Blayne McGhee had no idea how to react when she was named district MVP. Probably because she had no idea the award existed prior to hearing the news.
After collecting 14 hits in 34 at bats, including four home runs, 17 RBIs and 18 scored runs in district play this season, McGhee was named the 8-3A MVP on Monday.
Then, she learned what exactly that meant.
“When I saw it on the board, I asked coach (Crystal) O’Brien what that was and if I made first team,” McGhee said. “She was like, ‘Kid, that’s better than first team. All coaches picked one player to be MVP and that was you.’
“I thought that was so cool.”
After missing the majority of the nondistrict portion of the schedule following labrum surgery on her throwing arm last September, Gatesville’s sophomore catcher quickly caught the attention of rival coaches as she helped the Hornets return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“She would DH for us a little bit, and she’d play a couple innings here and there, but did not play a complete game until district started,” O’Brien said. “She was the final piece to the puzzle that we needed.”
The Hornets produced a mediocre 12-11 record during nondistrict, but were immediately energized by McGhee’s offense and defense. Gatesville went 8-2 in district with its only loses coming against state-ranked Liberty Hill, which ended the regular season second in the polls.
“I got to go home and tell my (grandfather), who just came in from Iraq,” she said. “He got to see a couple games so far, and to be able to do this, this season feels great because I know I’m doing it for him. ... I hit three home runs in three games, and him getting to see that was just an amazing feeling for me.”
Senior right fielder Ashley Cook was named co-offensive player of the year with Liberty Hill senior shortstop Paige Lafferty. Like McGhee, the award was something literally would not have seen coming several months ago.
“I got contacts (this season), and that helped a lot,” Cook said. “I wasn’t seeing the ball as well in past years, and this year I could see it, and I had so much confidence. I knew my job was to get on base and score, and I went out there with that mentality.”
Cook was 16 for 35 with 13 runs scored, and seven RBIs in district play and led the team with 36 stolen bases. Hitting lead-off for the Hornets, O’Brien rarely had to worry about getting runners into scoring position early.
“She was a threat on the bases,” O’Brien. “If she didn’t get a double leading off, she was going to be on second by the next pitch.”
Six other Hornets landed on either the all-district first or second team. Senior centerfielder Megan Chambers, twin sister and first baseman Paige Chambers, senior shortstop Lauren Nichols and sophomore pitcher Evan Edmiston were each named to the first team.
Senior third baseman Riley Latham and freshman pitcher/left fielder McKenzie Winkler were placed on the second team.
“(Sometimes) you know that you have a good team, but you just don’t always know that other coaches recognize it,” O’Brien said. “Them realizing that some of our players really stepped up and really were first teamers meant a lot.”
Lampasas sisters earn first-team recognition — The Lady Badgers had a rough season, going 8-19 overall and 2-8 in district under first-year head coach Cassie Crabtree. But Lampasas has reason to be excited about the future with four underclassmen landing on the all-district list.
Sisters Marissa Maldonado and Alyssa Maldonado were each placed on the all-district first team after the pair led Lampasas in hits.
Older sister Marissa Maldonado, a sophomore third baseman, finished the season with 20 hits and 10 RBIs to go along with 10 scored runs, while freshman shortstop Alyssa Maldonado had a team-high 27 hits with 23 runs and a .342 batting average.
Two more Lampasas sophomores also received recognition as center fielder Blake Webb and pitcher/right fielder Tori Caruthers were placed on the second team.