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(KMAland) -- Day 84 of blogging with no sports. This is the 78th consecutive blog and 82nd during this period.

The baseball and softball seasons are one week away. I’ve previewed every KMAland conference, I’ve released preseason area rankings and Trevor has interviewed and previewed dozens of teams (and he’s not done).

Over the course of the rest of this week, I am devoting these pages to even more baseball and softball primers. Much of the preseason for college football is spent on releasing a watch list for every single award that is handed out at the end of the year. Taking a page out of their book today, I give you the watch list for this year’s KMAland Softball Offensive Player of the Year.

These are the top-returning offensive players in the area, and it’s quite possible – or maybe even likely – our KMAland Offensive Player of the Year comes from this list. Schools eligible for the award are those from the Hawkeye Ten, Corner, Western Iowa, Pride of Iowa and Rolling Valley and Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Diagonal, Lamoni, Murray and Orient-Macksburg.

A quick explanation of how I came to the 43 names you will see below:

1 – I searched last year’s QuikStats for the state’s leaders in total hits.

2 – I went down the line and found those that were returning, and I counted up to 40.

3 – The total hits for the final player in the top 40 was 33, so I added the rest of the players from the area that had 33 hits and are returning.

Sometimes I don’t make a lot of sense so maybe that’s as clear as mud. Regardless, here we go.

Alexa Anderson, Junior, Mount Ayr – The ball just absolutely jumps off her bat. Anderson, who is likely to get plenty of work in the circle this year as well, hit .427/.485/.663 with six doubles and five homers among 38 total hits. She scored 25 runs and drove in 24 during her sophomore campaign.

Paige Armijo, Senior, Denison-Schleswig – It wasn’t easy to stand out among stars like Alex Mohr and Sarah Heilesen, but Armijo found a way to do it. During her junior campaign, she smashed six doubles, five homers and three triples while totaling 68 bases, 42 RBI and 30 runs scored. In all, it stood up as a .333/.410/.553 line.

Haley Bach, Junior, Lewis Central – A terrific table-setter for the Titans, Bach had 34 total hits last season, including nine doubles, five triples and a home run. She walked 27 times, drove in 19 and scored 28 times while posting a .391/.534/.644 line.

Hannah Belt, Junior, Thomas Jefferson – The top-returning hitter in the city of Council Bluffs, Belt had a big year at the plate with seven doubles, two triples and a home run among 41 total hits. She drove in 28 runs, had 55 total bases and finished with a strong .471/.495/.632 line.

Sterling Berndt, Sophomore, Wayne – When it comes to two-way players in the state of Iowa, Berndt deserves to be on any short list. She had a huge year in the circle as a freshman in leading the Falcons to the state tournament. For these purposes, though, we focus on her offense. Berndt is the top-returning hitter in an area conference. She had 56 total hits, including 18 doubles, eight triples and two home runs. She finished her freshman year with 96 total bases while hitting .528/.575/.906.

Gracie Bluml, Senior, Riverside – The slapping dynamo that leads the top of an experienced and talented Riverside lineup, Bluml is tied for the WIC-high in returning hits. She had 39, including two doubles, and scored 31 runs. She hit .438/.468/.461 for the season.

Gracie Bluml

Madison Botos, Junior, Atlantic – Not the only name from Atlantic you’re going to find on this list. Botos had a really strong sophomore season, finishing with 40 total hits, 30 runs scored and 24 RBI. She had a .412/.521/.443 line as one of the top outfielders in the Hawkeye Ten.

Alyssa Derby, Junior, Atlantic – It certainly feels like Alyssa Derby has been playing at least six years, but she’s only a junior. The Trojans back stop had a big year with 10 doubles and five home runs among her 35 total hits. She drove in 37, scored 33 and walked 24 times. That’s worth a .340/.469/.583 triple-slash at the plate.

Bella Dingus, Senior, St. Albert – The former Treynor standout switches to St. Albert due to the sharing agreement between St. Albert and Heartland Christian. Dingus had 33 total hits, drove in 23 and finished with a .333/.416/.384 batting line.

Bella Dingus & Tori Castle, Treynor

AJ Dorsey, Senior, Southeast Warren – Dorsey had 15 doubles and a triple among 40 hits last season. She drove in 34 and scored 28 runs while compiling 57 total bases and hitting .396/.455/.564 for the Warhawks in a big summer.

Olivia Engler, Junior, Atlantic – Engler smacked the ball around last season as another two-ways standout. She finished with nine doubles, two triples and a home run among 48 total hits while driving in 32. In all, she had 64 total bases and hit .432/.476/.577.

