She was “the workhorse of our team” at Navarro High School during the 2019 softball season.
Those are the words used by head coach Darrell Harborth in describing his all-everything pitcher for the Lady Panthers this year, Alexis Valdez.
Evidently, coaches across the state agreed with Harborth, as Valdez was selected by the Texas Girls Coaches Association earlier this week to the statewide Legacy All-Star team, one of just nine 4A players in the state to receive the award.
The senior, who will continue her collegiate career next season at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, had an amazing year in the circle for the Lady Panthers.
“It’s a credit to the season she had, and to how well she pitched for us in the playoffs and through the whole year,” Harborth said. “It’s a great accomplishment for her.”
Valdez made the 1A-4A squad, which had 20 girls total named to the team. Players were selected from nominations submitted by the coaches to the TGCA.
Valdez pitched every game in the playoffs for Harborth this spring, as the coach relied heavily on his senior all-star. She helped push the Lady Panthers all the way to the regional finals, the farthest Navarro has ever gone in the postseason.
“Alexis was going out there every game when we needed her to, and as we moved along in the playoffs we pretty much just stuck with her,” Harborth said. “I felt like our defense was stronger with her on the mound.
“She was doing an outstanding job, really pitching well, moving the ball around, making hitters miss and getting us easy outs.”
Valdez’ stats for the year tell the story; 178 innings pitched (about 25 games total), 27 games started, 17-3 overall, and a sparkling 2.15 ERA.
In those 178 inning pitched, Valdez had 158 strikeouts, a number that was surprising to coach Harborth.
“That stat shocked me a little bit,” he said. “It’s a credit to how well she moved the ball around and caught the corners. She’s not overpowering or super fast, but was able to move it in and out and up and down — she had such good command of the ball.”
Her strikeout to walks ratio (with just 34 walks) was around 5-1, a stellar number for a pitcher at any level.
“That’s an outstanding one (stat), I think any coach would say they would love to have that,” Harborth said.
The coach saw improvement in Valdez’ pitching as the season went on, and into the Lady Panthers regional final run in the playoffs..
“She just seemed to get better and better,” Harborth said. “That’s also credit to coach (Morgan) Cavazos, who was our pitching coach and called the pitches for us this year. She would tell Alexis where to put it, and Alexis would put it there."
Navarro fell to Fredericksburg in the regional finals, dropping two games by identical 2-1 scores to come up one series short of the state tournament. Those two games accounted for two of her three losses on the season.
“Even in those two games, she gave up just the two runs in each game and just did a great job,” Harborth said.
Her ability to keep hitters guessing, spot her pitches and get the easy outs should transfer to the next level, the coach said.
“She thinks her way through the game and make hitters look bad at times,” Harborth said. “I think they (coaches at the university) saw that in her.”
Valdez also had success at the plate this season, with timely hitting, (29 RBI’s) and average (.394) throughout the season.
“She was one of our leading RBI girls and had one of our top averages,” Harborth said. “She’s just an all around softball player. I think they may want to use her at first base, and of course she has a good bat, so there’s a lot of things she can bring to the team.”
Valdez was a four-year starter for the Lady Panthers, played mostly at first base her first two seasons, and was the No. 1 starter for Harborth the last two seasons. She led Navarro into the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Her spot on the statewide team added another award for her senior season, in which she was also selected as the Defensive MVP of District 30-4A and will be a part of the 2019 All-Area softball team, coming out on Sunday in the Seguin Gazette.
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.