SIOUX CITY – Lexie Stolen’s growth in softball has been a steady rise.

The daughter of Tom and Tracy Stolen spent much of her childhood playing little league baseball, before finally transitioning into softball when she was 12 or 13.

A stellar five-year high school career in a Bishop Heelan uniform concluded this season with the three-time all-stater etching her name among the school’s and the city’s elite.

“I played baseball at Headid till I was 12 and I’m pretty sure I didn’t start playing softball till I was 12 or 13,” said Stolen. “Playing baseball helped me a lot, honestly, it’s a faster play, obviously a smaller ball, so I think that helped me a lot.”

Stolen, honored Wednesday as the Sioux City Journal’s Softball Player of the Year, set a new single-season school record in batting average (.510) during a 28-7 season for the Crusaders.

Stolen eclipsed her own school record after posting an even .500 average as a junior to unseat 1999 graduate and Iowa Girls Softball Hall of Famer Jamie Dardis in the school record books.

Stolen became just the third softball player in Heelan history to reach 200 career hits (Dardis 253, MaKayla Augustine 236), 13th city-wide, and her .412 career average (200-for-486) also took out Dardis (.409) from the school record book.

“It’s pretty cool, it just shows that hard work pays off, staying committed,” said Stolen. “Obviously she had to be a really good player.

“I really wish I could go back and see her play so I could compare the two.”

Heelan Coach Stacia Barker had the opportunity to play alongside Dardis in high school and then coach Stolen as an assistant for the first three years before becoming head coach the last two.

“Every year she has always set personal goals for herself, she never set out to break any records, hadn’t even thought of that kind of thing,” said Barker. “It’s what can I do to help the team and what goals can I have that ultimately will help the team.

“She has accomplished a lot, I remember playing next to Jamie Dardis for a few years and always being wowed at how well she hit the ball and how well she saw the ball. “

Dardis, the lone Heelan athlete in the softball hall of fame, played in the 40-foot (pitching) and white softball era that people say the ball didn’t travel like it does now in the 43-foot (pitching) and optic yellow softball era.

“It wasn’t until just recently that I made the comparison,” said Barker, a 2000 Heelan graduate. “Two completely different athletes, but they’re just gamers. They go out and they do their thing and they're fun to watch.

“I remember sitting in the dugout and being awed at the way Jamie could pick up the ball and her power and Lexie is the same way. They’re both fun to watch and I think it’s cool that I have gotten to be around both of them as softball players and see them grown the way that I have.”

Heelan, a 2016 state tournament participant, fell short this season, but still captured its first Missouri River Conference title since 2010, completing an unbeaten 11-0 MRAC slate.

Stolen, one of three seniors along with Lexi Ricke and Maddie Uhl on this year’s team, were a big part of getting the Crusaders back into the thick of the MRAC and to the state tournament, which broke a four-year drought.

The right-handed hitter who also owns the school record for single-season doubles (22) and career doubles (54), both established this season, fell one home run shy of 2007 grad Dana Wilson in the school books. Stolen finished with 11 home runs this season and 23 for her career while her senior season saw 34 of her 52 hits go for extra bases for a 1.069 slugging percentage.

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