Physically and mentally prepared for her varsity softball debut this past spring, Three Rivers freshman Kali Heivilin promptly made her mark on a program that enjoyed a load of success.
And in a year that featured a ton of talent in St. Joseph County, she stood out above the rest as our staff pick for Player of the Year after belting a single-season school-record 18 home runs. The Wildcats finished with 53 homers, which was the most in one year for Three Rivers. On top of 37-4 final record, the Wildcats will look back on 2018 with fondness after claiming a Wolverine Conference championship — its first league title — and a district crown, which ended a 12-year drought.
“I had a year that I never expected to have,” Heivilin, a Division 2 First Team All-State selection, said. “A lot of it had to do with the confidence I had from my teammates. A lot of that had to do with our team chemistry. Our team bonded extremely well. We all had become very close and like family. That had a lot to do with our performance throughout the year.”
The Wildcats went 18-0 in Wolverine play while averaging over 11 runs per game. Within the group there was plenty of friendly competition and support as several other Wildcats put up big numbers. Amy Jo Tavernier posted 11 homeruns and Kylee Nash finished with nine. Heivilin led the team with 72 RBI, but five other players finished with 28 or more.
Heivilin hit .508 for the year with a 1.158 slugging percentage. She added 14 doubles, 5 triples and a team-best 18 stolen bases.
“We had a lot of fun with that throughout the season,” Heivilin said of the competition with her teammates. “Whenever someone would get a home run or someone would have a good play, we’d be like, ‘Who’s next?’ When I had the confidence, it made me know what I’m capable of doing and that I can perform at this level.”
Heivilin, a powerlifter and avid CrossFit participant, felt the core strength and overall speed from those activities contributed significantly to her eye-popping first season. And along with the guidance she received from teammates, she credited Three Rivers coach Kendra Kutz for helping her adapt to varsity.
“I really enjoy playing for her,” Heivilin said. “She is a coach that will push you; she will tell you what you’re doing wrong and she won’t sugarcoat it. That’s something I really like. She’s a really good coach and has the heart in the sport. She really pushes me to be my best and I love having her as a coach.”
Winning the fan vote was Constantine senior pitcher Mercedes Cole, who captured over 52 percent of the total votes. Cole, a Division 3 All-State Honorable Mention, finished her final year for the Falcons with a 22-2 record, 1.19 ERA and 244 strikeouts. She added a pair of homers, 24 RBI and scored 39 runs. Cole hit .390 for the year and added 15 stolen bases.