Centennial’s Murrell top utility player in 5-5A
When the time came to nominate players for Utility Player of Year during the District 5-5A softball team selection meeting, Centennial coach Shannon Sullivan looked at the offensive stats for senior first baseman/pitcher Hayley Murrell and had an idea.
“When the utility player award came up I really hadn’t thought about it,” Sullivan said. “Then I thought Hailey’s hitting numbers are good enough I should go ahead and try this and the rest of the coaches in the district agreed.”
As simple as that, Murrell became the Lady Spartans lone superlative selection on the 5-5A softball team as the Utility Player of the Year.
In district play, Murrell hit .323 with eight RBI, seven runs scored, three doubles and a home run. She also posted a 2-4 pitching record in 18.1 innings.
“She came through offensively with some good numbers,” Sullivan said. “Throughout the year I really didn’t want to take her out of the game because she brings something to the table leadership wise and fire wise. So I was making sure she was getting some time at first base when she wasn’t pitching.”
The Lady Spartans finished fourth in district play with a record of 9-5. Fort Worth Arlington Heights swept Centennial from the playoffs in a best-of-three bi-district playoff series to halt the season with a record of 12-18.
Sullivan said it was a rough season for a program that is used to winning. Part of that was the level of competition the Lady Spartans faced in non-district and tournament play and the fact that 5-5A was a strong district.
“We were in a very tough district and even with that we did a good job of taking care of business,” said Sullivan, who guided the Lady Spartans to their eighth consecutive playoff appears in eight varsity seasons. “We played the game the way it should be played. We have a great future coming up. There are some good players who will be freshmen next season plus the growth that our underclassmen had this season. They learned a lot about what it means to win as a team and lose as a team. They were able to take a lot from the losses. That kind of experience is priceless as we move forward.”
The Lady Spartans had three players on the first-team in senior shortstop Karter Hill, senior left fielder Kylee Gowin and freshman pitcher Emily Gilliam.
Hill ended a terrific career at Centennial with a .543 batting average in district play. In her final regular-season at-bat she belted her first career home run. Hill finished with 25 hits, 19 runs scored, 17 RBI, two doubles, a triple and a home run.
“What a great way to go out,” Sullivan of Hill’s senior campaign. “She came through RBI wise on a consistent basis for us. She definitely deserved that first-team selection,”
Gowin hit leadoff for Centennial most the season and finished with a .428 batting average. She scored 16 runs, collected 18 hits, drove in six runs and had two doubles.
“What a great kid,” Sullivan said. “She’s the type of player that everyone wants on their team. She did a great job of leading off and being a team leader. If she got on base I knew we were going to win. When she struggled though I still wasn’t worried because she wouldn’t go and be quiet in the dugout. She was just a consistent driving force.”
As a freshman, Gilliam made an immediate impact for the Lady Spartans in the circle. In district play, Gilliam went 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 29 innings. She allowed 27 hits, 16 earned runs, struck out 24 and walked five.
“She did a great job in the circle for us,” Sullivan said. “When we really got to see her rise was pitching at Burleson. She came in and held them off. She really showed the kind of grit she has in that game and I’m excited to see what she is going to do the next three years.”
Centennial produced three second-team players in senior third baseman Samantha Barker (.439, 14 runs, 18 hits, 14 RBI, 2 2B), junior catcher Madison Thurman (.353, seven runs, 11 hits, 16 RBI, 3B, 2 HR) and junior outfielder Presley Green (.444, 11 runs, 12 hits, 11 RBI, 4 HR).
The Lady Spartans honorable mention players were junior infielder Mackenzie Law and junior outfielder Laney Vaughn.