Category: Softball

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: ‘What Might Have Been’ series a labor of love

In most years, I’d be spending this week decompressing from a long and eventful high school sports season.

The state baseball tournament, originally slated to wrap up Saturday, would have marked the end of an 11-month marathon for us here at Big Country Preps while signalling the beginning of our preparation for a new one.

Unfortunately — and I don’t think I’m breaking any news when I say this — 2020 has not been a normal year. Instead of following my strict routine with near ritualistic devotion, I’ve just been waiting for the next curveball and hoping  to foul it off.

To say it’s been a challenge would be an understatement. But it’s out of challenges that some of our best work comes, and I’d like to think that was the case with our “What Might Have Been” feature series, which ends today with this column.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Gonzales’ breakout season halted by virus

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

With the Big Spring Lady Steers losing a number of key performers in 2020, a number of question marks existed about whether coach Chelsey Jordan’s team could find enough players to pull up the slack. 

Junior utility Jocelyn Gonzales answered many of them on her own. 

Gonzales, who entered the COVID-19 lockdown with a .500 batting average through 18 games, was well on her way to establishing herself as one of the top players in the Big Country.  

“Last year she was hitting in the sixth or seventh hole for us,” Jordan said. “But she was clearly our four-hole hitter this year. … She just steps up. She’s very clutch and if you have people on base, she’s going to score them. 

“We were just dying for someone to be a leader and we pulled her aside. She said, ‘Gotcha coach’ and ran with it.” 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Hawley’s do-it-all Leathers may have been area’s top utility of 2020

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Breanna Leathers’ versatility and dependability were a comforting combination for Hawley’s Maci Clayton.

The first-year coach not only started the aptly named Leathers in center field, but she was the Lady Bearcats’ second pitcher to Caitlin Crow.

Because of that, Leathers didn’t see much time at shortstop, but that change didn’t keep the junior from being unprepared.

Continue reading “WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Hawley’s do-it-all Leathers may have been area’s top utility of 2020”

EVAN REN: 10 things I’ll take away from the COVID-19 pandemic

I’ve always held to a personal axiom that perspective is everything. True or not, how we view a situation becomes the truth in our minds.
There’s no escaping it and every one of us has our own perspective

Well, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have changed my perspective in several ways on several different things. And for a middle-aged guy who is pretty well set in my ways, this is like the planets aligning.

I’ve managed to list my top 10 takeaways from lockdown, as they pertain to this website and what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Let’s dive in: 

Continue reading “EVAN REN: 10 things I’ll take away from the COVID-19 pandemic”

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Loaded Clyde softball team halted in the midst of promising season

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

“Be Legendary.”

That’s the motto that Reagan Sewell’s Clyde softball program latched onto a couple years ago, cementing their legacy by winning a program-best 30 games.

This year’s Lady Bulldogs were prepared to make their own history. Led by seniors Kaitlyn Turner and Peyton Lee, Clyde was off to a 12-3-1 start against quality competition and highly ranked in the TGCA Class 3A poll.

Did the COVID-19 outbreak cost the Lady Bulldogs a trip to state? Clyde was certainly a Region I-3A favorite along with the likes of Brock and Bushland. 

“We had already accomplished so many goals personally and as a team,” Turner said. “Our chemistry on and off the field this year was astonishing. I believe we had the momentum and determination to be legendary this year.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: AHS star Washington left quite an impression on coach, program

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Abilene High softball coach Jim Reese considers shortstop Alyssa Washington a once-in-a-career type player. 

And with a multi-decade coaching tenure that started on the baseball diamond and included a stretch with longtime major leaguer John Lackey, that’s no faint praise.

So to watch the future Texas Longhorn see her time at Abilene High cut short in the midst of a truly remarkable senior campaign was one of the tougher things Reese has had to do as a coach. And though he’s happy that Washington will get to continue her career in Austin and certain she’ll find success at the next level, he can’t help but wonder what the standout might have accomplished had her season not been derailed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: De Leon softball may have broken new ground in 2020

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

While the De Leon softball program has developed a solid reputation in recent years as one of the Big Country’s consistent winners, the 2020 season may have represented a high-water mark. 

