Fatal Five

The preseason top 5 softball teams in H-Town

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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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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