Hannibal High School junior Samantha Zielinski and sophomore Olivia Pfeifer were named to the North Central Missouri Conference All-Conference today (Wednesday) as voted upon by NCMC head coaches.
Three pitchers and 17 position players were selected, and coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Pfeifer, a sophomore shortstop a two-time all-conference choice, led the Lady Pirates with a robust .600 batting average, 48 hits (in 80 at bats), 35 runs scored and 28 stolen bases. She batted .641 in conference play.
Pfeifer was expected to be a vital part of the Hannibal program after a breakout season in 2014, and didn't disappoint. Lady Pirates head coach Kendra Murphy said the selection was an expected achievement for her young star, as she's played lights out from game one.
“I was anxious to see how much she would improve from last year, because I knew she was going to improve,” Murphy said. “I really think the biggest difference I've seen this year, was that a lot of her hits last year were bunts. This year, she has less than 10 bunts. It's all been putting the ball in play, and making the defense throw her out. And that's something the opposing defenses haven't been able to do.
Murphy said she expects Pfeifer to grow into herself over the next two seasons, possible turning 44 singles into doubles and triples.
“As a senior, she's going to be scary good,” Murphy said.
Pfeifer said nothing has really changed for her between her freshman and sophomore campaigns, stating that her numbers are a byproduct of her commitment to her teammates.
“Whenever I'm playing, I just try to do my best for the team, and always play the best I can,” Pfeifer said. “I just go out there with the same mentality every game that we play for the team.”
Pfeifer added that she was excited to see Zielinski share all-conference honors with her, saying that her teammate was responsible for a lot of her runs scored.
“She deserved it a lot,” Pfeifer said. “I know that any time I got on base, she would move me over with a (sacrifice) bunt or drive me in. I knew any time I got on base, I would score because of her.”
Zielinski earned her first selection after hitting .306 in the regular season. She was even more impressive in conference contests, where she batted .425. Her 21 runs batted in led the team, and her 23 runs scored were second behind Pfeifer. Murphy said an increase in opportunities allowed Zielinski, a third baseman, to thrive.
“She has had the opportunity to hit away, or hit in big situations this season, and not only has she gotten those opportunities, she's come through,” Murphy said. “And against conference, with the pitching we see, conference coaches know how good of a hitter she is. I think her conference numbers speak volumes. I don't think her overall average is an accurate representation of just how big of a contributor she was at the plate for us this season.”
Zielinski, who has started since her freshmen season, said that seeing years of improvement pay off for her made today's announcement a special one.
“I'm pretty excited, because I've worked really hard for this,” Zielinski said. “I just like being able to come through for my team when it's really needed.”
Like Pfeifer, Zielinski was thankful to see her teammate named to the NCMC squad as well.
“I'm actually really excited, because without her, I probably wouldn't have had as many RBIs as I did,” Zielinski said. “When Olivia gets up to the plate, I know that she's probably going to get on base, steal a couple of bases and give me a chance to drive her in.”
Hannibal, 11-12 on the season, finished fifth out of seven teams in the NCMC with a 5-7 record.