2021 DFJ FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: KELLY STOAKES
STOAKES IS A SOFTBALL PLAYER FIRST, BUT SO MUCH MORE
BY TROY BANNING
WEBSTER CITY — Kelly Stoakes sits inside the third base dugout and stares out at an empty softball field as the powerful July sun bakes the dirt and grass. It’s a field she’s owned, metaphorically speaking, for the past four seasons and that likely won’t change much a year from now.
The Webster City senior-to-be is one of the best softball players ever to come through the legendary program, a fact known to so many that have watched and studied the game over the years. And yet she remains unconvinced, if for no other reason than to keep that edge she needs to continue to thrive.
She’s never studied her own statistics. She doesn’t get caught up in records or accolades. Maybe one day, but not now, not in the moment.
“I make it a point to not look at Varsity Bound, to not even read articles during the season,” she said. “I don’t want to look at the numbers because they might consume me, and I don’t want my mindset to be about me. I could be hitting .700 and if the team is losing then that’s a loss for me.”
The numbers do tell a story though, one of greatness that doesn’t come along all that often. Not just this year, but in past years too.
Stoakes is a softball player, she doesn’t shy away from that moniker. But she’s plenty versatile, a starter on the volleyball and basketball courts too where she played pivotal roles for the Lynx during the 2020-21 school year.
Put it all together and the success is undeniable. And it’s why, today, she becomes the eighth girl bestowed with the honor of being named the Daily Freeman-Journal Female Athlete of the Year.
“It’s pretty cool, and it also shows how many people have helped to get me here,” Stoakes said of winning the award. “I don’t even really consider this my own award. Everybody — coaches, teammates, my parents — gets a piece of it, and it shows that you can play multiple sports and succeed at all of them.”
Jess Howard has coached Stoakes in volleyball and softball ever since she burst onto the scene as a quiet and massively talented eighth grader in the summer of 2018. She has studied the softball numbers and knows first-hand just how special her pupil is, but she says it’s what nobody sees that sets Stoakes apart from many of her contemporaries.
“She’s one of those kids that is always doing the right things when no one is watching, and that’s what makes the difference,” Howard said. “She’s doing it for herself and for her teammates to get to that next level, and she’s just a very well-rounded athlete. She’s an excellent softball player, but is also very much needed on the volleyball and basketball courts. She understands the games, knows the situations and knows what to do.”
Stoakes capped her junior year by leading WCHS to its first North Central Conference softball championship in eight seasons, and a strong case could be made that she was the league’s best player. In the lead-off spot, she hit .458 with four home runs and 29 RBIs, and in just her second season behind the plate she became a catcher that opposing base runners feared.
But it’s that flawless left-handed swing that makes people stand up and take notice. Naturally right-handed, she makes it look so easy and it doesn’t matter where the ball is thrown. She can hit for power to every field, which is a big reason why so many teams simply attempt to pitch around her.
That swing is a point of pride for Stoakes, who has spent countless hours perfecting it inside the cages at Diamond In The Rough, the facility her family owns on the south side of Webster City. Her mom, Kim, a former college softball player at Drake, has helped her craft it.
“This is hours upon hours of repetition with The Kim Stoakes,” Stoakes said with a chuckle. “It’s a lot of drills and muscle memory.”
Her twin brother, Devon, has been both an inspiration and motivator as well. A two-time all-NCC catcher on the baseball diamond, he was who Stoakes turned to when she was asked to make the switch to behind the plate in 2020.
“We’re always feeding off each other for sports and academically as well,” Stoakes said. “We’re also each others biggest cheerleaders because we’re not competing against each other on the same team. And when I moved to catcher, Devon was my biggest help. He’s still better than me too, I’ll admit that.”
She already owns the single-season school record for batting average — .521, set in 2019. And next season she’ll attempt to take down perhaps the most coveted record — the career batting average mark of .432, held by Jenna Flora since 2002. Stoakes sits with a career average of .458 through four seasons, and needs 52 hits in 2020 to reach 200.
But all of that can wait. For now, she’ll shift her focus to the upcoming volleyball season, as well as the various other clubs she takes part in. In addition to being a lifeguard and working at the Briggs Woods Conference Center, she’s involved in student senate, student council, FFA, and National Honor Society where she serves as the president. She may even attempt to play golf for the first time next spring.
Softball is her passion, but it’s not everything.
“For me, the other sports are about being a part of a different team,” she said. “It’s different environments and they’re a lot of fun.
