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The Canby Cougar softball team this season enjoyed one of its most successful campaigns in years — and it showed in the season-ending awards as junior Ava Carroll was named first-team all-state and fellow junior McKenna Kraft nabbed second-team honors.
Carroll was a force of nature all season, batting an otherworldly .576 with an on-base percentage of .604 and slugging percentage of .913. The junior slugger also led the team with three homers and 17 RBIs (three-way tie) and 35 runs scored.
“Ava had an amazing year hitting and making incredible diving catches all season,” head coach Ty Kraft said. “I am so happy for Ava that she was recognized by coaches around the state for the great player she is and what she means to our team both offensively and defensively. Ava absolutely deserved to be a first-team all-stater.”
Joining her on the all-state roster was Kraft, the team’s dependable shortstop who earned second-team all-state and first-team all-Three Rivers League honors. Kraft also has the distinction of being the Cougs’ only three-sport varsity starter for the past two years (soccer, basketball and softball).
“Kenna was very consistent for us all year,” Kraft said. “She played solid for us at shortstop all year and the coaches around the state recognized her for that. She is one of our best overall athletes on the field and we can play her at any position and she will excel at it.”
Kraft was second on the team with a .352 batting average and 11 RBIs.
No discussion of the Cougars’ success in the 2022 season would be complete without remarking on senior pitcher Abigail Loomis, whom coach Kraft hailed as “our team leader on and off the field.”
“She was named a second-team all-TRL pitcher in one of the toughest pitching leagues in the state,” Kraft said. “Abigail pitched almost every game all year and did an outstanding job for Canby in her four years here. She will be greatly missed next year.”
Loomis was on the mound for 155 of the Cougs’ 173 innings pitched this season, compiling a 15-10 record with 213 strikeouts and an excellent ERA of 1.979. She was also one of the team’s best hitters, batting .338 and tying for the team lead with 17 RBIs.
Loomis was named the Cougars’ co-MVP for the season in a vote by the players, sharing the honor with Carroll, and was also awarded most inspirational.
Also making first-team all-league was another junior, Natalie Just, who owned the Cougs’ second base this season after transferring from Clackamas High School.
“I was disappointed Natalie didn’t get all-state honors,” Kraft admitted. “She absolutely deserved it and was solid for us all year hitting and defensively.”
Just had been a star hurler for the Cavs, pitching every inning of every game last season. But the Cougs needed infielders, and the newcomer excelled in that role as well, starting the season at shortstop before moving to second base following a shoulder injury.
“That right there tells you how versatile Natalie is for us and what a great athlete she is,” Kraft said. “She overcame a lot this season and continued to perform at a very high level for us all season.”
Just batted .305 with 15 RBIs.
Rounding out the Cougars’ all-league selections was junior catcher Ella Kiehl, who made the second team despite missing eight games and numerous practices due to illness. Kiehl batted .288 on the year and tied for the team lead with 17 RBIs — despite playing in only 18 games to Carroll’s and Loomis’ 26.
“Ella is an amazing player and leader for our team,” Kraft said. “She wanted to be on the field any chance she could but her illness definitely affected what she is capable of doing as a softball player. I was so proud of her tenacity and grit and the time on the field she was able to give us.
“We are all hoping Ella can come back stronger and better than ever hersenior year.”
Completing the Cougs’ core of junior talent was first baseman Brooke Herren and left fielder Bree Marino, both of whom made their biggest marks on defense.
“Brooke was one of the best defensive first basemen in the state, in my humble opinion,” Kraft said. “Brooke is naturally a strong kid and she was working hard at being consistent at the plate as a hitter.”
Herron broke a finger in her throwing hand and had to sit out the last three weeks of the season, further weakening the team’s depth as it hurtled toward the playoffs. But Kraft expects her back next season, better than ever.
“I think Brooke is going to break out her senior year and be a player the whole state will take notice of,” he said. He also expects big things from Marino in her senior year.
“Bree is a hard worker at practice and is constantly getting better at what she does,” he said. “We are excited to see what Bree does on both sides of the ball for us next year.”
Attempting to fill the huge shoes of former all-league first-teamer Allie Mead (who opted to play spring club basketball rather than return to the softball diamond) on third base, sophomore Kaylee Allen impressed her coach.
“Kaylee worked hard at improving her skills at thirrd with her already strong throwing arm,” he said. “She kept getting better and better and did an awesome job for us. Kaylee is another player about to break out offensively and offer us the luxury of another consistent bat for us in the line-up next year.”
Another welcome surprise was freshman Madison Bigej, who played right and filled in for Kiehl behind the dish when needed, later being named the team’s selection for most improved.
“Madi was a huge spark for our team this year,” Kraft said. “She is extremely athletic and is going to be an awesome player for Canby in the future. She had some big hits in important games and continued to improve every day as the season went along.
“Madi is like a sponge for knowledge, she is super coachable and can quickly make adjustments to her swing or defensive play. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed coaching Madi this season.”
The team graduated only two other seniors in addition to Loomis: reserve Katrina Hall who started a few games in right field and speedster Chloe Moll, whose biggest contributions came in pinch-running situations.
“Katrina did not have a lot of varsity experience going into this year, and she worked extremely hard at earning her playing time,” Kraft said. “She was always asking for extra reps in practice.
“And Chloe was one of the best teammates you could ask for. She is extremely quick, and we would use her to pinch run every game. Chloe always had a smile on her face and she was always all about how she could help the team.”
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