BENTON -- Kelly High School, the reigning Class 2 state softball champion, placed three senior standouts, pitcher Whitney Beggs, shortstop Kelly Essner and third baseman Jessica Burnett, on the all-state first team.
Another Lady Hawk senior, center fielder Rachel Kline, was named to the second team.
Beggs led Kelly pitchers with a 13-3 record, including both wins at the state tournament. She pitched 125 innings with six shutouts and a stingy 0.61 ERA. Beggs also was an important cog in the Lady Hawk offense with a .344 average and eight RBIs.
"Softball requires a lot of focus both defensively and offensively and Whitney has always been able to focus on her job as a pitcher and remain calm," said Kelly coach Rhonda Ratledge. "She did an excellent job pitching her way out of jams and, offensively, was able to move runners around when needed."
Essner, a tremendous all-round athlete, covered the shortstop position flawlessly, while hitting .273, driving in 14 runs and stealing 25 bases.
As a back-up pitcher, she compiled a 10-3 record in 72 innings pitched with an ERA of 0.67.
"What an athlete," said Ratledge. "She's quick on the bags, quick at shortstop, smart on the mound and, putting those qualities together through 30 games, gave her a perfect fielding average (1.000) for the season, a school record. The team and myself will definitely miss this senior."
Burnett demonstrated her athletic prowess and selflessness with a for-the-good-of-the-team switch to third base.
Burnett, with a fielding average of .909, teamed with Essner to make the left side of the Kelly infield nearly impregnable. She hit .340 with 13 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. Said Ratledge, "To be an all-state centerfielder last year and then be an all-state infielder this year shows how versatile and what an athlete Jessica is. This is an asset every coach wants on their team. Offensively, she put the ball in play every game with only 3 strikeouts the entire season. She made the other team earn that out."
Kline was usually in the middle of any Kelly rallies as she had the team's highest on-base percentage at .412. She hit .300 with 10 RBIs and 17 steals.
"Rachel is a smart and aggressive player both in center field and at the plate," said Ratledge. "She has a good eye and is able to focus and put the ball in play whether she's hitting or bunting."
Ratledge, who won her second state title, said, "I still get chills listening to the state games on CD and can replay in my mind every out of every inning. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity once again to coach a state championship team, have an excellent season going 25-6 and have four all-state players."