Belton head softball coach Matt Blackburn said he always believed that his Lady Tigers had the ability to compete with the best in the state this past season.
And while Belton didn’t get a chance to prove that, bowing out to Lewisville in the area round of the Class 5A playoffs, the Texas Sports Writers Association proved Blackburn wasn’t alone in his lofty assessment of the team following the release of the TSWA All-State team Sunday.
Belton had a total of seven players selected to the team, led by second-team first baseman Alyson Bishoff and third-team utility player Kaitlyn Jones.
Senior second baseman Makayla Hernandez and juniors Brittany Bass (third base), Bekah Alcozer (outfield), Sidney Holman (pitcher) and Skylar Stewart (outfield) were each honorable mentions.
The district champion Lady Tigers also dominated the All-District 8-5A team this past season with seven first-team selections.
But for Blackburn, that wasn’t as flattering as seeing seven of his players’ names listed on the TSWA All-State team.
“It’s actually pretty overwhelming to me,” Blackburn said, “because I’ve never had that many kids recognized at such a distinguished level.”
Blackburn has seen his players receive plenty of recognition at the district level after the Lady Tigers blasted 34 home runs and hit over .400 as a team this past season.
But Blackburn said he hopes this latest recognition is the first of many on an even larger scale.
“I think it definitely brings some notoriety to our program that we haven’t really received at the state level,” Blackburn said. “And (it) says a lot about the talent that I’ve got and what they were able to accomplish.”
Blackburn was particularly happy for Bishoff, who will play for Abilene Christian next season.
Blackburn said Bishoff is an undiscovered talent that he expects to do well at the next level after her accomplished career at Belton.
“It’s the icing on the cake for her four-year career,” Blackburn said of the honor. “She’s undeniably one of the best kids that I’ve ever coached in terms of offensive production and just clutch hitting whenever it comes to the playoffs.”
Of course, five of the seven players mentioned will be back at Belton next season, including sophomores Jones and Holman, who have two years left in the program.
And Blackburn was excited about all of his returners, who he hopes will make this type of recognition a regular occurrence at Belton in the future.
“That’s an exciting feeling in itself, having those kids coming back,” Blackburn said,, “and I think it’s going to give them the confidence that they need to compete at that level.”