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The special one: Lone Heart River softball athlete named an All-State player

“There used to be this saying, I don't know if it gets used much anymore, but they would call superb players a 'gamer' and that is what Meg is,” said head coach Kendra Schillo.

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Meg Silbernagel pitching in the regional tournament on May 25.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
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To Meg Silbernagel’s teammates, she was their special two-way player boasting a season .425 batting average and an ERA of 2.22, but for opponents the senior was known as the thief. During the season Silbernagel successfully stole 15 bases, never once being picked off in her daring escapades.

Despite the Heart River softball team's 2022 season ending on the doorsteps of a state appearance, with a third place finish in the Class B Region 4 tournament, their senior all-around athlete Silbernagel would be recognized and honored with an NDHSAA All-State team spot.

According to her teammates and coaches Silbernagel was a shoe-in for the recognition, but to the humble senior it came as a bit of a shock.

“My mom told me when I went to the state championship game,” Sibernagel said. “I was really excited. I was really proud of myself and honestly a little surprised… It is an honor to represent Heart River and I know I could not have done it without my teammates and my coaches that pushed me to where I am today.”

Head softball coach Kendra Schillo said she was thrilled for recognition of hardwork and talent, noting that Silbernagel was "the special one."

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“There used to be this saying, I don't know if it gets used much anymore, but they would call superb players a “gamer” and that is what Meg is,” Schillo said. “I think her competitiveness makes her unique. She wants to be the best at whatever it is that she is doing."

Out of 1428 pitches hurled from the circle over 78.2 innings, Silbernagel whiffed 137 batters on the year.

Not just a threat in the circle, Silbernagel was lights out in the batter’s box garnering 17 hits, 14 runs, 22 RBIs and two home runs on the year. Finishing the season with an outstanding .775 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .593, she accomplished great statistical feats despite being intentionally walked throughout the season multiple times.

Sibernagel's talents were felt most when at her home between second and third base in her shortstop position — a position she has held since her eighth grade year. Tallying 33 putouts with a fielding percentage of .960 in the season, she highlighted the old adage that the strongest people aren't always the people who win, but those that never give up in a loss.

Earlier in the month, Silbernagel participated in the All-Star games where the best of the best in the state competed. In true Cougar fashion, she was ferocious in the circle in pitching a shutout game and scoring a home run. It was a performance that is one of many that Schillo said she will miss next season.

"She can handle herself at whatever level she is competing at,” Schillo said. “To watch her go from a nervous and naive seventh grader to the unquestioned leader on our softball team is something that I will never forget.”

Since her seventh grade year Silbernagel has been on the Heart River varsity softball team. With the Cougars she took three trips to state; in her seventh, eighth and ninth grades. The years of hard work culminated in an experience and life lessons that Silbernagel said she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

“I would like to thank Heart River softball for what it has done for me,” Silbernagel said. “It has been fun for me and I really enjoyed being with my team. The three times we went to state was really fun and I got to experience so many things that I would not have been able to if I hadn't played.”

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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