Two Effingham Lady Hearts were honored on the 2013 All-Apollo Conference softball team. Senior infielder/catcher Kelli Utz earned first-team distinctions, while pitcher Deedra Myers was chosen as a second-team pick.
Utz was a tough out for opponents in the leadoff role for Effingham, batting .410 with 14 RBIs. Even more impressive, she had an on-base percentage of .508, taking advantage of 20 walks and one hit-by-pitch.
“We were able to score many times in the first inning,” Lady Hearts coach Jerry Trigg said. “That’s very important. It gives you some confidence. The percentage is pretty high, when you score first, that you win. She gave us that chance.”
The senior captain tied for the team high in hits, along with Myers, at 43. Twelve of those were doubles, helping contribute to her .409 batting average with runners in scoring position.
“She knew the strike zone well,” Trigg said. “It didn’t bother her to get two strikes. She knew what she had to do to put the ball in play. She probably had more two-strike hits than anyone on the team if we kept that stat.”
Utz played anywhere from shortstop to third to catcher for the Hearts defensively. Despite frequently shifting positions, she still managed to have a fielding percentage of .900.
“She understood the game and her hand-eye coordination was very good,” Trigg said. “She’s just a great athlete.”
Myers was the ace of Trigg’s staff, compiling an 8-2 record on the hill in 2013.
The right-hander finished with an ERA of 1.93, recording 27 Ks in 50.2 innings pitched and a team-high 164 put-outs. She was also solid as a first baseman, closing with a fielding percentage of .973.
“This year, more than ever, she had good control with some movement,” Trigg said of her job on the mound. “She was not afraid to throw the changeup. She didn’t throw as hard as some of our other pitchers, but she had control and command. Her control was key to her success.”
Much like Utz, Myers was not one-dimensional. In the batter’s box, she hit .398 and tied for the team high in RBIs with Kaylee Tonn at 28.
“This year she just had a very simple swing, her hands right at the top of the strike zone,” Trigg said. “A simple turn and let the bat go, that’s all that she really needed to do.”
Myers was particularly effective when the Lady Hearts needed her most, spiking her batting average to .463 with runners in scoring position.
“She was batting fourth for a reason,” Trigg said. “She knew Kelly was going to be on base probably, she knew it was key to get that run in.”
Effingham finished the season at 17-16, including a 4-6 mark in the Apollo that was good enough to finish in fourth place. Mattoon and Mount Zion each closed at 9-1.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org