ALTA, Iowa – When Lily Peterson got comfortable receiving pitches she started sending them a long way.
The Alta-Aurelia senior had to make the adjustment from outfielder to playing behind the plate as the catcher as a junior. An adjustment period ensued, but that was long gone when Peterson helped lead the Warriors to their first state tournament appearance in school history as a senior. The school’s all-time home run leader belted 13 this year while hitting an impressive .507 at the plate to earn the Journal’s Softball Player of the Year honor.
“In all honesty it wasn’t my first year catching and I had a year of it under my belt and didn’t have to worry about that when I was at the plate,” said Peterson of the reason behind her big season. “I was more relaxed and felt better when I was at the plate.
“It was a difficult transition considering what a great pitcher we have and what great movement she has. It was different because you are involved in every play, every pitch that is thrown you are involved.”
Peterson not only played solid defense but racked up 34 hits, 44 runs scored and 41 driven in for a player that is a five-year starter for the Warriors. She added eight doubles and four triples to go with 13 home runs that totaled 37 in her career for the Morningside College recruit.
“It was toward the end of the season and my mom and I were talking and she told me I had 13 home runs,” said Peterson, who lifted five days a week as a senior and has been a staple in the weight room since eighth grade. “I told I didn’t and only had six or seven. I never checked Quik Stats this season at all, I couldn’t believe it.”
The daughter of Terry and Roxanne Peterson drew 26 walks as well as opponents shied away from her power which helped her lead the state in slugging percentage at 1.328 while her on base percentage sat at 0.632.
To understand the respect Peterson garnered at the plate look no further than the state softball tournament where first-round foe Iowa City Regina intentionally walked her after she roped a double in her first at-bat. The second intentional free pass came with two outs and no one on.
“At the end of that game their coach came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I have a lot of respect for your catcher’ because our crowd was getting kind of angry for walking her,” Alta-Aurelia coach Dave Turnquist said. “I understood why they did it … and he apologized for it, but said they had a lot of respect for her.”
“At that time I was just like ‘Let me hit, you don’t know what I am going to do,’” Peterson said. “Then I realized they think I could create something they don’t want to happen. I do look at it like a sign of respect.”
Peterson said for the first time she felt she had a good idea of what her strike zone was and swung accordingly. As one of two seniors on the team it was rewarding to finally reach Fort Dodge.
“We worked hard to get there,” Peterson said. “It means a lot because the first year we tried to get there we didn’t make it with the rain and then last year we didn’t have the team that we knew that we had, but this year we had our team. Third time is a charm, right?”
Her impact will be felt for many seasons to come thanks to the daily approach the 18-year-old brought to the field.
“I have never had this kind of leadership before with my seniors,” Turnquist said. “They reached out to the eighth-graders … but Lily would go to the freshman games, and she even coached first base at some of the freshman games. She got the eighth-graders to come to the workouts in the mornings and show them what it takes to get to the level that Lily plays at.
“I hope they have learned from her for the rest of their career because she really taught them a lot.”