2017 Corner Conference Softball Player of the Year Clara Schaaf led the league in both batting average and steals this season but it's her often overlooked runs scored that paints the most accurate picture of how well she has honed her craft.
In 91 plate appearances this season, Schaaf amassed 36 runs. That works out to fewer than three times at the plate for every run scored for the Fremont-Mills speedster.
Schaaf bats from the left side of the plate, despite being right handed. "I started out batting right handed when I played little league softball in Tabor," she said. "Finally I tried batting left handed. Slap hitting came more easily to me"
Schaaf is a prototype slap-hitter. Slappers are exceptionally fast runners who bat left handed because the batters box on the left side is one step closer to first base. They try to make solid contact and hit ground balls to the left side of the infield, forcing opposing fielders to make an extremely clean defensive play to throw her out at first. That is if the defense can get to the ball at all.
"I didn't worry about where the ball went," said Schaaf. "If I hit it hard it had a chance to get through the infield. If they got to it they still had to throw me out at first."
Her .551 batting average led the league, and while all but one of her hits this season were singles, things rarely ended at first base. She racked up 46 stolen bases this season.
"I'm fast and I've worked really hard to become fast," said Schaaf. "Of course I am going to use it to my advantage. It gets me on base and once I'm there i know coach Fichter is going to send me if the next base is open."
Her on base percentage was .611 when you factor in her 11 walks on the season, compared to only four strikeouts. She just didn't swing at bad pitchers.
"I don't like to take a lot of pitches. I like to swing the bat." said Schaaf. "But by the end of the season East Mills and Sidney, especially Sidney, were shifting and adjusting and making things a lot tougher for me. That's what good teams do, though. They adjust. So I try to do the same thing by taking more pitches and hitting away from the players they shift."
In the varsity lineup since eighth grade, Schaaf has 110 career hits after her 44 this season. This tied her for the league lead with Camryn McClintock of Sidney. Schaaf's bat and speed have made her a regular in the F-M lineup over her four seasons so far.
She has had to learn several defensive positions. "I played all three outfield positions my first two seasons and last year even shortstop for a few games," said Schaaf. "This year was mostly second base. I feel right at home there."
Still, despite her considerable array of skills, when it comes right down to it games are won by total runs scored. No one in the Corner Conference scored runs at a faster pace than Clara Schaaf this season. When you compare runs to at bats, no one was even close.
"It's something I take pride in," said Schaaf. "Sometimes people point out that I am a good SLAP hitter. I think I'm a good hitter, who just happens to slap. It gets me on base and I score runs and at the end of the day that's what any team needs."
2016 - Joni Laughlin, Fremont-Mills
2015 - Sara Skalberg, Essex
2014 - Devin Laughlin, East Mills
2013 - Kendall Fichter, Fremont-Mills