Whitefish Bay All-Suburban softball player Lauko always looking to improve
Dukes star earned all-state honors
Whitefish Bay NOW All-Suburban softball sophomore centerfielder Anna Lauko knows that the current Blue Dukes reputation of "try hard but come up a little short" won't be around long.
The Blue Dukes are young, talented and got closer to competing with the heavyweights of the North Shore Conference than they ever have been, with one-run losses to both champion Germantown and Homestead.
They're getting closer to posting winning records every year and they know they don't have to apologize for the team ever again.
Lauko is glad to be a part of it.
"The great thing about playing for Bay softball is that we have nothing to lose," she said. "There's no pressure on us, since our program doesn't have a reputation to keep up. We can just go onto the field and prove everyone who thinks Bay softball is a joke wrong. And if we don't win, we stay positive, pick each other up, and get back to work making our team better."
And with only four seniors on the team this past season, the Blue Dukes will likely get even better next year.
"Anna could have played any position for us," Blue Dukes coach Jessica Middendorf said, "but her speed and quick reactions to hits in the outfield have made her so valuable for our team in centerfield by taking away hits from other teams.
"Her arm strength and accuracy has allowed her to throw out runners consistently at the bases. Offensively, Anna was our lead-off hitter and has hit the ball hard all year long. With her speed, she has been able to beat throws hit to the left side of the infield that typically are easy outs for teams."
The former shortstop led the North Shore Conference in batting average and stolen bases, earning her first-team, all-league honors, a rarity for a Blue Dukes player. Further, she earned third-team, All-State honors from the state coaches' association.
Moving to outfield
Lauko spoke about making the transition to the outfield. It was an early memory that helped her back to her favorite position.
"I started playing organized softball the summer before sixth grade in 2006. I was on Whitefish Bay's first fastpitch club softball team," she said. "At that time I only played shortstop, although in my very early years as a six-year old on my tee ball team I remember playing outfield and almost catching a ball (laughs).
"When I got to high school, I think I was supposed to play short but I didn't like it much anymore. I already liked outfield a lot better, since I got to run around and dive everywhere. I didn't end up starting at short so I was a designated hitter for a few games until I was moved to centerfield by chance, because the starter was injured. And that's where I ended up staying."
The high-level varsity swimmer (two letters) had her competitive instincts honed early and she's always looked to get better, no matter what she's doing.
"Growing up I had a lot of neighbors who were boys and liked baseball, so I got into it too and played a lot," she said. "I think that my biggest strength is my speed, because it helped me beat throws to first and steal a couple bases. I'm hoping to improve my hitting, because I'd like to hit the ball out of the infield more often."
"Also I flubbed a couple of diving catches last season so I will be working a lot on those this summer."
She didn't flub much this season, hitting .492 with 20 runs scored, 32 hits, 25 stolen bases and a .528 on-base percentage. She had just one error in the outfield and benefited from teammate and junior outfielder Amelia Flint, who had almost as good a year as Lauko (.423 BA).
Lauko will work hard on getting better in the off-season, because as noted, the sky's the limit for the young Blue Dukes.
"I absolutely love my team," she said. "We are friends on and off the field, and we keep each other positive even if one of us makes a mistake. Our coaches are just as big a part of the team as the players, and we are good friends with them too. Overall, we have excellent team chemistry."
Which is a great reputation to have moving forward.
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