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State Friday Class 5A 15

Pleasant Valley junior Carli Spelhaug fields a ground ball and prepares to throw to first base during the state championship game against Indianola in July. Spelhaug is the co-captain of this year's Quad-City Times All-Metro team. 

PV's Carli Spelhaug

Team's 'spark plug': Coach Jose Lara had Carli Spelhaug hitting third in Pleasant Valley's batting order at the beginning of the season. After a 6-5 start to the season, the Spartans moved Spelhaug to the leadoff spot.

She thrived. PV flourished. 

Spelhaug finished the season with a .479 average, 14 doubles, 10 home runs and 44 RBIs along with 22 stolen bases. PV won 30 of its last 32 games en route to a second straight Class 5A state championship. 

"I love that role," Spelhaug said of batting leadoff. "I know when I go, the rest of the team follows that."

Lara called Spelhaug the team's spark plug after the regional final win over Burlington. At the state tournament, fans often chanted "spark plug" when Spelhaug stepped into the box. 

Even with sister Ellie Spelhaug and Alexia Lara graduated, Carli doesn't believe her spot in the lineup will change next summer.

"Emily (Wood) and I are a good duo in that 1-2 spot," she said. "We have enough good hitters that can fit into those roles and hit us in."

Power up: Spelhaug smacked four home runs as a freshman, five as a sophomore and saw that number balloon to 10 this summer. She credits that increased power to the school's strength and conditioning program.

Spelhaug was in the weight room for an hour three times a week during the fall. She was lifting twice a week during basketball, track and softball seasons.

"Having an offseason in the fall, I really dedicated myself to getting stronger in the weight room," she said. "We max out every offseason and my numbers went up tremendously. I definitely noticed a big change."

Spelhaug was the Mississippi Athletic Conference's player of the year, a 5A first team all-state selection and captain of the all-tournament team for a second straight season. 

College softball: Spelhaug has been a three-sport athlete at PV -- basketball, track and field and softball. She has made the decision she'll play softball in college. The "where" is yet to be determined.

The senior-to-be has an offer from Drake and had conversations with Minnesota before the state tournament. Since PV's championship two weeks ago, Iowa State and Wisconsin have asked Spelhaug to come up to their campus for a visit. 

"It was a tough decision because Ellie and I had a dream to play basketball," Carli said. "I fell in love with softball so we're going to be parting ways."

Spelhaug plans to take visits this fall and make a decision at some point in October. The early signing date is Nov. 14. 

"Academics are obviously huge, and a coaching staff I really get along with is important," she said. "We've been spoiled here at Pleasant Valley, so I want to continue to have a good relationship with my coaches.

"Also, I want a campus not too far away from home so my parents can come watch me play."

— Compiled by Matt Coss

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.