Saint Louis head softball coach Christy Connoyer has announced the signing of five student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to attend the University and play for the Billikens beginning next fall.
The new Billikens are catcher Kelsey Etling (Dardenne Prairie, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West H.S.), second baseman/outfielder Allie Herron (West Frankfort, Ill./Frankfort Community H.S.), outfielder Gabbie Kowalik (New Braunfels, Texas/St. John Paul II Catholic H.S.), infielder Kristi Stevenson (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) and pitcher Chloe Wendling (Centralia, Ill./Centralia H.S.).
“I am privileged to announce our five student-athletes who will join the Billiken softball program in the fall of 2018,” Connoyer said. “This class has a strong softball background on the summer circuit, and each player possesses an incredible desire to compete and a love of the game. Also, with their academic ability, they will fit very well in a program that has finished among the top six in the nation in grade point average the past two years.”
Etling is a three-time first-team All-District selection. She earned second-team All-Conference honors as a senior as well as first-team All-Region and first-team All-Conference recognition as a sophomore. Etling hit .461 with four home runs, 12 doubles and 28 RBIs this season, finishing her career with a .395 batting mark, a school-record 38 doubles (including a school single-season-record 14 as a sophomore), eight homers and 81 RBIs.
Etling played on the St. Louis Chaos 16-U travel team that placed third in the 2016 Junior Olympic Cup, and she was selected for the 2017 ASA Missouri-Illinois All-Star Game. In the classroom, Etling is a four-time Academic All-Conference selection, a member of the National Honor Society and the Fort Zumwalt West honor roll, and a “Leader in Me” mentor for elementary students.
“Kelsey is a strong competitor and great teammate who will fit right in and work well with our pitching staff,” Connoyer said. “She is a quality catcher with excellent defensive skills, and she also is a threat on offense with an ability to drive the ball. Kelsey continues to study the intricacies of the game, and we’re looking forward to her presence behind the plate.”
Herron batted .471 with three home runs, seven doubles, six triples and a team-high 30 RBIs as a junior last season. She was named Frankfort’s Most Valuable Player and Best Offensive Player. A starter since her freshman year, Herron has earned All-Conference accolades and was a participant in the Southern Illinois Select All-Star Game.
With the Southern Force travel team, Herron posted a .395 batting average, a .435 on-base percentage and 26 doubles in 36 league games. She led the team in RBIs and OBP. Academically, Herron has been in Frankfort’s Top 10 all four years, serves as a senior mentor and is a member of National Honor Society and Beta Club.
“Allie is a gamer who loves battling in competition and who plays the game aggressively,” Connoyer said. “Her versatility at second base or at any outfield position plays to her competitiveness. Allie is a gap-to-gap hitter with run-producing ability.”
Kowalik earned first-team All-State, state championship All-Tournament, first-team All-District and team MVP laurels in each of her first three seasons. She was named the 4A Girls’ Athlete of the Year by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools for 2016-17, when she garnered Academic All-State plaudits in softball and volleyball. Kowalik has helped lead the Guardians to two state titles, a second-place state finish and three district crowns.
Kowalik registered a .625 batting average, a 1.446 slugging percentage, 15 home runs and 79 RBIs a season ago. She hit .630 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs as a sophomore, and .741 with five homers and 37 RBIs as a freshman. Kowalik also has been outstanding in the circle, posting a three-year record of 67-15 with 662 strikeouts, 37 shutouts and 16 no-hitters, 11 of which were perfect games. She hit .420 for Texas Glory Adkins in travel competition.
“Gabbie is a true athlete,” Connoyer said. “She has excelled at volleyball in addition to pitching for her high school softball team. She loves to play the game and compete day in and day out.
“Gabbie will step in as a strong offensive force in our lineup,” Connoyer said. “She has primarily been an outfielder with Texas Glory Adkins, but I have also seen her at shortstop and in the circle. We’re excited to watch her grow in the college game throughout her career.”
Stevenson missed her junior season due to injury after enjoying a strong sophomore season that saw her hit .395 with two home runs, 13 doubles, 19 RBIs, a .519 on-base percentage and a .654 slugging percentage. A two-year team captain, she made the Northwest Indiana Times All-Area second team and played in the Indiana Elite North-South Game. Stevenson was a Northwest Indiana Times All-Area honorable mention as a freshman.
Stevenson is a four-year Scholar-Athlete, a four-year member of the Principal’s Honor Roll, a National Honor Society member and a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. She plays travel softball with the New Lenox Lightning MK.
“Kristi is a defensive stronghold who possesses quickness, agility and game sense, all necessary qualities of a solid defender at third base,” Connoyer said. “She is a high academic achiever whose work ethic will help her on and off the field, and she will transition well into the college game.”
Wendling is a two-time All-State choice, making the second team as a junior and the third team as a sophomore. She was the South Seven Conference MVP in 2016 and repeated on the All-Conference first team in 2017. Wendling collected first-team All-Region and All-South accolades as a junior and, in her second consecutive appearance in the Southern Illinois Select All-Star Game, was the starting and winning pitcher earlier this year.
Wendling began her prep career batting .333 and earning second-team All-Conference honors as a freshman. She hit .393 as a sophomore and .473 in her junior campaign. For her career, Wendling has struck out 425 batters and clouted 23 home runs. She ranks second in her class, has earned high academic honors every year and serves as vice president of the National Honor Society. Wendling plays travel softball with the Illinois Force.
“Chloe’s talent will bring diversity and depth to our pitching staff,” Connoyer said. “Her repertoire of pitches will complement our current staff to create a terrific mix against our opponents. Chloe also can drive the ball at the plate and will compete in this facet of the game as well. We’re excited to have this competitor and student of the game join our pitching staff.”