There is a year-old newspaper clipping that has hung in the bedroom of Becker junior pitcher Kadee Vesledahl all season.
It features the 2012 Times’ All-Area softball team headlined by player of the year Karli Persson of Albany, who now plays at Bethel.
The article was placed there by Vesledahl to provide herself with a daily reminder of one of her goals this spring, following in Persson’s footsteps.
“I hung it there at the beginning of the season just to remind myself of how hard you have to work to get an honor like that,” Vesledahl said.
“That was my individual goal this year.”
Well Kadee, consider that goal accomplished.
After posting a record of 15-4 with a 1.27 ERA and recording 125 strikeouts this weather-hampered spring season, Vesledahl has been named the 2013 Times’ All-Area player of the year.
“I definitely trained harder this past offseason than I ever have before and I came out more prepared right away,” said Vesledahl, a four-time all-conference pick who batted .413 with 21 RBI. She earned Class 2A All-State first-team honors and led the 19-5 Bulldogs to a berth in the Section 5-2A final.
“I felt faster and stronger than I did before.”
Vesledahl is joined on the All-Area team by senior teammate Janae Myers, Eden Valley-Watkins senior Holly Schumacher and junior Jamie Scherer, who helped lead the Eagles to a third-place finish at the Class A state tournament.
Also on the team are: Paynesville senior Megan Schaefer; Royalton junior Jacquline Nichols; Little Falls senior Jamie Jenks; Milaca junior Natalie Bernard; Rocori junior Kassidy Klaphake; St. Cloud Apollo senior Liz Lowery; Foley senior Ashley Thell and Kimball freshman Lauren Libbesmeier. The All-Area team is selected by the Times’ staff in consultation with area softball coaches.
“Starting at the end of last season she really started to step up and show us why she deserved to be our No. 1 starter,” Becker coach Jason Baune said of Vesledahl.
“She’s improved her consistency and she really understands how to attack batters a lot more. She understands her strengths and she knows what she still needs to work on. She’s become a more complete player.”
Vesledahl is the second Becker pitcher to earn the award, joining Kristen Fah who was named All-Area player of the year from 2008-10. Bulldogs shortstop Tessa Foth also earned the honor in 1998. Fah actually served as a mentor to a young Vesledahl during the former’s senior season.
“We trained together and it was just great to be taken under her wing,” Vesledahl said. “When I was younger, I really looked up to her. And she helped guide me to where I needed to be.”
Vesledahl comes from a softball family. Her mother Judee was Becker’s head coach before Baune and played at Bemidji State. Though Kadee also plays volleyball, softball is her first love.
“There’s no doubt about it,” said Vesledahl, whose younger brother Casey plays football and baseball and wrestles in Becker. “I grew up around it with my mom being the head coach. I was always going to games.”
Vesledahl, who has already decided to play softball at St. Cloud State, is about to enter her second year as a member of the Minnesota Sting elite travel team.
“That’s helped a lot,” Vesledahl said. “You’re playing with some of the best players in the state and you travel all across the U.S. Playing at a high level like that all last summer made a big difference coming into this season. It made me a lot more prepared.”
That preparation helped Vesledahl accomplish one goal this season, earning player of the year honors. But another goal remains, leading her team to the state tournament.
Becker has fallen in the section finals the past two seasons and Vesledahl said helping her team get over that hump will be her primary focus.
“To have another successful season and finally get to state, that would be an amazing final season,” Vesledahl said.
“It would be the icing on the cake.”