We’ll never know. 

In the wake of the University Interscholastic League’s COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent cancellation of all high school spring sports in the state of Texas, the Lady Cats will be left wondering what heights they may have reached this year for the rest of their lives.

With a talented corps of seniors — Micaela Miller, Kylea DeLaTorre, Coral Sparger and Brooke Stelter — and considerable early-season momentum, De Leon pushed through a difficult early season with a 9-4 overall record and a 2-0 start in District 9-2A. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Standouts Buck, Philipp leave lasting mark on Wylie softball program

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

After leading the Wylie softball team on a memorable ride to the Region I-5A semifinals a year ago as juniors, standouts Bailey Buck and Kaylee Philipp had big things planned for their final high school season.

And with their team sporting a 14-3 record and a top-20 statewide ranking in mid-March, they were well on their way to achieving those when the COVID-19 outbreak put an early end to their senior year.

Now the pair, who are part of a six-player senior class that was instrumental in making the Lady Bulldogs’ transition to Class 5A a successful one, can only imagine how this season might have turned out had it not been cut short by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

And their coach, Heather Collier, can’t help but be disappointed that two players who were so important to her program won’t get to finish their stellar careers in fitting fashion.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Wall softball was hitting stride when season was halted

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos by Jen Kleman

It’s not how you start, but how you finish. 

While the Wall softball team will never know how 2020 would have played out, the progress made before its season was halted certainly had everyone optimistic.

Healthier than they’d been all year, the Lady Hawks captured district victories over San Angelo TLCA and Brady when the coronavirus shut down their momentum. Officially, Wall finished with a 6-13 record, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Young Ballinger team was hoping for prolific 2020 season

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos courtesy of  Chad McDufee, Dana Travis and Don Pena

Fantastic.

That one word is how Ballinger softball coach Missy Vaughn described the Lady Cats’ 2020 season before it was prematurely ended.

Vaughn’s seniors had thrived in their leadership positions. Even after junior pitcher Daniella Luna suffered a season-ending knee injury, freshman April Pena had stepped up admirably in her place. 

Sophomore catcher Jenna Battle and her teammates were ripping the cover off the ball. Other underclassmen had emerged as Ballinger won nine of its first 13 games and was undefeated in district.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Sweetwater softball was on verge of unlikely breakout season

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

The Sweetwater Lady Mustangs were unlikely candidates for a breakout softball season in 2020.

Sweetwater lost six senior starters from last year’s team that finished 4-4 in District 5-4A and lost to Vernon in bi-district, and the 2020 Lady Mustangs had only one senior in center fielder Blayke Bewley. They also started four freshmen, including their top two pitchers — Elliana Perez and Jenika Fuentes.

But by the time the 2020 season was stopped March 13 by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweetwater had put together a 13-5 record, gained a No. 25 statewide ranking in Class 4A and was poised to challenge for the District 5-4A title.

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EVAN REN: Virus may teach us some appreciation (for a while)

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
— Voltaire 

There’s a barbeque place near my home that I don’t like. In fact, I seldom go there — deliberately bypassing it whenever the BBQ craving hits me in favor of better choices. 

But Friday, after two months of COVID-19 exile, I decided to make a quick run to bring home some brisket for the wife and I and elected to go to the very place I try to avoid because it was convenient. 

Funny how one’s perspective can change while in isolation.

Abilene’s worst barbeque was suddenly good. In fact, it was beyond good. It was like freakin’ nirvana. 

I suspect that’s the way it’s going to be with virtually everything I had taken for granted before the lockdown. And I’m already experiencing some of it.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Was this the best Eastland softball team ever? We will never know

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

For four years, Eastland softball coach Tera Davis has been quietly cultivating a powerhouse.

