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!

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome