Lady Spartans reap top softball honors
After blitzing the competition with a 14-0 run through District 8-5A, Centennial’s softball team showed its dominance on the 8-5A All-District team.
Led by Most Valuable Player Sydney Friend and Coach of the Year Shannon Sullivan, the Lady Spartans collected five superlatives honors, placed four players on the first-team, three on the second-team and had two honorable mention selections.
Also garnering superlative honors were sophomore outfielder Grace Morton (Offensive Player of the Year), senior catcher Bailey White (Defensive Player of the Year) and senior third baseman/catcher Eva Scott (Utility Player of the Year).
The Lady Spartans posted an overall record of 29-5, losing to regional finalist Canyon in the regional semifinals in a pair of games. Centennial downed Western Hills and Lake Dallas in one-game playoffs then swept arch-rival Burleson to reach the regional semifinals.
“We went a long way but it wasn’t as far as we wanted to go,” Sullivan said. “But I feel like we gained a lot from it. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. The girls did a good job of sticking to their plan all year long and they saw a lot of success along the way.“
In five varsity seasons, Centennial has won four district titles. Three of those title runs came with perfect district records.
Considering the level of talent on her squad, Sullivan had trouble deciding who to put up for district MVP honors.
“All our players are valuable and made an impact whether they were a starter or not,” Sullivan said. “It’s always hard to put up MVP’s. I put up a couple and Sydney ended up getting it.”
Friend, a junior second baseman, walked away with the honor, thanks in part to the impression she made on the other coaches in the district.
For the season, Friend hit .583 with a .603 on-base percentage and a .675 slugging percentage. She had nine doubles, a triple, 27 RBI, scored 43 runs and stole 10 bases.
“She is the complete package,” Sullivan said. “She brought some much to the plate, she could lay down a bunt for a hit, she could slap for a hit, she could poke one in the gap for a double or turn a double into a triple because she was so fast.”
But Friend’s abilities didn’t stop there.
Once she was on the bases, she was a threat to steal and cause trouble on the base paths. Then playing second base she had the ability to steal hits and could cover a lot of ground.
“She was a great leader on and off the field,” Sullivan said. “She came to win every day.”
Morton’s selection as the Offensive Player of the Year was virtually a no-brainer considering her team-high .607 batting average to go along with a .654 on-base percentage and a 1.053 slugging percentage. Morton finished with 17 doubles, 15 triples, one home run, 53 runs scored, 42 RBI and 20 steals.
“Offensively Gracie is just a huge threat,” Sullivan said. “She can turn a single into a double or a double into a triple but she also brings the element of power to the plate. She can hit a ball off the wall or over the fence. Defensively it’s hard to setup for a hitter like that. She was successful no matter the type of pitcher she faced.”
To go along with a great bat, White brought intimidation behind the plate when she was catching. Sullivan said if she was a coach who hadn’t seen White play, she’s think twice about sending a runner because
“Bailey has that stature and a great arm,” Sullivan said. “She’s a big threat behind the plate because she knows the game. She was taught it at a young age and she’s taken it to the next level. She can call a game well and she knew so much about our pitchers and called a great game.”
Sullivan added that White’s ability to call the game and handle the pitching staff freed the coaches to do other things like make defensive adjustments and look ahead to possible situations coming later in the game.
“Bailey really stepped up and took over the catching role this season,” Sullivan said.
To go along with a .989 fielding percentage, White hit .480 with a .551 on-base percentage and a .754 slugging percentage. The senior had 18 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 49 RBI.
Scott showed her versatility this season playing third base, shortstop and catching for the Lady Spartans making her a perfect selection for Utility Player of the Year.
“She is just an athlete, who can play any position,” Sullivan said. “She was eager to do anything we needed her too. Really what you want is a team full of utility players. That was you can put them where you need them depending on what type of team you are playing.”
Scott hit .423 with an on-base percentage of .448 and a .907 slugging percentage. She collected 16 doubles, 11 triples, three home runs, 45 RBI, 34 runs and 20 stolen bases.
The Lady Spartans had four first-team players in freshman pitcher Hayley Murrell, junior first baseman Haley Kimberling, junior outfielder Marley Eller and sophomore shortstop Reagan Ellison.
Murrell took over in the circle early in the season and posted a 20-1 record with a 2.07 earned run average in 115 innings. She allowed 78 hits, walked 74 and struck out 107.
“She grew up a lot this year,” Sullivan said. “It helped that she was throwing to catchers with experience.”
Kimberling had a big year hitting .385 with six doubles, three triples, 24 RBI and 33 runs scored.
“Haley really improved this season at the plate and in the field,” Sullivan said. “She made some great plays at first base. She also brought to the plate a good bat. She brought another element to her tool box this year.”
After getting injured midway through district play, Eller came back and crushed the ball. The junior finished with a .443 average to go along with 21 runs and 21 RBI on 35 hits. She had 13 doubles and four triples.
“She was fantastic,” Sullivan said. “She did a tremendous job at the plate this year. It’s always exciting to see kids really develop.”
Ellison found herself in a tough spot replacing Madison Montgomery at shortstop.
“She had some big shoes to fill,” Sullivan said. “When I looked back at the season I honestly didn’t think we skipped a beat at shortstop this season. She was solid there and did a great job of making things happen.”
Ellison hit .337 for the season with six doubles, a triple, a home run, 23 RBI and 32 runs scored.
Centennial had a pair of second-team players in senior Bailey Gunter, junior pitcher Crystal Peebles and sophomore center fielder Brooklyn Freeman. Senior outfielder Kallyn Ciesynski and senior first baseman Sam Pettijohn.