With last season's NOW All-Suburban Player of the Year Katie Lang graduated, coach Jeff Setz had a huge hole in his starting rotation and batting order to fill.
That's where Katie Schlegel came into the picture. That talented junior played a huge role for the Woodland West Division Champions and state-tournament bound Lions that she made the 2014 first-team NOW All-Suburban Softball Team as a utility player because of her outstanding year on the mound and at the plate at Ike's smooth-fielding shortstop.
"I'm honored to be part of the team," said Schlegel, who made high honorable mention last season. "You work hard, put in the off-season work time. This is awesome and it shows all that hard work paid off."
Besides the NOW All-Suburban honors, she was first-team all-state, all-district, first-team all-Woodland and all-West Division on the mound, but her bat is which also catches your attention.
As a pitcher, she was 17-1 and threw two no-hitters but had a 3.25 ERA. She started 21 of 22 games, with 12 complete games, one shutout and she fanned 125 hitters in 110 innings.
Setz had the highest of complements for Schlegel when asked about her clutch performances.
"She's a 'gamer.' She just enjoys being in those critical situations," he said. "When the game is on the line, she comes up with big at bats. She wants to be in that spot. No matter the pressure, she has no fear and that's where she wanted to be."
Schlegel, who has pitched for her club team (Wisconsin Bandits) was ready to take on the role of the team's top pitcher.
"I like pitching, because I like being in control," she said. "Every play, every pitch, it's awesome being in the circle. Nothing more exciting that see them whiff at your change-up."
She is quick to praise her battery mate, sophomore Ali Nowak, who just missed making the NOW All-Suburban first-team by one vote and was high honorable mention.
"We talk about what to do for each pitch," Schlegel said. "We're always thinking. Ali is a great catcher. I love her. She is just awesome.
"We have good chemistry. Warming up, we know how to pitch specific players."
When she is not pitching, Schlegel is still in on the action as the Lions starting shortstop.
"You have to be focused, have fun with it," Schlegel said. "I love getting dirty. At shortstop I can be more vocal. Tell the outfielders where to to be. That's part of leading."
Speaking of leading, Schlegel and Steffi Lombardo are the team captains and each has their own way of leading.
"Katie is one of my best friends, always upbeat, full of energy," Lombardo said. "She is always jumping and cheering. She is outgoing. Me, I try and lead by example. It works nice."
Schlegel enjoys being a leader.
"Definitely, I do. I'm more of a vocal leader," she said. "I'm mentally in the game, always cheering, making sure our team is on the fence or in the dugout cheering."
With about a month left in the season the gutsy Schlegel was slowed by a groin injury, but she still battled and played shortstop, but couldn't pitch for awhile down the stretch. Even at the end of the year, she wasn't in tiptop shape, but helped get her team to state for the first time since 2008 when her sister Kayla went there.
"I was struggling with it," she said. "It's a tough injury. I lost a lot of speed. And you have no time to heal. Even now it bothers me."
The other big part of Schlegel's game is her hitting. She stood out with a bat in her hand.
She hit .464, banged out 22 extra base hits, including 13 homers, the top total in the state. At one point she slammed homers in a school record eight straight games. She had a .979 slugging mark and walked 18 times.
"I worked hard in the off-season, taking lessons, working with my dad (Mike)," Schlegel said when asked about her success at the plate. "We worked on me engaging my hips and on my load, timing and seeing the pitch well.
"I wanted to improve my homers — I hit one last year — and I think I did pretty good."
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