This year was to be the culmination of her hard work, with a roster loaded with talented seniors and one of the top pitchers in the Big Country, coming off a 29-6 season that saw them reach the Region I-3A quarterfinals.

If Eastland softball was ever to go to the state tournament, 2020 in the minds of many, would have represented the best opportunity the Lady Mavericks had seen in decades. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Stamford’s Gutierrez was expected to become Big Country ace

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

At age 15, virtually ever key stat produced by Stamford sophomore pitcher Citlaly Gutierrez exhibits potential. 

While most Division I college pitchers are pegging the radar gun between 64-68 mph, Gutierrez has already topped out at 67 before her third year of high school. While many high school pitchers would be happy to strikeout 382 batters in their varsity career, Gutierrez did it in a single season — as a freshman. And while many coaches would be content to have a pitcher with an ERA under 3.00, Gutierrez charted a 1.51 last season, and was at 0.69 this year before the University Interscholastic League cancelled all spring sports last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With a career varsity record of 30-2, Gutierrez was, in the view of many, the top pitching prospect in the Big Country at the time of the shutdown. This season, if all went well, was to be the year every softball fan in the Big Country would learn exactly who she is. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: C-City, Kern had banner season interrupted

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Coming off a freshman season that saw her earn first-team All-Big Country Preps honors, Colorado City’s Mallory Kern was expected to earn a considerable amount of the area spotlight in 2020. 

And she was well on her way to doing it — helping the Lady Wolves to a 12-4 start before the COVID-19 lockdown that saw the University Interscholastic League postpone all sanctioned activities indefinitely. But Kern being unable to showcase her ability is just one of the disappointments for a burgeoning team that is now filled with them. 

That has left coach Kara Leleux in the position of trying to get her club to think positively while her players wait out the frustration with every other athlete in the state. 

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BREAKING: 2020 FCA All-Star Festival canceled

The Big Country chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes made the decision on Thursday morning to officially cancel its 2020 All-Star Festival in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is with heavy disappointment due to continued risks and uncertainties associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that the Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff has made the difficult decision to cancel the Big Country Chevy Dealers 21st annual FCA All-Star Festival scheduled for the week of June 7-13, 2020,” the organization said in a press release.

There was brief talk of postponing to a later date, but ultimately the organization decided that cancellation was best in the current climate, said FCA Area Director Andy Penney.

Continue reading “BREAKING: 2020 FCA All-Star Festival canceled”

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Winters girls expected a strong follow up to last year’s breakthrough season

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

After Winters’ softball season came to an end against Haskell last spring, coach Kendra Bryant made her girls write a note to themselves.

Bryant then tucked those notes away inside the base of the bi-district trophy the Lady Blizzards had just captured. It was the program’s first postseason triumph since 2011. 

With every starter returning in 2020, the notes were to serve as reminders that aspirations naturally would be increasing. Bryant’s plan was for the girls to pull the notes out before district began and read over them.

“Last year winning that first playoff game, you would have thought we won state,” Bryant said. “I wanted them to think bigger.”

The notes still sit in the trophy base, never having been unsealed. Winters’ promising softball season, like so many others across the state, is put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: COVID-19 shutdown just latest challenge for AHS ace Salazar

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

While she had been on varsity since she was a freshman and was good enough last year to earn All-Big Country Preps honors as a third baseman, Abilene High senior Aubrianna Salazar considered this to be her year.

Standout pitcher Kaylen Washington, who had led the Lady Eagles to the Region I-6A quarterfinals in 2018 and an undefeated run through District 3-6A in 2019, graduated last spring, handing Salazar the staff ace title in addition to her existing roles at the hot corner and in the middle of the Lady Eagles batting order.

The future Hardin-Simmons Cowgirl had reached her senior year, and it was her time to shine.

