High School Softball

Star-Telegram Softball Season Preview: Keller, Birdville eye state title repeats

Defending 6A champ Keller opens season with win vs. Hebron

Keller got two hits from six players and a complete game two-hitter from Dylann Kaderka to beat Hebron 11-1 in the softball season opener.
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Keller got two hits from six players and a complete game two-hitter from Dylann Kaderka to beat Hebron 11-1 in the softball season opener.

The UIL softball season got underway last week with multiple tournaments in areas like College Station, Mansfield, Brock and San Antonio.

As teams prep for the postseason, can the Tarrant County area team produce at least two state champions, as it did last June in Keller and Birdville? That was a first for the area since the 2003 campaign.

Keller opened its title defense with an 11-1 rout at Hebron on Wednesday.

Among the 27 players on the 2016 Star-Telegram Super Team, 15 return.

More tournaments are on tap this weekend, including Bob Jones in Southlake, White Settlement Brewer and Burleson Centennial.

Teams to watch

Keller: Defending 6A state champs bring back district MVP Camryn Woodall (a Utah signee), and have nine starters signed to letters of intent or committed to colleges. Indians averaged 9.3 runs per game last season.

Birdville: Hawks won their first UIL state softball title (5A) in 2016. Graduated three starters, but sophomore pitcher Grace Green (Oregon) was absolute workhorse on the mound throughout the playoffs.

Aledo: Bearcats got to the third round last season even after graduating eight starters two years ago. Aledo knows how to win games, just like most athletic programs at the school. Hannah Andrews, Megan Reynolds, Bailee Whitener among returnees.

Brock: Eagles were 3A state semifinalist last season, and are already off to a good start in 2017 with their second straight championship at the Brock Classic.

Burleson: Elks will be toughest competition for Centennial in 9-5A. Zoe Miranda (Navarro) and Saeya Esparza (Texas Wesleyan) are their college players while sophomore Natali Wheeler is a star in the making.

Burleson Centennial: In the past five years, Spartans have won 78 percent of their games (123-35 record) with four district titles. Eight returnees back.

Trophy Club Byron Nelson: Bobcats finished as a fourth seed last year and is a district title contender in 5-6A. Major production from Aralee Bogar, Paige Tamayo and Maddie Flores.

Kennedale: Sophomore pitcher Megan Calhoun became ’Cats No. 1 late in the season and won 7-4A Pitcher of the Year. Junior Mary Grace Howard is off to a good 2017 with three home runs. Senior Lexi Neifert (Texas Woman’s) has one perfect game.

Hurst L.D. Bell: Only graduated four from last season’s District 7-6A champion team. Sophomore pitcher Kallie Erwin (Tarleton State) was MVP in 2016. Peyton Newman, Randi Castillo, Alicia Marion and Mackensi Mankel also among returners.

Manfield Legacy: Coach Amie Prater has the winning gene ever since her state playing days at Kennedale. Multiple school record holder Reagan Wright is at UTA, but Legacy is still the favorite to win 10-5A.

Mansfield: Hard-throwing and hard-hitting pitcher Paxton Scheurer (UT Arlington) returns as a junior as Tigers move to 4-6A, coming off back-to-back district titles.

Arlington Martin: Warriors pitched by committee last season, but senior Lacy Mann (Arkansas Tech) makes her return after missing 2016 with an ACL injury. Mann was 4-6A Pitcher of the Year in 2014.

Justin Northwest: Dropping to 5A has boosted the Texans in football, volleyball and basketball, and softball should be no different. Four have signed including Tarah Hilton, Kelsey Rhine, Tori Herbert and Shelby Hodo.

Fort Worth Paschal: Panthers finished 14-0 in district and won first district title since 2004 and bring back No. 1 pitcher Lydia Vidales and Maggie Hurst.

Timber Creek: Falcons enjoyed their best season in program history with an appearance in the 6A regional final. Falcons with 10 signed or committed on the roster.

The softball season got started this past weekend during the DBAT Invitational in Mansfield.

Players to watch

*2016 Super team

Maggie Black, Colleyville Heritage, Jr.: UTA commit led Panthers with 24 RBIs.

Lauren Blue, Mansfield Summit, Sr.: Blue was 14-5A Co-Utility MVP and can play anywhere on the field. Signed with Kansas Wesleyan.

