As the softball season takes its final trot around the bases, it’s time to pull back the curtains on another exciting campaign.
It was the year of the underclassmen. Stars were born with Whitewater, Starr’s Mill, and McIntosh taking the reins in Region 3-AAAAA. Each team made the state playoffs behind talented sophomores like Lilly Griffith (Whitewater), Jolie Lester (Starr’s Mill), and Rebecca Muh (McIntosh).
On the diamond, Whitewater (28-5) earned their second region title since 2016. The Wildcats faced stiff competition from the Panthers all season. After falling in the regular season, Whitewater swept Starr’s Mill with two road victories en route to region supremacy.
Starr’s Mill (28-7) rebounded with a trip to the Sweet 16 in the state playoffs. They were propelled by a stellar pitching rotation and outscored opponents 320-89 this season.
McIntosh reached the playoffs with 13 wins and grew collectively as a unit.
Sandy Creek found success under first-year head coach Nick Pou. The Lady Patriots won 11 games and ended the season on a three-game winning streak. Fayette County and Our Lady of Mercy had down seasons, but found some positives to take into the offseason.
While it takes every player to create team success, it’s always fun to dole out some individual honors. Without further ado, here are the honorees for the 2018 All-County teams.
The Player of the Year goes to Lilly Griffith of Whitewater. The talented sophomore was the heart and soul of the Wildcats. She hit .517 with 46 hits, a home run, and 47 RBIs. She was also a defensive maven and drew rave reviews from her head coach Robert Townsend.
“Lilly (Griffith) is one of the best defensive players I have ever coached,” Townsend said.
The Hitter of the Year is Jolie Lester of Starr’s Mill. The sophomore was electric at the plate and hit .581 with 50 hits and a team-leading 38 RBIs. She also stole 16 bases, collected 10 walks, and scored 40 runs.
Starr’s Mill freshman phenom Lilli Backes is the Pitcher of the Year. The Panther ace burst on the scene with a sterling 13-4 record and a 2.03 ERA. She also struck out 95 batters in 96 2/3 innings pitched. At the plate, she hit .472 with 42 hits and 32 RBIs.
The Freshman of the Year is Kyye Ricks of Whitewater. Catch her if you can, as the talented left fielder was a thief on the bases. This season, she set a school record with 51 stolen bases. At the plate, Ricks batted .537 with 44 hits and 15 RBIs.
The All-County First Team is comprised of talented players across the diamond. Starr’s Mill senior catcher Kate Ashmore makes the first team along with teammates Lauren Flanders and Alyssa Angelo. Whitewater’s Raeghan Byrom and Madilyn Cochran, and Sandy Creek’s Kaliyah Smith round out the infielders.
Ashmore hit .400 with a home run and 33 RBIs. She was a mainstay in the middle of the Panthers lineup and was strong behind the plate with a .975 fielding percentage.
Flanders, a sophomore, hit .510 with 49 hits, 50 runs, and 49 stolen bases. Angelo, a senior, hit .377 with 3 home runs and 22 RBIs. Byrom hit .400 with a home run and 33 RBIs as a sophomore. Cochran hit .364 with a home run, 4 triples, and 15 RBIs. The sophomore first baseman flourished in the playoffs going 7-for-10 against Ware County. Smith, a talented sophomore, hit .441 with 2 home runs and 20 RBIs. She also had 4.95 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings.
The first-team outfield is comprised of Starr’s Mill Lea Duben, McIntosh’s Savannah Moore, and Whitewater’s Bailey Vessell.
Duben hit .440 with 37 hits and 21 RBIs during her senior season. She also stole 30 bases and scored 42 runs. Moore hit .313 and had a .421 on-base percentage. Vessell concluded her senior season with a .481 batting average with 38 hits and 35 stolen bases. She also drove in 20 runs. Next season, Vessell will play soccer at North Georgia College.
The first-team pitching staff consists of McIntosh’s Rebecca Muh and Whitewater’s Emma Vessell.
Muh improved during her sophomore season as she took on more responsibility. She responded by leading the region with 191 strikeouts and finished with a 2.55 ERA in 117 2/3 innings. At the plate, she hit .381 with a .458 on-base percentage. Vessell led the Wildcats with a 22-3 record. The sophomore was dominant with a 2.31 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 90 innings pitched.
Starr’s Mill junior Paige Andrews rounds out the team as a star flex player.
Andrews was solid in both the field and in the circle. She went 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 49 2/3 innings. She also collected 19 RBIs and finished with 20 hits.
The All-County Second Team was just as good. Sandy Creek’s Lily Metsker and Makenzie Gay headline the infielders. McIntosh’s Ashlyn Gaines, Whitewater’s Alexys Buffington, and Fayette’s Rasheedah Hasan join them on the team.
Metsker was the senior leader for the Lady Patriots. She hit .483 with 28 hits, 2 home runs, and 22 RBIs. She also had a .637 slugging percentage to go along with 8 stolen bases. Gay, a junior, hit .404 with 3 home runs and 15 RBIs. Gaines hit .381 with a .458 on-base percentage and Hasan continued to improve as an emerging shortstop and catcher.
The second-team outfielders were a strong group this season. Whitewater sophomore Kyna Cheney headlines the list alongside Starr’s Mill senior Wakana Soto and freshman Sydney Blair.
Cheney hit .352 with 4 doubles, 2 triples, and 1 home run. She also drove in 17 RBIs, while playing primarily in right field. Sato hit .365 with 27 hits and 21 RBIs. She also did damage in the circle with a 6-1 record and a 2.55 ERA. Blair hit .391 with 18 runs, 18 hits, and 11 stolen bases.
The second-team pitchers are Fayette’s India Martin, Whitewater’s Kate Flanagan, and the utility flex player is Alexis Larrow.
Martin was a frontline pitcher for the Tigers. Flanagan battled injuries, but came on strong during the playoffs. She pitched 36 innings and had 51 strikeouts. Larrow hit .364 with 20 RBIs between first base and as a designated player.
There were also several players that deserve honorable mentions. Starr’s Mill outfielder Kendall Robinson heads the list, alongside Whitewater’s Becca Baileys, Dylan Bronkhurst, Brieann Heissen, and Kate Goss. McIntosh’s CassiDee Rotolo and Jenny Lyon join them. Our Lady of Mercy’s Rachel Bryant and Nicole Lomonoco join Sandy Creek’s Jessica Wheeler and Fayette’s Destiny Edwards to round out the list.
To see more photos from this season, click here.