But after having her final high school season staggered by a knee injury scare in the offseason and a foot injury that cost her eight games from late February to early March, Salazar could do little but sigh when it was a global pandemic that may have finally landed the knockout blow to her AHS career.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Jim Ned softballers, new coach felt Lady Indians were turning corner

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Aside from winning, first-year Jim Ned softball coach Erica Jones is well known for her over-the-top enthusiasm and her efforts to bring her teams into the same mindset.

Most recently, Jones, who has had successful stints at Clyde and Anson that included deep playoff runs at CHS, seemed on the verge of a breakthrough in Tuscola. That is, before the COVID-19 outbreak forced the UIL to suspend all athletic activity statewide.

She is now sitting things out with every other coach in Texas, hoping to hear that an all-clear has been given, allowing her and her players to return to work. But for Jones, who isn’t bashful about wearing her emotions on her sleeve, talking about the effect the crisis is having on her team brings her to tears.

“Once our basketball players came in, all the pieces to the puzzle were in place,” said Jones, who had guided Jim Ned program to a 10-5 mark at the time of the lockdown. “We weren’t very many games in (to the season) but we were rolling.”

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Four Coahoma seniors were on quest for redemption

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Coahoma’s softball team has been out for vengeance ever since last May when it lost to Henrietta in the area round for the second straight season.

Senior outfielders Caitlyn Corley, Macee Grant and Sidney Rinard plus second baseman Alex Bailey were tasked with making sure the Bulldogettes stayed hungry in 2020.

The early results had been positive as Coahoma started 15-5-1 before the coronavirus pandemic brought its season to a halt just as District 5-3A action had begun.

Now the Bulldogettes’ four seniors are forced to wait and see if they’ll be able to finish their high school careers on their own terms.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Forsan’s Smith was on the verge of breakout season

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Photos courtesy of  Jodi Mims 

Tucked away in a quiet corner of West Texas, roughly 14 miles southwest of Big Spring, an unheralded Forsan sophomore was poised to make a splash. 

At age 16, Aubrie Smith remains relatively unknown in Big Country circles. But at the time of the COVID-19 lockdown, her 2.64 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 42 innings were beginning to make a sizable blip on the area radar. 

“This year we were better,” coach Shanna Taylor said. “Our record was 12-3-1 and we were beating some bigger schools. And honestly, Aubrie was one of the top pitchers that I’ve seen this season. 

“It was looking like we were going to have a really good year, so this is extremely frustrating for us on all fronts.” 

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: For Brock’s Tonips and Kizer, more than a game has been taken away

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume. If you have a suggested story for the “What might have been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Kelsi Tonips missed much of last season and part of this season with a separated shoulder. Then just as the Brock senior third baseman and pitcher was working her way back into the lineup, the 2020 softball season was suspended indefinitely by the UIL because of the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic.

The earliest athletic contests can return is May 4. The spring sports seasons may not restart at all.

“Softball is not just a game for me. It’s a big part of my life that was taken away abruptly,” said Tonips, who has played since she was 6 years old.

At least Tonips, who signed to play collegiately with Tyler Junior College, plans to play softball again. Lauren Kizer, a Brock senior pitcher and outfielder, plans to attend Texas A&M University and major in public health. This was going to be her final season of competitive softball.

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Freeman, Comanche softball see breakout season halted by virus

The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15 or until the UIL rules that high school athletics statewide may resume.  If you have a suggested story for the “What might have been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.

Tucked away in their homes in Comanche County, a group of teenagers and their coach are waiting to see if they’ll have the chance to finish something special. 

The Comanche softball team (15-2), off to its best start since its 2015 state semifinalist club, is sidelined with every other program in Texas by the COVID-19 lockdown until further notice. 

The objective in the Comanche camp is to remain positive. But the numbers aren’t making that easy, with 226,374 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide and 5,316 deaths at the time of this writing. 

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FEATURE: Rotan softball still hoping for a chance to make it to state

Photos courtesy of Greg Decker

The Rotan softball team began the 2020 season looking to complete some unfinished business from last year. Now, the Lady Hammers are just hoping to have a 2020 season.