Aralee Bogar, Byron Nelson, Sr.: Signed to Iowa, Bogar hit .450 and set school single-season records with 45 hits, 37 singles, 47 runs and was 33 of 33 on stolen base attempts.

Avery Boley, Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, Jr.: Team-highs 11 home runs, 55 runs, 19 doubles to go with 45 hits, 45 RBIs and 1.568 OPS.

*Calie Burris, Birdville, Sr.: Burris signed with Abilene Christian last fall after helping the Hawks to the 5A state title in June. Led the team with 10 home runs.

Bekka Castillo, Cleburne, Jr.: 12 doubles and 20 RBIs for the Trinity Valley Community College commit. First-team all-district.

Caitlyn Curlee, Keller Timber Creek, Sr.: The 5-6A Catcher of the Year can also play third and pitch. Finished with 15 doubles and team-highs .402 BA and 1.085 OPS. Signed to Southern Nazarene.

*Meagan Dake, Mansfield Legacy, Sr.: With Reagan Wright gone, the East Central signee becomes Legacy’s primary offensive threat. Hit three home runs this weekend.

Amanda Desario, Keller, Soph.: Texas Tech commit was 5-6A Newcomer of the Year and made the state all-tournament team. Hit .521 with 61 hits, 28 RBIs, 45 runs and 38 stolen bases.

*Kallie Erwin, L.D. Bell, Soph.: Tarleton State commit was 7-6A MVP with 15-4 record, 1.48 ERA and 147 strikeouts. Added 23 RBIs at the plate.

Maddie Flores, Byron Nelson, Jr.: Regis commit had a good opening week with two home runs and 12 RBIs, including two and seven against Martin.

Sydney Friend, Burleson Centennial, Sr.: Team-high 70 hits to go with .583 BA, 43 runs, 19 stolen bases and 27 RBIs for the 8-5A MVP.

*Elena Garcia, Birdville, Sr.: Garcia was named 5A state title game MVP in June. Hit .587 in regular season with five home runs, nine triples, 24 RBIs and 32 runs.

Rachil Gossett, Grapevine, Sr.: First-team 6-5A third baseman looks to help Mustangs into the playoffs after Cynthia Haugh graduated. Heather Haggard, Abby Haugh and Allison Gossett also return.

Autumn Graham, Lake Dallas, Sr.: Hill College signee was a first-team all-district pick.

Logan Graham, Azle, Jr.: Angelo State commit returns as the leading hitter on the Hornets.

Grace Green, Birdville, Soph.: 5A state champ had a great first season — 6-5A Pitcher of the Year, multiple all-state awards. Committed to Oregon.

Madie Green, Timber Creek, Sr.: Henderson State signee could be in for a big season after having an excellent fall league.

*Sophie Hannabas, Mansfield Legacy, Jr.: 14-5A Pitcher of the Year had 10-1 regular season record with 0.43 ERA, and drove in 21 runs.

*Serenity Healy, FW Nolan Catholic, Sr.: Signed to Arkansas Tech, hit .552 with eight homers, 28 extra base hits and 64 RBIs.

*Tarah Hilton, Justin Northwest, Sr. ECU signee set a school record with 40 RBIs. Hit .521.

Kayla Holubek, Saginaw, Jr.: One of three in rotation last season and had best record at 7-3 for playoff-bound Rough Riders.  

Mary Grace Howard, Kennedale, Jr.: Hit .400 with 41 RBIs. Three home runs over the weekend.

Maggie Hurst, Paschal, Jr.: The 4-6A Defensive MVP drove in 44 runs, had 14 extra base hits and hit .442 with runners in scoring position.

Kaitlyn Huseman, Saginaw, Jr.: Hot start to the season with a career-high three home runs in the opening week. Committed to ACU.

*Brittany Jackson, Mansfield Lake Ridge, Sr.: Kansas signee hit .719, was 14-5A Offensive MVP and had hits in 21 of 22 games.

Jenica Kevil, Martin, Sr.: Otero JC commit had 20 RBIs, 16 doubles and 47 runs scored. First-team third baseman can play third, short, second and catcher.

Julie Kennedy, Boswell, Soph.: East Central commit hit four home runs in the first week with a 13-strikeout game, and also threw a perfect game. 5-5A Newcomer of the Year.

