Archive for Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Smith: Where’s Wolken?

June 15, 2010

Tonganoxie third baseman Kaitlyn Wolken prepares to fire a throw to first base after scooping up a ground ball during the Chieftains' 7-6 victory against Bonner Springs.

Tonganoxie third baseman Kaitlyn Wolken prepares to fire a throw to first base after scooping up a ground ball during the Chieftains' 7-6 victory against Bonner Springs.

Growing up as a huge sports fan, it was always fun to argue about individual honors — who should have been MVP, an all-star or all-league.

Covering high school athletics, however, had not led to similar arguments for this sports reporter. Generally, every deserving player or athlete gets some recognition. From time to time some are a little overrated, others occasionally undervalued, but for the most part, the coaches get it right.

It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago, while reading the names on the 2010 All-Kaw Valley League softball team, that I realized — even in high school — sometimes postseason accolades are bogus. It’s rare that you see a blatant omission on such a team. But that’s exactly what happened.

While scanning the list, looking for Tonganoxie High’s honorees, I found two: Lindsey Fatherley and Haley Smith received honorable mention.

“Good for them,” I thought. “Surely, I just overlooked one other, though. Where is Kaitlyn Wolken on this list? First team? No. Second team? I guess not. Well, she must be honorable mention? And no.”

I couldn’t believe it. The THS junior never failed to impress on the diamond this season. She led Tonganoxie in four offensive categories with a .417 batting average, a .542 on-base percentage, 21 runs and five triples. Of her 25 hits in 20 games, 14 went for extra bases, including two home runs. Wolken only struck out four times in 72 plate appearances.

Defensively, she was just as good — if not better. Playing most of the year at third base after starting the season at shortstop, Woken had a .910 fielding percentage. Her uniform almost always was dirty from diving snags and the cannon on her right arm turned a number of infield hits into outs.

How could she not be on the KVL’s all-league team in some capacity? Don’t ask Tonganoxie coach Lee Matzeder.

“I’m thinking coaches didn’t look at the stats well enough,” he said with a shrug. “I’m hoping that was the case.”

That must have been some part of it because it wasn’t as if Wolken was an unknown commodity in the league. The infielder was a second-team selection as a sophomore. Surely, she must have been one of the top 12 infielders in the KVL in 2010 (four apiece were named to the first and second teams and four others were given honorable mention). Tonganoxie (9-11) wasn’t one of the top teams in the league, but that doesn’t mean its top bat and glove should go unrecognized.

Man, I bet Wolken is perturbed.

“I was disappointed but it was kind of short-lived,” she said.

Shows what I know. Pressed for juicy quotes about her anger, Wolken instead offered praise for Fatherley and Smith and maintained she was focused on having a good summer playing for the Olathe Rockets Gold squad. She didn’t have any conspiracy theories or hold any grudges.

“I’m over it,” she said.

Now that’s a real sign of a great athlete.

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