People tell me all the time that they think I have a really cool job.
And for the most part, it is.
But once again, trying to pick the best players in the area for the 2019 Seguin Gazette All-Area Softball Team was difficult.
Just like with the baseball teams, all three of our area schools made the playoffs, and both Seguin and Navarro made their deepest runs in school history.
So, obviously, they had some really good players.
I would say that picking this team was even more difficult than the baseball team.
Once again, my late arrival to the scene at the first of May meant that I only saw them play a few times, or in Marion’s case, since they were the first team to exit from the playoffs, not at all. Therefore, I reached out again to the coaches, Seguin’s John Garcia, Navarro’s Darrell Harborth and Marion’s Sammy Scribner, for their advice.
Even so, starting with the three major awards — the player, hitter and pitcher of the year — the choices were not easy.
Several players in the area hit for more than a .400 average, led their teams in statistical categories and were selected to their all-district teams.
That being said, Seguin’s Marissa Bradley seemed to be an obvious choice for the 2019 Player of the Year. Not only a powerful hitter, Bradley pitched for the Lady Mats as their No. 1 starter, so her versatility and all-around ability on the softball field earned her the nod.
Marion’s Kyleigh Mulanax edged out Navarro’s Alyssa Hernandez as our Hitter Of The Year — but it was close.
Their season-long statistics were similar, so close that I could’ve named them co-hitters of the year. Hernandez had 58 hits, Mulanax had 48; Hernandez six home runs, Mulanax had five; Mulanax’s average was .522, Hernandez, .483; RBI’s were 49 to 43.
You get the picture — I had to pick somebody.
Fortunately, Navarro’s Alexis Valdez made the last pick, our pitcher of the year, a little more simple.
A 17-3 record, with two of those losses coming in the last two games of the season by identical 2-1 scores, almost 50 more innings pitched than any other pitcher in the area, and Valdez seemed the obvious choice.
Then came the first team, and if you noticed, I had to triple up my selection for the first team shortstop.
Marion’s Lily Bek earned Offensive MVP honors in the district, while hitting .392 as the Bulldogs leadoff hitter, and scoring 45 runs.
Also playing short this season were Seguin’s Katlyn “Tate” Smith and Navarro’s Ashlea Frederick.
Both put up outstanding numbers, hitting .423 and .390, respectively, with 45 and 48 hits on the year, and driving
in 35 and 31 runs each.
It was too tough to separate them, so they are my co-first team shortstops this year.
Seguin pitcher Mackenzie Neumann backs up Valdez on the first team at the position, compiling a 12-2 record, with a minuscule .041 ERA. She gave up just 19 earned runs in 65 innings pitched for the Lady Mats.
The Lady Bulldogs Toryn Autry and the second starter at Navarro, Sydnie Booker, earned second-team honors as pitchers.
Autry posted a perfect 5-0 district mark with a 1.84 ERA, and was 9-7 overall on the year, with 78 strikeouts in 88 innings pitched.
Booker could have made the team at catcher, where she caught for Valdez and hit 5 home runs with a .383 average. But her 7-2 mark in the circle as the No. 2 starter for Harborth got her on the team as a pitcher.
At second base, I ran into the same issue, and could’ve had a three-way tie there also, with Seguin’s Grace Scheel, Navarro’s Lindsey Gresham and Marion’s Veronica Gonzales.
Scheel hit for a better average (.326), scored more runs (27) and drove in 31, for the slight edge over the other two, so I made Gresham and Gonzales co-second team at second base.
Navarro’s Hernandez got the pick for first team at first base, after the toss up for hitter of the year went to Mulanax. Marion sophomore Alyana Robles joins the second team at first, after hitting for .450 in district play and posting a .956 fielding percentage.
Seguin’s Madaline Bone drove in 39 runs, hit for a .378 average and had 14 doubles on the year, and if not for Mulanax, would have been an easy first-team selection at catcher.
The outfield selections were not easy either, with Seguin’s Presley Pence and Navarro’s Bailey Stanzione and Emma Hinkelmann earning first-team honors.
Pence hit .482 for the year, amassing 55 hits on the season in 114 at bats, while Stanzione hit .402 (51 hits) and Hinkelmann .384 (43 hits) for the Lady Panthers.
Seguin’s Caitlyn Nieto and Katlyn Guzman, Navarro’s Berklee Andrews and Marion’s Madison Doss rounded out the second team outfielders.
Garcia, Harborth and Scribner were extraordinarily blessed with great players this season, and all of that talent got them through district and into the playoffs.
Here’s hoping next season goes the same way. Congrats to all the coaches, ladies and teams for a great season.
Player of the Year
Marissa Bradley, Jr., Seguin
Seguin junior Marissa Bradley did it all for the Lady Mats this season.
The No. 1 starter for coach John Garcia in the circle pitched 132 innings, compiled a 17-9 record, and gave up 100 runs, only 56 of those earned, for an unbelievable .061 ERA. She struck out 83 batters, walking 47 for a nearly 2-1 strike out to walks ratio.
But Bradley wasn’t just a pitcher, also showing her ability at the plate. She struck out just five times all year, with 61 hits in 114 at bats for a .535 batting average, and had an on base percentage of .586
Bradley hit for power as well as average, smashing 21 doubles and three home runs, and driving in 48 runs to lead the Mats for the year.
Hitter of the Year
Kyleigh Mulanax, Sr., Marion
Marion senior Kyleigh Mulanax, the MVP of the district, led the team and the area in several hitting stats this year.
Mulanax, who will be attending Sul Ross State this fall to continue her softball and volleyball career, had 48 hits in 92 at bats for a .522 average, while hitting for power as well, with 10 doubles, 6 triples and 5 home runs.
Mulanax hit for an unheard of .739 average in district play and for the year drove in 43 runs, while scoring 45 to lead the Bulldogs, spearheading their run into the playoffs.
The catcher for the Bulldogs, her fielding percentage was an outstanding .956, with 117 put outs and only six errors for the season.
Pitcher of the Year
Alexis Valdez, Sr., Navarro
Lady Panther pitcher Alexis Valdez started 27 games for Navarro this season, and pitched every game of the playoffs as Navarro made the deepest run in the postseason in school history.
Her season stats made her choice of pitcher of the year easy, with 178 innings pitched, more than any pitcher in the area by far, a 17-3 overall record and a 2.15 ERA. A total of 158 strikeouts, against only 34 walks, gave her a strike out to walks ratio of nearly 5-1.
Valdez led Navarro all the way to the regional finals, where the Lady Panthers fell to Fredericksburg by identical 2-1 scores. The two games accounted for two of her three losses on the season.