Flint and Lauko led Whitefish Bay softball team to best season ever
Both earn NOW All-Suburban
If one wants to get a good look at the progress the once-moribund Whitefish Bay girls softball team has made in the last five years, one only has to look at recent all-conference and all-state lists.
Or you could just look at left and centerfield and imagine it as in the old Joe Jackson axiom, "the place where triples go to die."
Because that's where junior two-time NOW All-Suburban centerfielder Anna Lauko and newly-named NOW All-Suburban senior leftfielder Amelia Flint reside for the Blue Dukes, who turned in a program-best 14-12 record this year, including the first two victories over long-time North Shore nemesis Homestead in team history.
"I'd like them (opposing runners) to challenge me (her arm) but it just doesn't happen," the two-time, third-team All-State selection Lauko said with a chuckle.
"People still don't talk about us a lot in school but the interest is starting to grow," said Flint.
And that is a good thing in the eyes of hard-working coach Jessica Middendorf, who has built the Blue Dukes into a respectable program around these two stellar talents the last few years after years of struggle.
"Anna Lauko is easily the top fielder in the Whitefish Bay program and in the (North Shore) conference," said Middendorf. "She is extremely fast and aggressive in the outfield, not afraid to lay out and dive for a ball just out of reach.
"Along with great range defensively, she has a strong and accurate throw to all bases. In conference play, Anna was flawless in the outfield without a single error. I would be confident putting her at any other fielding position for our team, but she has been so valuable stealing base hits away in the outfield."
Lauko, who is honing her skills this summer playing for the Pride of the Midwest club team, can run like the wind (23-of -24 in stolen base attempts), has great ability to beat out infield hits and has a highly refined ability to bunt, all of which makes her a deadly lead-off hitter.
Much to the chagrin of opponents, she feels she has gotten better since her breakout year of 2013.
"I definitely think I've gotten better at hitting (led the team with a .533 mark this year)," she said. "It surprised me a little. I was named a captain this year and I think I've also gotten better at showing everyone a (good) example.
Defensively, she feels she has picked up the pace in more subtle ways, such as in picking up grounders and making quick throws to nab or cut off runners.
"I admit, there have been a couple of really cool plays this year," she said with a laugh.
She noted that the improvement of Flint off to her right has made her life much easier.
"I'm able to look over to her and talk to her and we're able to work as a team," said Lauko of Flint. "She's an amazing leader who really helps keep everyone together."
Lauko, like most everyone else in the Blue Duke program, takes great pride in how far the team has come in recent years.
"It was amazing beating Homestead this season," she said. "We've always kind of battled against them, but were never able to pull one off until this year. Now we're starting to see the results of all our hard work."
Flint, who was the team's clean-up hitter, agrees.
"Definitely beating Homestead was the highlight of the season," she said. "That was just huge for us. We've also become a lot closer off the field as a team and that really helped too."
Flint, another Bay co-captain who also plays for Pride of the Midwest in the summer, said listening to coaches and playing club softball has really helped her improve over the course of the last few seasons.
She led the North Shore in RBIs (36) and led the team in walks (22), doubles (17) and on-base percentage (.616). Flint noted even though the statistics didn't always bear it out, she did feel she improved greatly defensively.
Flinit also agreed with Lauko that having the two of them side-by-side in the outfield really helped make the Blue Dukes a better team.
"She (Lauko) is such a good competitor," said Flint, "and she also was a really good motivator."
Middendorf said that Flint's arrival on the scene really helped the team improve.
"Defensively, she has been a solid outfielder for us over the last two years," said Middendorf. "The strength of her arm has kept many runners from scoring or advancing as base runners. Her offensive contributions this season (helped) lead us to our best season ever."
Flint is headed off to UW-La Crosse, where she will likely play ball on the intramural club level as she will likely major in chemistry.
She will leave behind a program that has grown with her. Bay won only four games her freshman year in 2011 and seven each of the last two seasons before this year's real breakthrough.
"It's definitely been a lot of fun seeing the team improve the last few years," she said.
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