HOLLAND — A season ago, several local high school softball teams returned after a year-long absence due to the COVID pandemic, and many young players made a name for themselves.
Every school in the area that has a softball team has several talented players on their roster, each looking to take the next step in their careers at the start of the 2022 season.
Here are five homegrown players to watch this season who are expected to have a big impact on their teams.
THE SCHOOL: East Zealand
RESEARCH REPORT: The word utility fits a player like Gruppen. The senior is capable of playing eight out of nine places on the pitch, all to an extremely high standard. She’s the returning team MVP for the Chix and hit a stellar .523 last season with three home runs and 29 RBIs. She also tied a school record for single-season hits with 57 and set a new school record for runs scored with 53.
The team captain also earned all-conference honors as an outfielder as well as all-district accolades as a utility player.
“Riley is one of those players whose level of play matches her level of energy on the field. She provides the spark to energize the team. Riley has a high softball IQ and the athletic ability to play at eight of the nine positions on the court and can do them all equally well, hence her All-District Player award last season,” Chix coach Ken Jipping said. invaluable asset to the team and she can be counted on to perform under pressure and is a real team player.”
THE SCHOOL: hamilton
RESEARCH REPORT: In her first season of high school softball, Jamrog stormed the local scene as an all-around player in the circle and at home plate. She was extremely productive, hitting .423 on the season, adding three homers, 28 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Those numbers alone would be enough to rank her among the best softball players in the area, but where she really thrives with the ball in hand.
Jamrog threw a no-hitter in his first high school appearance and there wasn’t much respite from there. She was the Hawkeyes’ lead pitcher, pitching 134 innings. During that span, she boasted a 1.93 ERA and hung 209 strikeouts going for a 16-1 record. Those numbers, along with her hitting, helped her earn all-region honors, all-conference first-team honors as well as being named Sentinel Softball Player of the Year.
After:Hamilton’s Madie Jamrog is Holland Sentinel Softball Player of the Year
“Madie had a strong second season and just got better as the season progressed,” Hamilton coach Mark Behnke said. “She’s a five-tool player who has worked tirelessly in the offseason. Her attitude is infectious and is a true student of the game.”
THE SCHOOL: hamilton
RESEARCH REPORT: Kleinheksel is a real utility player, just like Gruppen. She can play just about anywhere Behnke asks her to, which makes it easier to set up rosters and helps put the rest of Hamilton’s roster in the best possible position for them to succeed.
As a sophomore, she was fantastic at the plate, hitting .516 and scoring two home runs and 30 RBIs. Those numbers helped her earn several accolades, including being named all-region outfielder and being named first-team all-conference as a utility player. She also played for the Hawkeyes on the basketball court last winter.
“Kyra was phenomenal last season while also becoming a quality outfielder. She has great hand-eye coordination, which you can also see on the basketball court,” Behnke said. “She has a relentless work ethic and was key in the middle of our roster last season. Her attitude is what high school sports are all about.”
POSITION: Infielder / Receiver
RESEARCH REPORT: Much like the Hamilton duo, 2021 was also Sleeman’s first high school softball season, but it certainly didn’t look like it. She slid to second base instead of her normal shortstop and catcher positions because of the outgoing seniors taking those spots. It worked well for her, however. But she will likely switch to shorts or receiver for the majority of her junior campaign.
She was great on the court, but her plate ability was by far the best of anyone in the area last season. She hit an absurd .605, slamming 12 homers and racking up a colossal 73 RBI for the Dux. These numbers have helped her earn honors from every state, region, and conference. She’s also already committed to playing Division I softball at Central Michigan University.
After:Carly Sleeman of Zeeland West commits to Central Michigan for softball
“She was ready to move up to number two as she played behind two senior captains at shortstop and receiver,” coach Scott Silva said. “She was very present on the field, in the batting box and on the base paths.”
THE SCHOOL: West Zealand
POSITION: third base
RESEARCH REPORT: Zwagerman made a big push during his junior season, becoming team captain for the Dux. She struggled a bit to start the season, but ended the year on a high to end the campaign with a .339 batting average with three home runs and 35 RBIs.
She also had a knack for getting to base, even when she didn’t get a hit. Her OBP was just under 0.500 and she turned that stellar number into a ton of runs, crossing the plate 48 times for the Dux a season ago. That talent hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, as she’s won all-conference honors in the OK Green. She has committed to playing softball at Cornerstone University next season.
After:Taylor Zwagerman of Zeeland West signs with Cornerstone for softball
“She has always helped keep the team organised, informed and connected all season long. [in 2021]”, Silva said. “She continued to play hard on the corner for us and her bat really came alive in the second half of the season. [last year].”