Some softball enthusiasts consider Megan Kleist to be the best high school player to come out of this area in decades.
The talented Kimberly infielder is already in Oregon as she prepares to begin her career as a member of the nationally ranked University of Oregon softball team.
A shoulder injury prevented Kleist, one of the state’s best pitchers, from entering the circle this season. She moved to the infield and led the area in batting average (.607) and was one of the state’s top power hitters with seven home runs and 31 RBIs
She helped lead the Papermakers back to the state tournament and her overall excellence on the field led to her being named Post-Crescent Media’s athlete of the year in softball.
Q: Your team had another fantastic postseason run, reaching the WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinals. What will you remember most about this season?
A: I will remember how much we have grown as a team. All of us really focused on playing for each other this year and picking one another up after a tough loss and having their back no matter what the outcome. We have pretty much been playing together for four years now and I think that really showed as our 2015 season was underway. We knew each others’ strengths and weaknesses and knew when we had to really put our game faces on. Going off of that, I will remember our sectional final game against Kaukauna. Each year, they are one of our toughest opponents and in that game Abby (Menting) really came out and did her job on the mound, at the plate and behind the dish. I’m super proud of the way our girls played together in that game. I think that was one of our best games of the year.
Q: You battled a shoulder injury for most of the season. What was it like not being able to pitch the entire season after leading Kimberly to the D1 state title in 2014 after posting a 16-2 record with a 0.89 ERA?
A: I’m not going to lie. It was really hard for each game to go by without running out to the mound picking up that game ball knowing the game is in my hands. It’s my favorite position because you have that constant pressure each pitch. I found it really hard to stay positive after each doctor visit knowing I had to go to practice to report to Mr. Weyers that I was still unable to pitch. It would have been nice to finish out my high school career doing what I love, but I’m glad I still had the chance to play at all. I was still able to play second and hit, and if I wasn’t pitching, I knew I had to back my pitchers up the best I could playing where the team needed me.
Q: You and your family have already moved to Oregon as you prepare to play collegiately for the University of Oregon. How excited are you to start this next phase of your life?
A: I am extremely excited to start this next chapter in my life. I get to go play at the highest level for collegiate softball every game, which gives that pressure to play to the best of your ability each time you step onto that field. On top of softball, I get a great education, a great college town atmosphere, great coaches and an amazing view.
Q: What position will you be playing at Oregon? What are some of your expectations?
A: Well, I was recruited to pitch, but I’m willing to go wherever the team needs me to be. My expectations are for the University of Oregon to push me and train me to be the best player and teammate I can be so that together, we can be successful and reach our ultimate goal of winning the College World Series.
Q: Looking back at your career in Kimberly, what was the most memorable moment for you?
A: My most memorable moment of my career would easily be winning the 2014 state championship. Pitching 15 innings is something not a lot of pitchers can say they did. The looks on our girls’ faces is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. The crowd was loud, we got to finish out on Goodman Diamond under the lights, and we came home with the trophy. There is not much more I could have asked for, and it is just something I will never forget.
This and that
Q: If you had a million dollars, what would be the first three things you would buy?
A: A nice car, a nice house by a lake and a jet ski.
Q: When you open the refrigerator, what’s the No. 1 thing you hope to see?
Q: What are you looking to study at Oregon? Have you decided on a major?
A: I am looking to study kinesiology and then continue my schooling to become a physical therapist.
A few favorites
TV show: “Castle.”
Musical artist: Tim McGraw.
Pro athlete: Cat Osterman.
Book: “The Fault in Our Stars.”
Restaurant: Red Robin.
Childhood toy: A baseball and glove.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or email@example.com; on Twitter @PCRicardo
Positions: Second base/pitcher.
Family: Parents, Mike and Brenda; brother, Nate.
Notable: Was a first-team all-Fox Valley Association selection. … Led the area with a .607 batting average, totaling 51 hits in 84 at-bats. … Led area with seven home runs and also had 31 RBI. … Also scored 39 runs and had 13 doubles. … Was a first-team Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association all-state pick. … Will play softball collegiately at the University of Oregon.