Prior to the release of our All-Big Country Preps softball and baseball teams on Friday and Saturday, Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood will review the 2018-19 school year throughout this week and the top athletic stories produced by the area in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball.
I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for fastpitch softball — I admit it.
A long time ago, it was common for men to play the game. My dad played it. I played it. So I still thoroughly enjoy getting to as many girls softball games as possible — just to see some fastpitch again.
So, it is with pleasure that I review the the 2019 season — the top teams, the top games, the top surprises and the clubs that are about to make a splash in 2020.
That said, it’s time to dive in.
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
A pretty easy pick here, with Brock going to the Class 3A state tournament for a fourth straight time.
The Lady Eagles closed at 33-7, falling to eventual state champion Emory Rains 4-1 in the state semifinals. It’s important to mention that Brock earned its trip to state by rallying from a one-game deficit in the Region I-3A title series with Bushland.
Also on the top of this year’s list: Gorman and Rotan, which were both within a game of reaching the state tournament.
GAMES OF THE YEAR
Oddly enough, the two top games I saw in the 2019 campaign occurred in the same series.
Trailing Peaster by a game after an 8-3 whipping in a best-of-three area round series in Glen Rose, the Eastland Lady Mavericks rallied with consecutive wins — 2-1 in 10 innings and 3-2 — behind 17 combined innings of rock-solid pitching from Brynna Foster.
What made this even more impressive is that it was flat-out hot in Glen Rose that day and Foster battled through every inning of it.
The Lady Mavs fell a round later to Clyde, but just getting there took a herculean effort.
I wouldn’t necessarily classify 2019 as a year of surprises, but a few things caught me off guard.
Brock spending the bulk of the season ranked outside of the top 10, despite having reached the state tournament for three consecutive years was a puzzler. The Lady Eagles eventually exposed this blunder by reaching the state semis for a fourth straight year.
Rotan coming within one victory of reaching the state tournament was one of the top athletic accomplishments from RHS that we’ve seen over the last dozen or so years. Had the Lady Hammers made it to Austin, it would have set the town of Rotan on its ear.
Some were surprised by Gorman’s run to a regional final. Not necessarily that they made it that far, but the 26-1 record was an eye-opener and one of the Big Country’s top stories of the 2018-19 school year.
And finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Abilene High’s area loss to Odessa as one of the top surprises of the year.
Who saw that coming? I certainly didn’t.
How about the entire Region I-3A bracket for everyone who was involved?
Aside from Brock, which eventually finished third in the state, there were toughies from Eastland, Clyde, Bushland, Early, Henrietta, Peaster and Slaton lurking about as well.
On the positive side, any team that gets out of Region I-3A can safely say it belongs at the state tournament. And if they lose there, it won’t be from a lack of preparation.
If I had to pick the team with the toughest draw? I’ll probably go with Early, which had to defeat a good Colorado City club in its playoff opener, just to face Brock in the area round.
TEAMS ON THE RISE
Stamford tops this list, for one primary reason: Any team that has freshman Citlaly Gutierrez in the circle has a bright future. I believe we’re looking at a Division I talent in the making and by the time she’s a senior, she’s going to be absolutely lethal at the Class 2A level.
It may sound odd to add perennial power Clyde to this list, given that the Lady Bulldogs have been a regional threat for more than a decade.
But with ace pitchers Kaitlyn Turner and Peyton Lee (both of whom can also hit pretty well) returning next year, it’s not impossible for CHS to experience a breakout season that sees them finally punch through that Region I bracket.
Could we list the Abilene High Lady Eagles here?
I think so.
AHS returns all-state shortstop Alyssa Washington, along with what I anticipate to be a major chip on their shoulder after their early playoff exit.
And lastly, let’s not forget the Winters Lady Blizzards, who reached the area round with just one senior and took Haskell to three games before being eliminated. That’s a club to keep an eye on.
- Football (published Sunday, June 16)
- Girls basketball (published Monday, June 17)
- Boys basketball (published Tuesday, June 18)
Don’t miss our All-Big Country Preps softball and baseball teams, which will be released Friday and Saturday, along with Big Country Preps All-Hustle team, featuring the hardest-working players in the area! Our reviews of boys basketball, baseball and softball are coming up later this week.
Photos may be purchased for $7 each by clicking on the small shopping cart emblem below the lower right corner of the two galleries below.