Kenna Ford, Junior, Riverside – Ford is one of the best two-way players returning to the Western Iowa Conference. At the plate, she had 10 doubles among her 36 hits and drove in 23 runs while hitting .375/.400/.479.

Amanda Foster, Junior, Woodbine – A hugely successful sophomore season for Foster leads into what figures to be a big junior summer. Foster had 35 total hits with 31 of them serving as one-baggers. She also scored 44 runs, drove in 17 and managed a .455/.558/.519 batting line.

Jayda Gay, Junior, Martensdale-St. Marys – Gay is the top-returning junior hitter in a very strong POI. The third baseman had a big year last season with 13 doubles, four triples and three home runs among 42 total hits. She drove in 34, scored 35 and hit .424/.472/.727.

Nichole Gilbert, Senior, Shenandoah – Gilbert maybe didn’t get as much love as she deserved last year in playing in the same infield as Logan Hughes. While Logan was doing her thing, Nichole also had a big year with 12 doubles among 44 hits, drove in 26 and hit .431/.482/.549. Anytime you do that in the Hawkeye Ten, you’ve done something.

Nichole Gilbert - Athlete of the Week

Chloe Gilgen, Senior, West Harrison – The DMACC volleyball recruit can also bash it around the park. Gilgen had five doubles and a triple among 36 total hits while scoring 31 runs and driving in 13. She ended up hitting .414/.510/.494 in an impressive junior summer.

Kennedy Goergen, Junior, Atlantic – Goergen had 28 RBI on 33 total hits last season with five of them landing in for doubles. She also scored 22 runs and finished with a solid .351/.445/.404 batting line.

Gracie Hagle, Sophomore, Creston – The top-hitting sophomore in the Hawkeye Ten Conference, Hagle had five doubles, five homers and 32 RBI last season as a freshman. She finished the year with 43 total hits, 63 total bases and a .391/.437/.573 triple-slash.

Eily Hall, Junior, Central Decatur – Central Decatur softball is on the rise, and Hall is one of the big reasons for that. The junior had 36 total hits, including seven doubles and drove in 17 runs during the 2019 summer. She finished with a .419 batting average, .490 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage.

Josie Hartman, Sophomore, Southeast Warren – It’s hard to get a lot of recognition as a sophomore in the Pride of Iowa Conference, considering what Sterling Berndt did last year. However, I’m here to tell you that Hartman is one that deserves – no, demands – your attention. She had 17 doubles and two home runs while driving in 35 runs, posting 70 total bases and finishing with a .448/.543/.667 hitting line.

Kate Heithoff, Sophomore, Harlan – The on-base machine atop the Harlan order, Heithoff had a strong season for the Cyclones during her freshman campaign. She had 40 total hits, including 13 doubles, drove in 19 and scored 39 runs while hitting. 385/.484/.510.

Kyndal Hilgenberg, Junior, Kuemper Catholic – Hilgenberg posted a strong season for the Knights, pounding out four doubles among 37 total hits. She also scored 26 runs and hit .359/.436/.398 in a productive sophomore season.

Camryn Jacobsen, Junior, Wayne – The other end of an impressive returning batter for Wayne, Jacobsen crushed at the plate to the tune of a .357/.420/.663 line. She had nine doubles and seven roundtrippers in 35 total hits while driving in 27 and scoring 26 times.

Lexi Johnson, Sophomore, Red Oak – An impressive and terrific freshman season for Johnson saw her hit .398/.468/.639 with 13 doubles, two triples and a home run among her 33 total hits.

Emily Jones, Sophomore, Wayne – The Wayne hot corner can smash the ball all over the field, too. She finished last season with 12 doubles and three home runs, drove in 33 runs, scored 30 times and hit .478/.537/.707.

Sara Keeler, Senior, Creston – There’s nothing more Keeler wanted than a chance to finish out her high school career. Just to get some sort of finality is probably what all seniors wanted. They will get it. Keeler will get it. She had 53 hits a year ago, topped by 18 doubles, a triple and a home run while hitting .449/.504/.644 against elite Hawkeye Ten pitching.

Haley Koch, Junior, West Harrison – Koch is one of two West Harrison juniors on this list. The shortstop had a big year with nine triples, six doubles and a home run among her 46 hits (in just 29 games). She also drove in 43, scored 38 runs and finished with a terrific .460/.500/.730 line.

Alexa McCunn, Junior, Red Oak – One of the more underrated sticks in the area, McCunn was one of three returning players with at least 53 total hits in 2019. The Tigers second baseman had 48 singles and five doubles while finishing with a .515/.533/.563 triple-slash.

