Lady Spartans Friend repeats as MVP
Centennial senior second baseman Sydney Friend led her team again this season and her play caught the eye of the coaches of District 9-5A as she was honored as the Most Valuable Player of the district for a second consecutive year.
“Through district, she had the best numbers of anyone on the team,” Centennial coach Shannon Sullivan said. “She hit leadoff and was a leader for us and she played that part as a senior. She did a great job of pushing people when we needed it. She deserved the award.”
Like Friend, junior center fielder Gracie Morton also nabbed the same superlative honor she did last season as the 9-5A’s Offensive Player of Year.
“Her district numbers were great and then she hit over .700 in post-season,” Sullivan said. “Her numbers were better than anyone in the district.”
Sullivan said what makes Morton a great player is her work ethic and determination to be better than she was yesterday,
“She is never complacent and always works to be better,” Sullivan said. “She has so many tools. She scored a lot of runs and brought in a lot with her bat.”
The Lady Spartans repeated as district champions with a 13-1 record. Overall, Centennial posted a 25-10 record. Mansfield Legacy halted the Lady Spartans season in the regional quarterfinals.
“We are disappointed we didn’t go as far as we could but that’s the way it is every year,” Sullivan said. “You are going to end your season with a loss unless you are state champions. We are still pleased with continuing to be district champs and going pretty far in the playoffs. The most important thing is that these girls leave with great memories and they left something big for the next team to strive for.”
The Lady Spartans had three first-team players in seniors Marley Eller, Haley Kimberling, and Crystal Peebles.
Eller, the Centennial’s right fielder and clean up hitter for most of the season, was the team’s silent leader according to Sullivan.
“She was someone we could look to for the big hit or the big play in right field,” Sullivan said. “She is going to be missed in the outfield.”
Kimberling finished her third season with the varsity as one of the team’s top players. Her play at first base and hitting stood out for the season.
“She really blossomed into a great ballplayer in her last two years,” Sullivan said. “She was solid at first base. Our infielders knew that as soon as they released the ball, that no matter where the throw was, Haley was going to grab it. To have that kind of glove in your infield is more than you can ask for.”
Pebbles ate innings for the Lady Spartans in the circle this season. It was a return to pitching form she displayed her sophomore year when she was the top hurler for the squad.
“Her sophomore year she had a huge year and she was a workhorse for us,” Sullivan said. “Then she struggled last year when (Hayley) Murrell took a few more innings from her. This year, she put all that behind her and rose to the top. She was a workhorse that we looked to whenever we needed consistency and she came through for us.
The Lady Spartans had three second-team players in junior shortstop Reagan Ellison, sophomore third baseman Karter Hill and sophomore pitcher Hayley Murrell.
Senior first baseman Ashley Brookman and sophomore third baseman Kaci Arkfield earned honorable mention status on the team.