Mady Lohman, Timber Creek, Jr.: Oklahoma State commit was 5-6A Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman. Hit a grand slam in College Station tourney.

*Patricia Loredo, FW South Hills, Sr.: Led the team in pitching and hitting past two years. 7-5A MVP went 12-4 with 1.25 ERA and 142 strikeouts. Hit .652 with 40 RBIs.

Chelsea Luddeke, Mansfield Timberview, Sr.: North Central Texas College signee is Wolves’ best player. 14-5A Defensive MVP had .433 BA, 13 extra base hits, 27 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

Zoe Miranda, Burleson, Sr.: Signed with Navarro College, Miranda can play third base and pitch and hit .423 with 10 doubles and 29 RBIs in 2016.

Abbie Moore, Richland, Sr.: Henderson State signee was 7-6A Catcher of the Year.

*Gracie Morton, Burleson Centennial, Jr.: Memphis commit had a monster sophomore campaign — 68 hits, 17 doubles, 15 triples, 42 RBIs and .607 batting average — and named 8-5A Offensive MVP.

*Hayley Murrell, Burleson Centennial, Soph.: Star-Telegram Newcomer of the Year last season after going a perfect 17-0 through the regular season.

Peyton Newman, L.D. Bell, Jr.: First-team 7-6A first baseman with 30 hits and 22 RBIs.

Miranda Pruitt, Joshua, Jr.: Tarleton State commit tied for second among area players with 12 home runs last season.

Olivia Reames, Martin, Sr.: Arkansas Tech signee had nine home runs and was 4-6A Catcher of the Year.

Abby Reeves, Godley, Sr.: 7-4A MVP and East Central signee went 20-6 with 1.55 ERA and 263 strikeouts. Hit .490 with 11 doubles, four home runs, 41 runs and 24 RBIs.

Morgan Rios, Mansfield, Sr.: Team-leading 10 home runs for future Louisiana Monroe Warhawk.

*Paxton Scheurer, Mansfield, Jr.: UTA commit has done nothing but win her first two years. Star-Telegram named Scheurer first-team all-area in 2016, and Newcomer of the Year in 2015.

Ashleigh Sgambelluri, FW Arlington Heights, Jr.: UTA commit had eight home runs last season for the Yellowjackets.

Kasey Simpson, Keller, Jr.: Expect Iowa State commit to have a big year after two very productive seasons to start her career. Starting primary position at shortstop.

Ashley Stone, Arlington Lamar, Sr.: 4-6A Utility MVP last season, hit two home runs in first two at-bats of 2017.

*Abigail Stuart, Southlake Carroll, Jr.: Has hit 15 home runs in her first two years. Hit .435 with team-high seven home runs, 10 doubles, 35 RBIs and 37 runs.

Paige Tamayo, Byron Nelson, Jr.: McNeese State commit had a monster weekend, hitting 13 of 22 with five doubles, three homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs.

Mattye Tyler, Brock, Jr.: Shared time on the mound last season, but will be the No. 1 this year. Started the season 5-0 with 27 innings, seven hits allowed, 38 strikeouts, two no-hitters and one perfect game at the Brock Classic.

*Lydia Vidales, FW Paschal, Jr.: 4-6A Co-MVP went 13-2 in the regular season and hit .438 with 42 RBIs.

Grace Wills, Denton Guyer, Sr.: 17-game winner is signed to Henderson State.

*Camryn Woodall, Keller, Sr.: Utah signee was 5-6A MVP and state all-tourney team. Led Indians with .523 BA, 1.431 OPS, 22 extra base hits and was second with 34 RBIs.

Toughest districts

6-5A: Playoff teams Brewer, Boswell, Azle and Saginaw are back together and add 2014 and 2015 state champ Aledo to the mix. Hearing new program Haslet Eaton is a dark horse. Justin Northwest comes from 6A, and Chisholm Trail will compete.

10-5A: This district has been one of the best in the state in football and basketball, and softball last season. With Legacy the favorite, Mansfield Lake Ridge, Waxahachie, Mansfield Summit and Mansfield Timberview will compete for a playoff spot. A playoff team in 2016, Midlothian drops from 6A.

4-6A: Paschal has a good chance at repeating as district champs. Martin gets better with the return of pitcher Lacy Mann, and with the addition of Mansfield, the Tigers have the slight edge. Lamar and North Crowley will fight over the final spot, like last year.

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