Emily McIntosh, Junior, West Harrison – One of the top two-way standouts in the Rolling Valley Conference, McIntosh drove in 42 runs during her sophomore season. That was behind 10 doubles and two home runs as she hit .490/.541/.653 in a big year.

Madeline Myer, Junior, Martensdale-St. Marys – The Blue Devils catcher had a strong season at the plate, finishing with 14 doubles among her 34 total hits. She drove in 29 runs and finished with a great .405/.524/.571 batting line.

Brooklynn Page, Junior, Southeast Warren – Yet another from Southeast Warren, Page had 34 total hits last season, including 31 singles. She was always on base in posting a .477 OBP and scoring 33 runs.

Peyton Rice, Junior, Creston – The Creston standout had a heck of a sophomore summer in finishing with 49 total hits. She had five doubles and two home runs among those hits, scored 37 runs and drove in 18 while hitting .450/.504/.532.

Erikah Rife, Sophomore, Logan-Magnolia: In terms of total hits, Rife is tied as the top-returning batter in the Western Iowa Conference. Rife had 39 total hits and scored 25 runs while hitting .470/.506/.506 for the season.

Erikah Rife, Logan-Magnolia

Reanna Rife, Senior, Logan-Magnolia – Erikah’s older sister is one of the top two-way players in the area, and she has the potential to be the best two-way player in the area. She had six doubles and five triples among 33 hits while driving in 23 runs last year. Her triple-slash line was an impressive .418/.459/.620.

Reanna Rife, Logan-Magnolia

Kylee Rockhold, Sophomore, Central Decatur – Yet another sophomore in the Pride of Iowa Conference that can pitch and hit. She had 44 total hits last year, doing plenty of extra-base damage with 10 doubles, two triples and a home run in putting together a .458/.495/.635 batting line.

Julia Schechinger, Junior, Harlan – Schechinger was a big run-producer for the Cyclones last year during her sophomore summer. She had six doubles, four homers and 32 RBI on 34 total hits while hitting .315/.330/.481.

Kenzie Schon, Sophomore, Kuemper Catholic – The first of two Schons on the list, the Kuemper first baseman/pitcher burst on to the scene with a powerful summer. She had six doubles and six homers among her 61 total bases while finishing with 27 hits, 26 RBI and 16 runs scored. Her final slash line: .356/.400/.587.

Talia Schon, Senior, Glidden-Ralston – Schon had a huge junior season for the Wildcats, seemingly leading the Rolling Valley Conference in nearly every offensive category. She had 16 doubles and six triples among 49 total hits and finished the season with a ridiculous .620/.670/.975 hitting line.

Talia Schon

Madison Schumacher, Junior, Harlan – A big sophomore season for Schumacher should lead into another productive junior year. Schumacher had 11 doubles, five homers and a triple among 37 total hits, drove in 31 runs and finished with a .346/.412/.607 batting line.

Stella Umphreys, Junior, Treynor – Umphreys had a hugely productive year in the middle of Treynor’s order last season. She had nine doubles and two triples while driving in 35 runs on 38 total hits. She also drove in 26 runs and hit .413/.486/.554.

Selena Valenzuela, Senior, Bedford – The Pride of Iowa Conference has some big-named underclassmen, but don’t forget about one of its top seniors in Valenzuela. The Bulldogs standout had a strong season with 41 total hits, including three doubles and 34 runs scored. She hit .488/.557/.524 for the season.

Delanie Voshell, Junior, Shenandoah – Shenandoah’s two-way standout, Voshell had a very strong year at the plate as a sophomore. She ended up with 11 doubles among 40 total hits, drove in 19 and scored 31 runs while hitting .339/.400/.432.

McKenzie Waters, Senior, Atlantic – Yet another Atlantic name on the list. Waters was terrific in center and at the plate for last year’s Trojans, finishing with 39 total hits, 30 runs scored and 21 stolen bases. Her triple-slash: .390/.488/.410.

McKenzie Waters

Maddy Wood, Sophomore, Wayne – Another Wayne Falcon! Wood had a big year of her own with 33 total hits, including six doubles and a home run, and she drove in 28 runs while scoring 20. In all, it was worth a .330/.387/.420 batting line.

In all, that’s 43 names, including 22 juniors, 11 seniors and 10 sophomores. It also includes 19 from the Hawkeye Ten, 13 from the Pride of Iowa, five each from the WIC and Rolling Valley and one from the MRC.

Send any questions, comments and/or concerns to dmartin@kmaland.com.

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