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Seefeldt, Mueller gave Huskies a one-two punch

Hale sluggers named to All-Suburban team

West Allis Hale’s heavy hitters Rachel Seefeldt, left, and Sarah Mueller, who have formed a powerful one-two combination in the Huskies’ batting order, are members of this year’s NOW All-Suburban Softball Team with Seefeldt being the player of the year. The duo were the catalysts in helping Hale finish 17-7 overall and second in conference play.

West Allis Hale’s heavy hitters Rachel Seefeldt, left, and Sarah Mueller, who have formed a powerful one-two combination in the Huskies’ batting order, are members of this year’s NOW All-Suburban Softball Team with Seefeldt being the player of the year. The duo were the catalysts in helping Hale finish 17-7 overall and second in conference play. Photo By Jerry Luterman

July 2, 2012

West Allis - Rachel Seefeldt and Sarah Mueller have always been able to hit.

Not just for average, although they certainly can do that, but for power.

They can put up numbers that are simply not seen often in high school softball.

This past season, Seefeldt and Mueller teamed to give West Allis Hale one of the most devastating one-two offensive punches in the area, if not in the entire state.

They combined for 22 home runs and 83 runs batted in as the heart of a Husky batting order that averaged 8.3 runs and tallied at least 10 runs on 10 different occasions this year.

They both posted on-base percentages well above .500 and slugging averages above 1.000, and they struck out only seven times between them.

"The duo of Rachel batting third and Sarah batting fourth was like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder," Hale head coach Kay Nichols said. "When those two are together, they are unstoppable."

Both were recognized for their offensive prowess with spots on the 2012 NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Team - Seefeldt as the player of the year and Mueller at utility.

Both players developed their hitting - specifically their power strokes - years ago.

Seefeldt, a junior, was such a solid hitter that she was able to spend six years in the West Allis Little League as the lone girl on a boys baseball team.

She succeeded in the league, but when she reached the age of 12, her family realized that she would not be able to play baseball in high school, so she switched to club softball.

"We knew as a girl, I could not go anywhere in baseball, and we thought softball would be more fun," she said.

Players recognize family

She credits her brother, Eric, for helping her gain her power capabilities.

"I have always been a bigger girl, and I wasn't that fast when I was younger," she recalled. "Eric took me to batting cages and pushed me to keep getting stronger."

Seefeldt recently said a tearful goodbye to Eric, who is in the U.S. Army and reported to Fort Benning in Georgia for 10 weeks of basic training, followed by six more weeks of work as a cavalry scout.

Eric's valuable assistance helped Seefeldt become the dominant player she is today - along with a proper approach at the plate.

"I try to hit it in the gaps," she said. "I also want to position the ball. My coaches have told me that when I get a good pitch, I should just try to drive it.

"You can't think home run, because you will just whiff every time."

Mueller, similarly, had help from her family on her way to becoming a power hitter.

"I have had (the power stroke) for a while," said Mueller, a sophomore. "My dad, Robin, helped me a lot. I just feel comfortable hitting."

Coming up big

Nichols is happy to have both players on her team - one that finished 17-7 and 11-3 in conference, one game behind league champion Menomonee Falls.

"Sarah and Rachel's stats were almost mirror images," Nichols said. "Sarah and Rachel are wonderful players to watch.

"They both came up big in big games."

Nichols cited the May 17 game against Falls, when her Huskies were trailing big early (6-0 after three innings and 7-1 after four) only to win, 9-8, in seven innings thanks to the contributions of Seefeldt and Mueller.

Seefeldt hit a grand slam in the team's five-run fifth to get the Huskies within two at 8-6.

And Mueller added a three-run long ball in the seventh to put the Huskies on top. Mueller, who pitched the entire game, then closed the door on Falls in the bottom of the seventh.

"When we were down, both girls came up with home runs to help us take the lead and win," Nichols said.

Becoming team's ace

Their hitting was a given coming into the season, but both Seefeldt and Mueller had to adjust to new defensive positions.

Mueller had the biggest transition, going from first base to the mound in replacing 2011 All-Suburban choice Ashley Kluck.

To make things even more challenging, Mueller was the lone pitcher on the Hale roster.

"I pretty much knew (that I would pitch) after last season," Mueller said. "Ashley was a senior and our younger players were not ready to pitch. Last summer, I went to our field and pitched a lot, and I attended a pitching camp."

She admitted to having plenty of nerves when she first took the mound this spring.

"This was the first time I was the main pitcher for a team, and I had no one backing me up," she said.

After struggling with her control in early games, Mueller gradually improved as a pitcher over the season and finished 14-4 with a respectable 3.76 earned-run average.

"It was just the repetition and pitching every day," she said. "I was happy with what I did for my first year, but I know there is a lot of room for improvement. I need to develop more pitches."

Nichols was pleased with Mueller's progress on the mound.

"She was our most talented pitcher this year and stepped up to accept the responsibility," Nichols said. "She has never been primarily a pitcher before but accepted the challenge and was a big reason for our team's success.

"It took her a little while to get into her groove, but she was pitching very well by the end of the season."

Another successful change

Seefeldt, meanwhile, switched from third base to shortstop to bolster the Huskies' defense.

"Shortstop was my original position in club," she said. "I made the adjustment to take more time on my throws, make sure my feet are set and make good throws. We moved everybody around in the infield, and it worked out."

Nichols said, "(Rachel) welcomed the challenge. Even though she is a great player by nature, she is coachable. She welcomes (coaching) because she always wants to improve."

Nichols believes both of her players are richly deserving of whatever honors come their way.

"Rachel has a wonderful work ethic," she said. "Her drive begins in the off-season with working hard in the weight room. Also, Rachel is always the first player on the field and the last one to leave.

"She hustles for every play at practice and asks for more grounders and pitches until she gets it perfectly. She sets up and puts away equipment without asking and helps other players with technique.

"Sarah is one of the most well-rounded softball players I have ever seen. She can play any position you ask her to play."

The season ended on a down note for Seefeldt, Mueller and the Huskies when they were upset in the sectional semifinals of the WIAA tournament by Sussex Hamilton.

Even so, the two have helped catapult Hale softball to a top-tier program in the area.

And the best news for Nichols and the Huskies is that unlike Braun and Fielder, both players will return to lead the lineup again next season.

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