Flame Elite 09 Captures Music City Softball Nationals


Published on July 9 2024 1:42 pm
Last Updated on July 11 2024 12:38 pm
Written by Millie Lange

The Flame Elite 09 captured the Music City Nationals softball championship.

Music City National champions . . . that’s what the Flame Elite 09 softball team accomplished this season.

Coach Kenny Koenig talked about his squad and winning the Music City Nationals with a 7-1 record.

“We played league and tournaments this season,” said Koenig. “This year we didn’t start until after high school. We started the second weekend of June and have played every weekend since then.

“We went to Mattoon, Chicago, Champaign, Nashville and this past weekend we went to O’Fallon.”

Members of the team include Sadie Vineyard (St. Anthony H.S.), Kera Hartke (Teutopolis H.S.), Aubrey Poe (Effingham J.H.), Julia Schultz (St. Anthony H.S.), Kinli Michl (Dieterich H.S.), Avery Herschberger (Arthur Christian), Keagyn Koenig (Effingham. J.H.), Kaiya Seessengood (Richland County H.S.), Maci Hayes (Effingham H.S.), Kinzie Cleland (Tuscola H.S.), Kylie Harminson (Effingham H.S.) and Gieah Schlanser (Effingham H.S.).

“Sadie is our third baseman,” said Coach Koenig. “She’s really a good contact hitter. She finds a way to get a good at-bat.

“Kera came in as an infielder but we needed an outfielder, so she moved to left field. She made a few great plays in championship games. She threw a baserunner out. She hit well for us, .500 in Nationals.

“Aubrey was mainly our first baseman but also got some innings on the mound. She gave us some power at the end of the lineup.

“Julia played third base and hit in the middle of the order. She played a good third base and was a big important bat in the middle of the order.

“Kinli played short and caught a few games for us this summer. She was out every day at shortstop. She hit .415 all year and was an important glove.

“Avery caught and came in to play second base. She was new to our team this year. She stepped up big for us and hit .393 all year. She played great defensively. In Nationals we moved her up and she hit well for us.

“Keagyn was pretty much our go-to catcher. She also played a little bit of first base. She was the power in the middle and led the team in home runs and was right there in RBIs. She hit .422 all year for us.

“Kaiya was one of our pitchers. She threw great. She ended up with a 2.6 ERA. She played a little shortstop. She was our two-hitter and hit .345 all year and had two home runs. She really had a consistent bat all year and was great on the bases.

“Maci played an awesome right field for us. She made several great plays at Nationals. She hit last for us all year but ended up being our best hitter at .450. We moved her up to leadoff and she hit .500 at Nationals.

“Kinzi was new to our team this year. She came over with Herschberger and was our other pitcher. She ended up with a 3.27 ERA and her bat up until Nationals was our second best hitter. She pitched excellent at Nationals and had a few timely hits when we needed them.

“Kylie played a little outfield. She was our team morale lead and was the team spirit that every squad needs.

“Gieah played centerfield for us all year. She made some good plays in the gaps. She threw a runner out at home. We shifted her to third at Nationals and she really succeeded for us.”

Coach Koenig talked about his team overall.

“Our strengths include we are a good hitting team. We have solid contact to all fields. We don’t strike out a whole lot but put the bat on the ball. Our defense and pitching is really good. I would say the one area we need to work on would be our baserunning and our lack of team speed. When you put the ball in play and have runners, that’s kind of an afterthought.

“We have already played 29 games but we’re going to play another weekend so it will be around 35 games for the summer season. In the fall we play 22 games.”

To reach the Nationals, a team must participate in tournaments and have points to qualify for Nationals.

“You have to play in so many tournaments and have so many points to qualify for Nationals,” said Koenig. “Teams can go and they accept you and you can just sign up but most times you have to qualify.”

The squad competed at Nashville, Tenn. in the Music City Nationals and were the team champions with a 7-1 record.

“That was a huge accomplishment for these girls,” said Koenig. “Just going through the Nationals there was a list of good teams. A team from Maryland was No. 2 in the state and there were several teams from around Tennessee that were No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Two teams from New York were No. 1 and No. 3.

“So going into the tournament like that, 90 percent are A teams so winning it is a huge accomplishment.

“Sam Vineyard started helping us,” said Koenig. “It wouldn’t be the same without him. Sam and I have coached about four or five years.”