New Berlin Eisenhower's Katie Lang made several people in the Woodland Conference happy last month — because she graduated.
The talented Lang was a standout softball player with the Lions since joining the team four years ago. She was a NOW All-Suburban selection for the third year in a row and went a step further this year.
Lang is the NOW All-Suburban Player of the Year this season, being the best of the best from the 21 teams that NOW covers.
When she was told of the honor, the modest Lang had a typical response.
"Gosh, I guess I didn't know how much of an honor it was," she said. "I didn't expect it. I'm more surprised than anything."
Another Lions championship
Lang led the Lions to another championship (8-1) and a 16-4 overall record. She finished with a 14-2 record, a 0.52 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 95 innings, an average of 11 strikeouts per seven innings, two no-hitters and six shutouts this season.
Lang felt that her biggest strength on the mound was her control.
"I worked on my control a lot," she said. "I'd rather allow a homer than a walk. If I walk someone my defense can do nothing to help out."
She was also a threat at the plate as she batted cleanup, hitting .377 with 22 runs, five doubles, two homers and 19 RBIs. When shortstop Katie Schlegel pitched, Lang moved to shortstop, a position she never played before "but thought it was fun."
But Lang did a lot more off the field, according to coach Jeff Setz and sophomore first baseman Stephanie Lombardo, also a member of this year's NOW All-Suburban Team.
"You can talk all you want about her talent on the field," Setz said many times. "But what she did off the field was even more important. She had excellent leadership skills. She was always ready to help someone."
A leader for her team
Lombardo agreed with her coach's assessment.
"Katie was just a really, really good leader," Lombardo said. "She was always cheering us, motivating us to be better. I wanted to be like her. She has always been my idol. She worked hard, you wanted to work just as hard."
Lang was excited about this year's team going into the season.
"We had a lot a lot of seniors, so it wasn't going to be a rebuilding process," she said. "Overall it was a great way to go out at Eisenhower — besides losing to West twice, we did pretty good."
Despite losing to the crosstown Vikings, Lang always had the respect of Vikings coach Corey Scheel.
"Katie Lang took out us out of our game," Scheel said. "She was a great player. She is going Division I for a reason. She's really improved a lot.
"She's smart. She worked at it. She is a very very good kid. You have to like what she does. She carries herself well. Anyone would like to have her. As a Player of the Year candidate, she is deserving of that."
Heading to SD next
Lang will be taking her assortment of pitches — fastball, change-up, drop ball, curve ball and screw ball — to the next level, attending South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D.
Lang, a talented tennis player and an even better basketball player, liked her busy schedule.
"It kept me busy, three sports instead of just one," she said. "It helped me focus. It helped me with my school work.
"With softball I always had a love-hate relationship. Basketball gave me a break."
But she knew for a long time she preferred softball.
"I actually knew from the beginning, like in fourth-fifth grade, that I liked softball better. I always knew I wanted to play softball.
Lang will player summer ball on the Silverhawks team out of Illinois. She said it is better competition and she enjoys the travel.
Looking back Lang talked about what was most important to her high school career.
"I had so many great friends," she said. "The memories. I learned so much and I'm thankful for the experience. It helped me get where I am now."