“(As a senior), I want to do everything I can. I want to hit all of my maxes in the weight room, and I want to be that leader for the team and do the best that I can so that everybody else can as well.”
Stoakes would like to play college softball, something she’s more than capable of doing as long as she finds the right fit.
“I have started talking to a few different coaches, but I don’t want to sacrifice my education just to go play somewhere,” she said.
The Lynx Field playing surface remained quiet as Stoakes eased herself off the bench and left the dugout on her way to her car and into her senior season. But she’ll be back next summer, a year older, stronger and wiser. The possibilities are endless.
THE STOAKES FILES, 2020-21 EDITION
A look at the highlights of the junior year for Webster City’s Kelly Stoakes, who competed in volleyball, basketball and softball for the Lynx.
•Overall: 29 matches played and started, 178 digs, 8 service aces, 96.4 percent service accuracy.
•Sept. 24, 2020: Double-digit digs total (11) to go along with an ace in a 3-0 loss to NCC power Humboldt.
•Oct. 1, 2020: Another solid outing in the back row with 14 digs in a 3-1 win over Algona.
•Oct. 5, 2020: A third straight double-digit digs total (15) in a 3-1 loss to Algona Garrigan.
•Oct. 6, 2020: 13 digs and a perfect serving night to help WCHS fend off Clear Lake, 3-2, on Senior Night.
•Oct.15, 2020: 15 digs and 25 for 25 serving, as the Lynx handled Iowa Falls-Alden, 3-1.
•Oct. 20, 2020: A season-high 19 digs in a 3-2 postseason win over Boone.
•Overall: 7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.8 spg, 2.5 apg, shot 32 percent from field.
•Nov. 20, 2020: Opened the season with 11 points and 4 steals in a 62-46 loss to Boone.
•Nov. 23, 2020: A team-high 14 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in a 43-41 loss to Carroll.
•Dec. 18, 2020: Poured in 12 points and corralled 4 rebounds in a 45-42 loss to Algona.
•Jan. 5, 2021: Helped WCHS earn its first win, 53-18 over Greene County, with 12 points, 5 steals and 4 assists.
•Feb. 1, 2021: 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the Lynx 46-34 loss to Humboldt.
•Feb. 2, 2021: Buried 6 shots from the field and scored 15 points in a 48-45 loss to St. Edmond. Also had 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
•Overall: Hit a team-best .462 with a .573 OPB and .656 slugging. Had 4 HRs, 29 RBIs, 6 doubles and a team-best 43 hits. Also walked 22 times. Threw out 6 of 16 attempted base stealers from behind the plate. A first-team all-North Central Conference selection for the third consecutive season.
•May 26, 2021: Went 2 for 4 in the season opener, as WCHS handled Iowa Falls-Alden, 5-1.
•June 2, 2021: 2 for 5 at the plate with 2 RBIs in the Lynx 12-5 road rout of Clear Lake.
•June 4, 2021: 2 hits, 2 RBIs and a highlight-reel diving catch out in front of the plate. All in a night’s work in an 11-1 win over CGD.
•June 7, 2021: Went yard, a solo shot, in the Lynx 7-1 win over Algona.
•June 9, 2021: Accounted for half of the team’s hits and all of its RBIs in a 5-2 loss to St. Edmond, Webster City’s only NCC setback of the season.
•June 10, 2021: She’s haunted HDC her entire career and this was no exception — 4 for 5, a HR and 6 RBIs in a 14-4 Lynx win.
•June 14, 2021: A perfect night — 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs — to help WCHS throttle Iowa Falls-Alden, 10-0.
•June 21, 2021: 2 singles, a double and 4 RBIs against Clear Lake, another easy Lynx win, 15-5.
•June 30, 2021: What’s better than 1 HR? 2, of course. A 3 for 4 night at the plate with 2 dingers and 4 RBIs, as WCHS wrapped up the NCC title with a 7-1 win over St. Edmond.
•July 10, 2021: Stoakes’ final hit of the season was a 6th-inning double in a 6-0 regional loss to eventual Class 4A state runner-up Boone.
DFJ FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR WINNERS
Presented for the first time in July of 2014, 8 females have won the DFJ Athlete of the Year award. Here are the winners.
•2014: Kaylee Schnathorst, Webster City.
•2015: Hannah Myers, Webster City.
•2016: Allie Flaws, Webster City.
•2017: Ady Wintermote, South Hamilton.
•2018: Cassidy Nerland, Webster City.
•2019: Zoey Woodle, Webster City.
•2020: Taylor McKinney, Webster City.
•2021: Kelly Stoakes, Webster City.