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  • Val T.

All-RTC softball: Pioneer slugger, pitching ace Cripe is player of the year

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

The RTC softball player of the year is the same person who was the RTC volleyball player of the year last fall and the RTC basketball player of the year in 2021.

RTC Softball Player of the Year Hailey Cripe

Hailey Cripe is just that talented and that impactful.

Her career will be celebrated for decades, if not longer. And the older crowd will remind the younger crowd, “What if she would have had a 2020 softball season?”

Instead of playing the what-if game, let’s remind you of what happened. She hit .662 with 15 homers and 56 RBIs, and she did that while being walked 29 times from opposing teams that did not want to take a chance of making that one mistake that she could hit out of the park.

In the circle, she took over the No. 1 role after the graduation of Hailey Gotshall and went 17-3 with a 1.06 ERA. She had 263 strikeouts in 119 ⅓ innings, usually blowing away her opponents with her speed and movement.

While Cripe deserves to be celebrated as a player, it’s rival Caston that deserves to be celebrated as a team. The Lady Comets beat Pioneer in the final week of the regular season to win the Hoosier North title and got within four outs of the first sectional title in school history.

Of all the teams that we cover, there might be no team’s season that we will be anticipating more in 2022-23 than the Caston softball team’s, regardless of sport.

They will be well represented on our all-RTC softball team. While we thank area coaches for submitting scores and stats to us as well as their insights regarding their teams, we also acknowledge that this list is ours and ours alone, and we take full responsibility for this list.

First team

Pitchers

  • Hailey Cripe (Pioneer) – Cripe will play collegiately at the University of Kansas. Perfect Game, a website that analyzes recruiting classes, said this about the Kansas class that included Cripe: “The Jayhawk recruiting footprint has made strides on the national level the past two years and with the signing of this elite class, KU is well on its way to building a championship softball program.”

Trivia: Cripe is the cousin of Rochester’s Kennedy Jackson, our All-RTC Girls Track Athlete of the Year.

  • Kinzie Mollenkopf (Caston) – Mollenkopf, a junior, just keeps getting better and better, and she was overwhelming when she pitched a no-hitter against North White in the sectional semifinals. She had 131 strikeouts in 83 ⅔ innings, and Mollenkopf seemingly gets stronger as the games goes on.

  • Ella Gearhart (Winamac) – Gearhart with .544 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs, and she also went 9-8 with a 3.96 ERA in the circle.

Catchers

  • Isabel Scales (Caston) – Scales hit .566 with nine homers and 35 RBIs. She basically crushes the ball every time up. There are not many people who can say they hit two homers in a game off Cripe, but Scales can. She also shuts down the opponents’ running game with her arm.

  • Emma Goodman (Winamac) – Goodman hit .395 with four homers and 23 RBIs. She basically kept up her offensive production while spending more time behind the plate when Gearhart was in the circle.

  • Madi Smith (Valley) – Smith had a tough job because Valley had four different pitchers pitch at least 20 innings, and she had to be good receiver and pitch framer for all of them. On top of that, she hit .379 with 17 RBIs.

Infielders

  • Emma Howdeshell (Rochester) – Five months after tearing her ACL in a basketball game, Howdeshell was not only back but the best version of herself: a .631 batting average, a team-leading four homers, a team-leading 29 RBIs and a team-leading 21 stolen bases. She’s also a sure-handed shortstop with an accurate arm.

  • Addison Zimpleman (Caston) – Zimpleman had almost twice as many home runs (12) as strikeouts (7), and she hit .573. Because she hit leadoff in the order, she “only” had 28 RBIs, but she’s ferocious in the box no matter where she is.

  • Molly Moriarty (Tippecanoe Valley) – At Valley, they take a postgame photo of players with their home run balls. They took Moriarty’s photo A LOT in 2022. She hit a team-high 10 homers – three of which were grand slams – and also stole a team-high 14 bases.

  • Crystabelle Blickenstaff (Pioneer) – Blickenstaff has the quick reaction time to play well defensively at third base, and she has the arm and footwork to be an asset at shortstop. She’s also a line drive hitter with occasional power who finished with 30 RBIs.

  • Macee Hinderlider (Caston) – Hinderlider can play all over the diamond, but she found a home at third base for the second half of the season. She has the quick reaction time necessary for the position, and she is also a pesky hitter, hitting .387 with 24 RBIs.

  • Mackaylie Costello (Tippecanoe Valley) – Costello was the area’s outstanding freshman, hitting .444 and showing off a howitzer at shortstop.

  • Kylie Coleman (Rochester) – Coleman was a top clutch hitter, driving in 28 runs and showing good instincts at third base, which was a new position for her.

Outfielders

  • Corinna Stiles (Valley) – Stiles hit eight homers and 44 RBIs and is also a top defensive center fielder. She can hit the ball from foul line to foul line, which makes her hard to defend, and she is also an excellent bunter and baserunner too.

  • Kylie Farris (Pioneer) – A player does not have to be a good base stealer to be a good baserunner, but Farris is both. She’s also an excellent, instinctive defensive center fielder.

  • Mackenzie Robinson (Pioneer) – A player who hit .436 with 13 extra-base hits and 39 RBIs would be a superstar at most schools, but she might have been caught in Cripe’s shadow. We at RTC definitely noticed though. She was a hitter who always made solid contact, even against the toughest pitchers.

  • Maggie Smith (Winamac) – Smith hit .362, and when you add 20 walks on top of that, she was on base more than half the time. She also led the team in stolen bases and was a top defensive center fielder.

  • Sydney Haughs (Rochester) – Haughs hit .477 with 22 RBIs, and her two-run single against Valley in the sectional was the biggest hit of the Lady Zs’ season. She’s also a sure-handed center fielder.

  • Maddi Smith (Caston) – Smith was playing more infield than outfield by the end of the season, but we wanted a space for her on our team. She was a switch-hitter who hit .423 with 23 RBIs, and she also stole 11 bases.

  • Hailey Attinger (Pioneer) – Attinger started to come on during Pioneer’s state tournament run in 2021, and she blossomed even more in 2022. She was third on the team in hits behind Cripe and Farris, and she also was strong defensively in right field.

Honorable mention

  • Luci Overmyer (Culver)

  • Annie Harsh (Caston)

  • Shaylee Goings (Pioneer)

  • Ava Stackhouse (Argos)

  • Alexis Sheets (Winamac)

  • Abby Bowers (Valley)

  • Kadyn Baughman (Argos)

  • Allison Zahm (Argos)

  • Kallie Watson (Rochester)

  • Brittany Benn (Valley)

  • Makena Lineberry (Argos)

  • Kaitlyn Kanschat (Culver)

  • Emma Sells (Rochester)

  • Brayden Baney (Valley)

  • Carlie Morris (Pioneer)

  • Kendra Burkholder (Argos)

  • Kaya Campbell (Winamac)

  • Casey Webb (Pioneer)

  • Carlie Rex (Argos)

  • Zoey Hunnicutt (Culver)

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