The preseason top 5 softball teams in H-Town
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!