was named honorable mention.

Heyer, Schmidt and Fiser are all second-time first-teamers.

As she did last year, Comet ace pitcher Heyer will go into the state tournament having already struck out at least 260 batters. She’s already matched her wins from last year (23), and has an earned run average of 0.70 through 160 1/3 innings pitched.

Second baseman/pitcher Schmidt leads the team in slugging percentage (.835), on-base percentage (.539), RBIs (43) and home runs (11). For her high school career, Schmidt has 24 homers.

A five-tool player, Schmidt has stolen 33 bases in as many attempts. And as a middle infielder, she’s only made two errors this season.

Right fielder and leadoff hitter Fiser leads the Comets in hits (68), runs (49), stolen bases (42) and batting average (.504) among teammates with more than four at-bats. While leading Charles City’s outfielders with most chances, Fiser has not committed an error this season.

Third baseman Sonberg is a first-time first-teamer after being named to the second team last season. Second to Schmidt in homers (8) and slugging percentage (.692), Sonberg leads the team in doubles (12).

While playing an extra-hot hot corner — often up-close-and-personal to the hitter to take away a bunt- or slap-hit attempt — Sonberg leads the Comets in assists this season.

Catcher Kelby Katcher was named to her first first team after making NEIC honorable mention last season. Katcher currently has career-highs in batting average (.355), doubles (10) and RBIs (22).

So far this season, Katcher has gunned down nine would-be base stealers. And while handling the flame-throwing offerings of Heyer and the other hard throwers on the staff, Katcher is among the state leaders in putouts with more than 300.

Reams was named to her first first team after making NEIC honorable mention last season when she took over as the Comets’ starting center fielder. Reams is hitting .434 this season with a slugging percentage of .606 and an on-base percentage of .495.

Reams also has 4 homers, 32 RBIs and 28 stolen bases.

First baseman Hoeft is the only eighth-grader named to the NEIC all-conference teams. In her “breakout” season, Hoeft is hitting .404 with a .602 slugging percentage and .505 on-base percentage. She currently has four home runs, the fourth of which Hoeft hit in Charles City’s 6-1 regional championship win over Center Point-Urbana. Hoeft also doubled in a run earlier in the game.

Lately, Hoeft has proven to excellent in fielding low throws — especially the in-between hop — while averting throwing errors.

Junior outfield Cora Crooks received her first NEIC honorable mention selection after earning a regular spot in the varsity starting lineup. Crooks is hitting .318 this season and came through in the clutch during Charles City’s regional semifinal game against Mason City on Saturday.

With the Comets down 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh and elimination looming, Crooks rapped a RBI double to tie the game before her pinch-runner eventually scored the game-winner.