Local players made up half the Northwest All-Conference Team for softball this season.
East Surry had four players on the list, Surry Central three, North Surry two and Mount Airy one.
West Stokes, which tied East Surry for second in the standings, led all teams with five players, while conference champion North Stokes had four honored.
East Surry had two players honored for the second year in a row. Juniors Kelsey Wilson and Jessica Barker made the team last year, then Wilson went on to be MVP of the state finals.
Fellow junior Brooke Bowman was the 2011 Northwest Conference tournament most outstanding player and followed it up with an all-conference season.
The fourth member of the team was sophomore Amber Lawson, who had big shoes to fill this year taking over behind the plate for star Juli Bullington.
Barker carried most of the load on the mound and was the team’s cleanup hitter, said Coach Derrick Hill.
Going into the season, pitching was a question mark. Barker and Bowman had thrown some innings last year, but not against the best teams in the conference, he noted.
Barker threw 95 innings with a 2.06 ERA. Bowman threw 14 innings with a 1.47 ERA and 18 K’s.
East Surry isn’t a big power hitting team this season, said Hill, and Jessica was a little out of position hitting in the cleanup spot. That may have caused her to try too hard and strike out too often, but she still hit .338 and led the team in hits, RBIs and runs scored, he pointed out.
Kelsey played catcher from youth league up through middle school, but has been a pretty good leftfielder for the Cards, Hill said.
She always puts the ball in play, he said. She struck out only three times in 60 plate appearances, but she only walked twice, too. She batted .321 and was second in RBIs.
By contrast, Brooke is selective at the plate and goes deep into the count. She was first in batting average at .370, walks and on-base percentage. And she was probably first in clutch hits, too, he added.
In the outfield, she typically makes the right play and seems to understand all the nuances of the game.
Lawson batted up around .400 much of the season before dropping off to a respectable .281. Like Wilson, she seldom strikes out with just six in 72 plate appearances.
She is in her first season as a starter, Hill said, so he and his staff are working with her on learning the opposing hitters and understanding what is a good pitch to call behind the plate.
Against Central’s Brittany Myers, a good pitch was one that didn’t cross the plate. The junior slugger walked a team-high 15 times, or about once every five times up to the plate.
Myers hit .383 and was one of the conference leaders in RBIs with 23.
Last year Myers hit behind Cassidy Joyner, but Coach Glenn Craddock moved Joyner behind Myers this year to try to give her some protection in the lineup.
She hit eight home runs last year, but was getting under the ball too much for fly balls and strikeouts, Craddock said. He told her to focus on solid contact. Her homers dropped to three, but her on-base percentage soared to .519 and her slugging to .683.
As for Joyner, the talented sophomore got off to a rough start, going hitless in five of the first eight games.
Craddock said the coaches worked with her in practice, and she started coming around in midseason. By the end of the year, she was on a tear, getting two or more hits in five of the last six games to jump her average up to .329.
Joyner also showed her importance at shortstop.
“She is quick and covers a lot of ground,” said Craddock. “She’s reached some balls that I never thought she’d get to.”
She makes a great grab in the hole and then gets upset she doesn’t throw the batter out at first, he said. But he and the coaches are thrilled she kept the ball from the outfield so runners would have to hold.
Craddock knew going into the season that he was set on the mound with Elise Austin, who picked up all-conference honors last year as a sophomore, too.
“Elise has done tremendously on the mound this year,” he said. Her ERA was as low as 1.40 at one point and finished at a stellar 2.01. She struck out 134 batters, which must be near the top of the conference, he said.
She pitched 21 complete games, with Joyner coming in as a reliever in two other games. She threw seven shutouts.
North Surry pitcher Hanna Fulk also had several complete games this season and was an all-conference selection along with shortstop Molly Martin.
The Greyhounds had an early-season slump, but then put together a long winning streak in the second half with Fulk providing the pitching and Martin supplying hitting and solid defense.
Mount Airy had some player defections that left the Bears without enough girls to field a team. They forfeited a few games at the end, but pitcher Sarah Connolly had shown enough that she was named to the first team.
Connolly pitched the vast majority of the innings for the Bears.
The player of the year award was split between two Stokes County players. Pitcher Brandi Hole of North Stokes and Lacey Grubbs of West Stokes shared the award, while North Stokes’ Jeff Frye earned the coaching award. Last year Frye and Hill shared the award.
Brandi has good movement on her pitches and is tough to hit, admitted Craddock. Lacey Grubbs is a tough out and a threat to go yard.
Craddock said another worthy candidate was North Stokes’ Kierston Garner, a solid infielder who batted .400.
Garner, Hole and Grubbs also made the all-conference team.
Fellow Lady Vikings Lindsay Brown and Rebecca McBride made the first team as well as South Stokes’ Ashleigh Phillips.
From West Stokes those honored were Grubbs, Brianna Bratcher, Brea Lawson, Lauryn Smith and Emily Worley.
The Honorable Mention team includes two players from each of the teams except the Bears.
From East Surry, Kristen Cummings and Evelyn Wells; Surry Central, Ivey Johnson and Tiffani York; and North Surry, Tessa Allen and Bailey Culler.
For Bishop McGuinness, Natalie Hardy and Erin Redden; North Stokes, Ashton Boyles and Sabrina Dodson; South Stokes, Brooke Martin and Hannah Wood; and West Stokes, Sarah James and Samantha Seaman.
“Tiffani has caught some balls in the outfield that were just tremendous,” Craddock said of York. East Surry’s Bowman hit a shot to center with runners on base, and York caught it on the run with her back to the plate. If she doesn’t make that play, then multiple runners score, and the Cards might have won the game, he said.
Catcher Johnson had good chemistry with Elise and showed a great arm in throwing out runners, he said.
For East Surry, Hill said Wells struggled a little early on and may have been pressing as a senior leadoff hitter.
Still her batting average climbed to .265, and she reached base another seven times by error.
She got down the baseline so fast that defenses hurried their plays, so she almost deserves a hit for that, Hill believed. She also led the team in steals.
Cummings played first, helped out a pitching and batted a solid .347 in the bottom half of the order. She only struck out seven times and had an on-base percentage of .439, Hill noted.
North’s Tessa Allen played catcher, while Culler has played third and second base for the Hounds.
Reach Jeff Linville at email@example.com or at 719-1920.