Rotan was one win away from advancing to the UIL Class 1A state tournament last season, but two one-run losses to Borden County left the Lady Hammers wanting a chance to finish the job this year. They even beat Borden County 7-2 during a tournament earlier this season.

But the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, stopped high school sports in Texas — along with a lot of other normal activities — after the first day of Rotan’s softball tournament March 12-14. Now the UIL has said the earliest high school sports could return is May 4, and some are wondering if it’s even possible to resume spring sports at all after losing seven weeks.

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EVAN REN: Big Country baseball, softball hit hard during corona outbreak

Come springtime, I’ve always been a big baseball and softball guy, which makes my current life in exile all the more difficult. 

With the entire country on a virtual lockdown and me stuck in my office until further notice, I can’t help but be torn between doing what’s right and thinking about what has been lost. 

Globally, very few will escape the coronavirus outbreak without being affected in some way, shape or form. But on a personal level, it means contemplating the loss of one great season after another. Barring a sudden turnaround, hundreds of irreplaceable memories that could have been, will simply never materialize.

So, am I of the opinion that the rest of the athletic competition for this school year will be lost?

SIGH … I hope I’m wrong. But yes, I believe it’s over.

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FEATURE: Senior-led AHS, Wylie softball teams still hoping to finish what they’ve started

In a way, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has put everyone on equal footing. Life has effectively been put on hold for adults and students alike, and the only certainty for either group is uncertainty.

This reality has hit close to home for veteran coaches Heather Collier and Jim Reese, whose Wylie Lady Bulldogs and Abilene High Lady Eagles have, in less than two weeks, gone from district title hopefuls to just hoping for a chance to take the field again in 2010.

Like all softball teams in the state of Texas, Wylie and Abilene High are in a holding pattern, adhering to the University Interscholastic League’s suspension of all sanctioned sports, which was extended from March 29 to May 4 on Thursday. But with senior-led teams that were off to outstanding starts, the waiting game’s a little extra painful for Collier and Reese.

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LOCAL SOFTBALL ROUNDUP: Cooper routs Wichita Falls to open district, AHS wins again

WICHITA FALLS — The Cooper softball team opened District 4-5A play in dominant fashion Tuesday, routing Wichita Falls High 12-2 in five innings to improve to 8-4 on the season.

With the game tied at 2 after one inning, the Lady Cougars exploded for four runs in the second inning and five in the third before putting the run-rule into effect with one in the top of the fifth.

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FEATURE: Turner, Lee headline dangerous Clyde softball team

Kaitlyn Turner and Peyton Lee have been impact players on Clyde’s softball team ever since they were freshmen.

Coach Reagan Sewell knows having two college-caliber pitchers at the 3A level is a luxury. The growth they’ve achieved since joining the Lady Bulldogs in 2017 hasn’t been a fluke, either.

“Watching them become the leaders they are right now has been tremendous,” Sewell said. “And you give that up to experience, just having the experiences they have had. They’ve just grown all the way around, it just seems like every year they get better.”

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FEATURE: Albany’s Hebel picks up where she left off before ACL injury

Photos by Rose Hebel

Albany softball player Elia Hebel has returned and is reportedly as strong as ever after missing the entire 2019 season because of an ACL injury, surgery and six-month rehabilitation process.

She slugged eight hits in nine official at-bats, plus four intentional walks, last weekend while leading the Class 2A Lady Lions to a runner-up finish in the Stephenville Honeybee Classic, which was filled with Class 3A and 4A teams. Veteran Albany coach Jimmy Fuentes said Hebel is batting around .600 during the Lady Lions’ 6-3 start this season.

Also last fall, the 5-foot-10 Hebel committed to play NCAA Division I softball at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — even though she’s still a junior at Albany High School.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Clyde’s Turner takes top spot with two perfectos

In a week that saw a ton of noteworthy performances, Clyde’s Kaitlyn Turner earned the top on our list. 

