Prep softball: Emma Raye’s ‘moxie,’ leadership key to Superior’s success
The senior catcher is "like a coach on the field," according to Spartans' coach Mike Sather.
SUPERIOR — Superior senior Emma Raye had a pair of hits and scored three times in the Spartans’ 5-0 win over New Richmond Friday at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex, but her play in the field might not have been as important as the fact that she was simply out there.
Ari Robillard pitched three shutout innings and senior Haley Zembo came on for the final four innings, allowing just one hit and striking out eight, including all three New Richmond batters in the seventh inning.
“I think I did pretty well,” Zembo said. “Obviously, having the defense behind me helps a ton, having them behind me, supporting me and having my back helps — I think they did a great job.”
Superior’s offense wasn’t lights out Friday but the defense was excellent, according to coach Mike Sather, against a very good Tigers team. New Richmond beat Superior 5-4 in the regular season last year, one of just three losses for the Spartans.
“That team has a lot of speed,” Sather said. “I don’t know how many times they bunted it or slapped it out there, but we just played really well against the short game. It was just solid.”
Raye, the 2022 Wisconsin Division 1 and News Tribune and Telegram All-Area player of the year, is the Spartans’ unquestioned leader on and off the field. She scored the Spartans' first two runs and her play behind the plate created problems for New Richmond.
“She has a great arm behind the plate, she keeps runners close to the bag and doesn’t really give anybody a chance to steal,” Tigers coach Lynzi Knudtson said.
The Spartans advanced to the Division 1 championship game last season and the team returns all but one starter from last season, including Zembo, herself a 2022 All-Area team member.
Superior (3-0) has allowed just four runs this season and the Spartans are at a different level right now than most other teams in Wisconsin, according to Knudtson.
“Superior has a confidence about them,” Knudtson said. “I think the way they carry themselves is intimidating to teams that don’t see competition like them a lot. That’s why we come up here and play them, they’re great competition and it makes us a better team.”
That intimidation factor also means that the Spartans won’t be surprising any teams this season, either.
“Definitely this year we have a target on our backs compared to last year because people were like ‘Who’s Superior?’” Raye said. “I think this year’s approach is to play our game and stay humble — we know we’re good, but let’s prove it.”
Sather agreed, saying the Spartans will be tested every time they take the field this season.
“They are going to be ready for us and we’ve got to play well,” Sather said. “It’s hard to play well all 26 games, but it’s something we just have to work at and keep practicing. We’ve got to try to be sharp — it’s hard to match what we did last year, for sure. We want to try, but it’s going to be hard.”
Having Raye out there on the field, however, isn’t having just another good or great player, Sather said.
“She’s one of the captains of the team and she’s got a lot of moxie,” Sather said. “She knows the game in and out, it’s like having another coach out there — one that can actually demonstrate. I can’t, I’m too old.”
Raye, a Northwestern recruit, said she not only wants to win, but she wants to help her teammates improve.
“It’s all about winning, but it’s also about development,” she said. “A lot of girls on our team are looking to play at the next level. Being able to help each other out — not just me helping other players, but all the seniors — and having someone to look up to and somebody to ask questions of, it’s only going to make our team better and that’s what I’m here for is to make our whole team better.”
Raye’s teammates — even one of those seniors — have noticed her efforts to help the entire team improve.
“She is probably the best catcher in the state,” Zembo said. “She’s a leader — even when she’s hitting, playing shortstop, catcher, anywhere on the field — she’s our leader and picks all of us up. She’s the best player I’ve ever played with in my life.”