2024 Illinois all-area softball team: Mix of speed and power leads to incredible success

Ava Wombles

Pleasant Hill junior outfielder Ava Wombles led the area with a .570 batting average this spring and headlines the 2024 Muddy River Sports all-area softball team. | Shane Hulsey photo

QUINCY — Speed and power.

It could be used to describe both the offensive aptitude of the players comprising the all-area softball team and the ability of those in the pitcher’s circle. Of the 15 players selected, 10 hit .400 or better and two hit .500 or better.

The pitchers were just as dominant as three hurlers combined for more than 600 strikeouts and each had an ERA of 1.39 or lower.

Here is a look at the 2024 Muddy River Sports all-area softball team:

Grace Henry, Catcher, Junior, Pittsfield

The Saukees’ backstop proved to be a force at the plate as well as behind it. Henry hit .438 with 32 hits, six home runs and 34 RBIs to go along with a .500 batting average with runners in scoring position. Defensively, she committed just three errors in 184 chances, compiling a .984 fielding percentage.

Jade Peebles, First base, Senior, Pleasant Hill

A defensive anchor on the infield, Peebles earned second-team Class 1A all-state honors as the No. 3 hitter in a lineup that won 26 games. She finished with a .423 batting average, a 474 on-base percentage, 44 hits, 15 doubles, four triples, one home run, 23 RBIs and 36 runs scored as the Wolves reached the sectional championship game.

Paige Kurfman, Second base, Junior, Quincy High School

The second-team All-Western Big 6 Conference selection put together a 10-game hitting streak in the middle of the season and ended up hitting .375 with 32 runs scored, 31 RBIs and 22 walks. She had seven doubles, one triple and one home run, while fielding at a .980 clip.

Quincy Notre Dame third baseman Brooke Boden | Matt Schuckman photo

Brooke Boden, Third base, Senior, Quincy Notre Dame

One of the Raiders’ bona fide leaders, Boden proved to be a big bat in the middle of the lineup and solid defender at the hot corner. She hit .419 with 19 RBIs, 14 walks and only six strikeouts in 93 plate appearances. She did not commit an error in 31 chances defensively.

Megan Kirby, Shortstop, Sophomore, Payson Seymour

The Indians were one of only three teams in the area to win a regional title, and Kirby played a significant role in making that happen. She hit .472 with a .588 on-base percentage while compiling seven doubles, five triples and five home runs. Kirby scored 40 runs and stole 24 bases.

Ava Wombles, Outfield, Junior, Pleasant Hill

Wombles not only was the best leadoff hitter in the area. She was arguably the best hitter. The Wolves’ table setter hit .570 with a .653 on-base percentage and 20 extra-base hits — nine doubles, five triples and six home runs. The Saint Louis University commit scored 47 runs and drove in 36 as the Wolves averaged more than nine runs per game.

Quincy High School center fielder Avary Hlubek | Matt Schuckman photo

Avary Hlubek, Outfield, Sophomore, Quincy High School

The best power hitter in the area belted 10 home runs to go with nine doubles and three triples in earning first-team All-Western Big 6 Conference honors. Hlubek drove in 36 runs, scored 39 runs and struck out just seven times in 130 plate appearances, while hitting .439.

Rebecca Neupauer, Outfield, Senior, Pittsfield

Neupauer went out with a bang, collecting 11 hits in 15 at-bats in her final five games. She finished the season batting .458 with a .656 on-base percentage. The University of Illinois-Springfield signee had five triples and three home runs and was arguably one of the most dangerous players on the basepaths with 48 runs scored and 42 stolen bases.

Caitlin Bunte, Pitcher, Junior, Quincy Notre Dame

Bunte was as good in the circle as she was at the plate. Over the course of 18 starts, 22 appearances and 128.2 innings, she put together a 16-3 record with a 1.20 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP as she struck out 219 and walked 14. Bunte also hit .500 with 15 doubles, two home runs and 32 runs scored.

West Hancock pitcher Jordyn Climer | Matt Schuckman photo

Jordyn Climer, Pitcher, Senior, West Hancock

Understanding how to use her defense as well as getting on top of hitters made Climer effective. The first-team All-West Central Conference selection worked 115.2 innings over 20 games, compiling a 1.39 ERA with 112 strikeouts and 35 walks.

McKinley Lowe, Pitcher, Senior, Pleasant Hill

Tendinitis in her right elbow didn’t keep Lowe from showing up in the biggest games. The 2024 Player of the Year fashioned a 1.29 ERA over 141.1 innings and 25 games, compiling a 20-5 record. She had a 0.68 WHIP with 271 strikeouts and 15 walks. Lowe also hit .407 with eight doubles, three home runs and 30 RBIs.

Rachel McMullen, Utility, Junior, Western

The Wildcats’ backbone defensively at catcher, McMullen hit .396 with a .517 on-base percentage and just four strikeouts in 60 plate appearances. The University of Illinois-Springfield commit walked 12 times as well. Defensively, she committed just two errors and threw out six would-be base stealers.

Camp Point Central shortstop Lauren Miller | Matt Schuckman photo

Lauren Miller, Utility, Junior, Camp Point Central

The multi-sport standout posted a .364 batting average with a .576 slugging percentage, six doubles, two home runs, 18 RBIs and 20 runs scored. The Class 1A second-team all-state selection also made eight pitching appearances and had a 2.10 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 20 innings.

Makenna Winchell, Utility, Senior, Pleasant Hill

One of the state’s best pitchers had the luxury of throwing to one of the best catchers. Winchell was solid offensively, hitting .312 with six home runs, 28 RBIs and 23 runs scored, but she was a stone wall defensively. She earned third-team Class 1A all-state honors.

Ivy Winter, Utility, Freshman, Quincy High School

Winter burst onto the scene in a big way. The third baseman stepped into the Blue Devils’ leadoff position in the second game of the season and never left. The first-team All-Western Big 6 Conference selection hit .468 with 38 runs scored and 25 walks to go with six doubles and three triples.

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