Aside from a sterling effort at the plate that saw the senior pitcher finish 9 of 15 with three home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs scored, she saved her top efforts for the circle.

There, she charted two perfect games, the first of which occurred in a 14-0 win over Lubbock High on Feb. 28. A day later, she delivered another in a 10-0 win over Brownwood. 

She struck out 23 batters in just 10 innings of work during the no-nos, both of which ended in the run rule. 

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FEATURE: Gorman softball rebuilds, but the goals don’t change

The Gorman softball team won’t have to carry the burden of an undefeated record into the playoffs this season. The Lady Panthers lost three of four games in last weekend’s season-opening tournament in Abilene.

Gorman won its first 26 games last season before falling to Dodd City in the Region II-1A championship game. It marked the second time in three years for Gorman to fall to Dodd City in the game that determined which team qualified for the UIL Class 1A state tournament.

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BCP Softball Position Rankings: Infielders

After highlighting the top pitchers and catchers on the Big Country softball scene the past two nights, it’s time to turn our attention to the field.

For the third installment in our five-part position rankings series, we list our top-10 infielders in the area for the 2020 season.

We hope you enjoy reading through our rankings.

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BREAKING: Big Country FCA announces participants for 2020 All-Star Festival

The Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes announced the players selected to compete in the 2020 FCA All-Star Festival on Tuesday — a list that features 320 athletes from 71 Big Country and Concho Valley area high schools.

The Festival, which is comprised of all-star competitions in football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball and golf, is scheduled for June 7-13 at four different sites.

The coaches for the Festival, which were announced January, can be found here.

Continue reading for the complete list of the athletes selected to compete.

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BCP Softball Position Rankings: Pitchers

With softball season kicking off this week, it’s time to learn the names of or be reintroduced to the players you’ll be reading about throughout the 2020 campaign.

For the first installment in a five-part series that will cover all position groups on the area softball scene, we’ll be taking a look at the Big Country’s top pitchers, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch this fall.

We hope you enjoy reading through our list.

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BREAKING: UIL announces new districts for 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years (five videos attached)

The University Interscholastic League announced the new athletic districts for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years Monday morning during its biennial reclassification and realignment.

Here are all the football and basketball districts including schools in the Big Country Preps coverage area. 

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EVAN REN: Big Country Preps Top 10 Stories for 2019

It’s never easy picking the top 10 stories of the year for the Big Country Preps coverage area. 

Stretching from Forsan in the west to Brock in the east and from San Saba in the south to Munday in the north, there are literally thousands of athletes producing countless stories to choose from. 

Pairing all of that down to just 10 examples forces one to leave out several notable options on a yearly basis. The upside of all this is that the area is never short on quality stories to reflect on. 

So as we say goodbye to the year 2019, we salute those local athletes and coaches who produced yet another memorable year for the entire area. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top stories from last year, in descending order:

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BREAKING: UIL announces conference cutoffs for next two school years

The UIL announced the conference cutoffs for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years on Tuesday. Here are the cutoff figures and a list of where each school in the Big Country Preps coverage area will fall at the next district realignment.

An asterisk has been placed by every school that has changed divisions since the last alignment, with an arrow indicating which direction they’ve moved.

The UIL will announce the new districts for the next two athletic years during its biennial realignment on Feb. 3.

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SIGNING DAY: Abilene High’s Washington heads list of Big Country softball signees

With the college signing period for all sports but football and basketball kicking off Wednesday, three of the Big Country’s top softball players are taking the opportunity to ink their letters of intent this week. 

Abilene High’s Alyssa Washington, Albany’s Aubrey Moon and Eastland’s Brynna Foster all made their college commitments official Wednesday, though Moon’s ceremony won’t take place until Thursday. 

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BCP BOYS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AND SUPER DOZEN: Yeager claims top spot

On the heels of announcing our first-ever Big Country Preps Girls Athlete of the Year, it’s now time to announce our first boys winner.

