Fatal Five

The preseason top 5 softball teams in H-Town

Willis’ Samara Lagway, McKenzie Parker, Hannah Earls and Aubri Ford vype.com

Our 2018 Softball Preview has hit stands.

Inside, we breakdown the top teams on the diamond, looking at how each team is looking to show out on the diamond this season. Here’s a look at those previews with photos, videos and more.

5A TOP 5

#1 WILLIS LADY KATS

Coach: Stephanie Shelly

2017 Postseason: Reached State Title game; Lost to The Colony

The Pitch: Last year, the Willis LadyKats weren’t playing any games.

They blazed through their competition with a 41-8 record and reached the Class 5A State Championship game against The Colony. Willis fell short, 5-2, in the title game fueling the LadyKats into 2018.

Willis has six starters returning this year and eight players who have already committed. Some of those players include Samara Lagway (Texas State), who had 52 RBIs; McKenzie Parker (Texas) with 12 home runs and Hannah Earls (Texas), who had a .467 batting average.

The LadyKats also have Aubri Ford (Texas Southern), Savannah Buhl (East Texas Baptist University), Ashley Vallejo (McNeese State), Hailey Eten (Abilene Christian) and Sarah Brooks (Concordia), who will play intricate roles in helping Willis get back to state.

On top of all the talent, Willis has 20 years of experience in their head coach Stephanie Shelly. Shelly thinks for the team to get back to state and win, it starts and ends with the LadyKats’ defensive effort.

#2 FOSTER FALCONS

Coach: Keely Shuler

2017 Postseason: Regional Finals; Lost to Dripping Springs

The Pitch: Foster has never missed the playoffs since opening in 2003. The Falcons are back in 2018 returning six starters off a team that made the Regional Finals.

Key returners for the Falcons include Leea Dempsey (UT Tyler), Ciarra Mara (UTSA), Kaitlyn Reinecke (Odessa College), Bria Tovar (Kilgore) and Sierra Toman (Eastern Utah State). Another key returner in the circle and at the plate is Kacie Pryor.

Last year, Pryor batted .381 with four home runs at the plate and went 22-1 with a 1.01 ERA and struck out 179. Other key returners include Brett Coleman (.398 batting average, nine home runs), Alyssa Muceus and Alexis Lesak.

Keys to success for Keely Shuler’s (73-26-1, 4th season) team start with team unity and holding each player accountable. “My main goal is to create a fun, successful atmosphere where kids can learn to push themselves to reach their full potential all while having fun,” Shuler said.

#3 ANGLETON WILDCATS

Coach: Cindy Rubio

2017 Postseason: Second Round; Lost to Dripping Springs

The Pitch: The time is now for the Angleton Wildcats. The ‘Cats return District Offensive Newcomer of the Year Tate Whitley, who has signed with Ole Miss. She is the straw that stirs the drink.

On the bump will be first-team, all-district arm Aaliyah Garcia. Garcia’s battery-mate is second-teamer Morgan Coats, while Ashleigh Miller will hold down second base. Patrolling the outfield will be Avery Farr and Ellie Grill, who were also second- teamers.

Who is the X-factor? Sophomore Danieca Coffey was the Newcomer of the Year in the district as a freshman and is a 2020 LSU-commit. The infielder is super smooth and hit for average and power.

#4 BARBERS HILL EAGLES

Coach: Aaron Fuller

2017 Postseason: Regional Finals; Lost to Willis

The Pitch: Barbers Hill is back and ready for 2018. The Eagles have won 30-plus games in three of the last five seasons, including going 34-5 in 2017.

Barbers Hill has been a consistent force in the playoffs, making it to the third round or farther for six-straight seasons. The Eagles do have to replace District 21-5A MVP Meagan King (Texas State). Along with King, Barbers Hill lost two other three-year starters. Barbers Hill returns six starters, including Ariana Saenz (San Jacinto JC), Sydney Hoyt (Texas A&M- Corpus Christi) and Rebecca Miller.

Other key players returning include Kayleigh Deakle (Galveston JC), Cassidy Thrash (Millsaps College), Mackenzie Collins (Mississippi College), Kaitlyn Dutton (Texas A&M Corpus Christi), Jessica Mullins, Hayley Freudenberg and Matee Simon. Aaron Fuller (138-39-1, 8th overall, 88-20 at Barbers Hill, 4th season) is looking for his young, talented players to fill big shoes.

#5 KINGWOOD PARK PANTHERS

Coach: Sara Koym

2017 Postseason: Regional Semifinals; Lost to Willis

Kingwood Park returns a roster full of college-level talent from top to bottom. The Panthers made it to the Regional Semifinals last year and have made the postseason for four-straight seasons.

MacKenzie Purcell (Temple JC) returns as one of the best hitters after hitting .369 last season with 24 RBIs. Ronni Grofman (Texas State-commit) hit .269 last year and also tossed 94 innings with 106 strikeouts. Other key returners include Alyssa Forrester (UT-Tyler), Mattie McQuary (UT-Tyler), Gretchen Mead (Middle Tennessee State), Madde Forrester (Hill College), Mikaela Tellez (East Texas Baptist), Lauren Singletary (Lubbock Christian) and Kyndal Wallace (Black Hill State).

Sara Koym enters her eighth season leading the Panthers and has posted a 137-98-1 record. “We have a great group of kids returning, but lost some key sticks with graduation,” Koym said. “Our pitching depth should keep us in ball games. We will need to find ways to score runs.”

OTHERS TO WATCH

Crosby, Dayton, Humble, Magnolia, Magnolia West, Santa Fe, Splendora, Texas City, Waltrip

This article appears in the February Issue of VYPE Magazine. Pick up your copy at any one of our locations today!

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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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