Again, our Athlete of the Year and subsequent “Super Dozen” represent the Big Country Athletes who contributed the most to their athletic programs — most often over a broad range of disciplines. 

So, at this time, Big Country Preps proudly announces its Boys Athlete of the Year: Kevin Yeager of De Leon. 

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BCP GIRLS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AND SUPER DOZEN: Masonheimer takes top spot

An Athlete of the Year award for the Big Country has been a long time coming, and Big Country Preps is officially ending the wait. 

What better way to end our first school year than by honoring our top all-around athletes. By that, we mean those athletes who competed at a high level over a broad range of disciplines and had the biggest overall impact on their athletic programs (as nominated by area athletic directors). 

So without further ado, we proudly announce our first Big Country Preps Girls Athlete of the Year: Anna Masonheimer of Eula. 

From start to finish, Masonheimer was a key contributor to Eula’s athletic success during the 2018-19 school year, beginning with her helping the EHS cross country team reach the regional meet. 

She was the MVP of Eula’s district champion basketball team, earning all state honors from both the Texas Association of Basketball coaches and the Texas Girls Coaches Association. But she was just getting started at that point. 

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2018-19 IN REVIEW: Softball (w/ two photo galleries)

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.

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BCP Podcast No. 51: Evan, Daniel discuss Baird’s move to six-man, look back at 2018-19 athletic year

With Baird’s decision this week to join the six-man football ranks, which follows a trend set in recent years by fellow Big Country Class 1A schools Rotan, Gorman, Bronte and Roby, the Bears will be entering a whole new world this fall.

On this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood explore that transition from all angles. 

Also in this week’s episode, Evan and Daniel take a look back at the 2018-19 athletic year and discuss some of their highlights from the football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball seasons.

FCA SOFTBALL: Game has relaxed format, but don’t let that fool you

SAN ANGELO — With unlimited substitutions, a batting order that can be as long as one wants and a game length stretched to nine innings (rather than seven), one may think the Fellowship of Christian Athletes All-Star Softball Game is taken about as seriously as a slow-pitch game in a public park. 

On the contrary, while Friday’s 5-4 win at Mayer Field achieved its primary aim of Christian fellowship, it backed it with a highly competitive game that came down to the final out. 

It was the first time in the six-year history of the game that the South had won — something the southerners took seriously enough to use Brownwood ace Chyanne Ellett over the final six innings. 

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PREVIEW: More than 270 recent graduates to compete at FCA All-Star Festival

More than 270 athletes from the Big Country and Concho Valley areas will be representing their high schools one final time this weekend at the 2019 Fellowship of Christian Athletes All-Star Festival, which will pack six all-star games into two days across three sites.

The event begins Friday with the softball and baseball games, which are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, in San Angelo. It will continue Saturday with the  women’s and men’s basketball games in Brownwood and the volleyball match and Myrle Greathouse All-Star Classic football game in Abilene.

The women’s and men’s basketball games are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, at Brownwood Coliseum, while the volleyball match will be played at noon at Wylie High School and the football game will kick off at 7 p.m. at Shotwell Stadium.

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BCP Podcast No. 49: Evan, Daniel talk state baseball with Albany’s David Fairchild

During his time as Albany’s baseball coach, David Fairchild has led one of the most successful programs in all of the Big Country, particularly over the past five years, which have seen his Lions advance to the region championship round three times and make its first two trips to the state tournament.

On Monday, Fairchild took some time to chat with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood about this year’s run to Dell Diamond in Round Rock, last week’s dramatic comeback against New Deal for the Region I-2A title and having Albany football coach/athletic director Denney Faith as his assistant for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel discuss Abilene High’s decision to promote defensive coordinator Mike Fullen as its head football coach and recap Brock softball’s trip to state and the region championship baseball series between Wall and Brock, and Albany and New Deal.