Success, for the Belton softball team, started in the circle.
But the experience, talent and leadership that fanned out in the field behind Lady Tigers freshman pitcher Sidney Holman continued Belton’s expectation of making the playoffs and annual preseason goal of making a deep postseason run.
“Looking at everybody around her, it was probably actually the best situation for a freshman pitcher. Every single kid that was on the field was a returning varsity player,” Belton coach Matt Blackburn said. “I think she had to learn that she did have a defense behind her and you don’t have to strike everybody out.
“A lot of the time, we’re just looking for the pitch (to be) in a certain location to prevent things from happening, and her defense behind her was able to take care of the rest.”
Holman received the District 8-5A Newcomer of the year honor and six other Lady Tigers earned first-team recognition on the All-District 8-5A list released Monday.
Temple junior pitcher Lexi Smith was the 8-5A MVP, her second straight All-District MVP accolade, and district champion Waco Midway swept the three other all-district superlatives. Midway junior pitcher Callee Guffee was the defensive MVP; freshman shortstop Taylor Ellis was the offensive MVP and coach Michelle Edwards was the coach of the year.
In district, Holman won 11 of 13 games, had a 0.40 ERA, struck out 105 and walked 30 this season. She also hit .310 with two doubles and two triples. Overall, Holman was 17-8 with a 2.59 ERA. She posted 177 strikeouts and 74 walks.
“I’ve only seen a handful of good pitchers come through this school, and a lot of them, you really got to see them shine their junior and senior years. It was kind of fun to coach a kid that is this advanced at this young age,” Blackburn said. “She’s not as good as she can be, that’s the exciting part. She’s got mechanics issues to take care of this summer and fall and I think when we she does that, her accuracy will go up and her velocity will go up, as well.”
Belton seniors Kirsten Whiteside and Alex Wilson and junior Alyson Bishoff were first-team infielders, and sophomores Tiffany Beaver (right field), Skylar Stewart (left field) and Bekah Alcozer (designated player) were also recognized on the first team.
Copperas Cove, which reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008, had two players make the first team — senior pitcher Ashley Hartwell and junior left fielder Tayler Hammack — while Harker Heights and Shoemaker each had one.
Former Cove softball coach Shelly Hayes moved Hartwell, a two-time all-district selection as a catcher, to pitcher this season.
“Ashley, she can play anywhere. She just can,” said Hayes, who stepped down as the Lady Dawgs’ coach April 30 after just one season. “I loved Ashley’s arm; she does a great job catching, but I needed another pitcher. I saw her pitch and I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to pitch some this year.’
“She did a great job. She’s just real versatile; you can play her pretty much anywhere. And, for her to get first-team pitcher for just pitching for one year, I think that says a lot for her and what type of player she is.”
For the Lady Knights, junior catcher Reagan McIlvenna was recognized on the first team as was Shoemaker senior pitcher Moe Cosper, who earned first-team utility player recognition. Temple seniors Taylor Valentin, Andelyn Irons, Keagan Jimenez, Taylor Ward and Samantha Pajestka also made the first team.
On the second team, Harker Heights and Cove each had four players; Ellison had three, and Shoemaker and Killeen each had two.
8-5A ALL-DISTRICT TEAM
MVP — Lexi Smith, Temple, Jr., P
Defensive MVP — Callee Guffee, Waco Midway, Jr., P
Offensive MVP — Taylor Ellis, Waco Midway, Fr., SS
Newcomer of the year — Sidney Holman, Belton, Fr., P
Coach of the year — Michelle Edwards, Waco Midway
Pitchers — Ashley Hartwell, Copperas Cove, Sr., P/2B; Chandlar Coskrey, Waco Midway, Fr., P/RF
Catchers — Courtney Colunga, Waco Midway, Sr., C; Reagan McIlvenna, Harker Heights, Jr., C
Infield — Alyson Bishoff, Belton, Jr., 1B; Alex Wilson, Belton, Sr., 3B/SS/P; Kirsten Whiteside, Belton, Sr., 2B; Taylor Valentin, Temple, Sr., SS/P; Andelyn Irons, Temple, Sr., 1B; Keagan Jimenez, Temple, Sr., 3B; Taylor Mordecai, Waco Midway, So., 1B
Outfield — Tiffany Beaver, Belton, So., RF; Skylar Stewart, Belton, So., LF; Taylor Ward, Temple, Sr., LF; Samantha Pajestka, Temple, Sr., CF; Allison Cooper, Waco Midway, Jr., LF; Tayler Hammack, Copperas Cove, Jr., LF
Designated player — Bekah Alcozer, Belton, So.
Utility — Moe Cosper, Shoemaker, Sr., P
Pitchers — Brianna Smith, Harker Heights, Sr., P; Carlee Duran, Copperas Cove, So., P
Catchers — Sydney Andrews, Copperas Cove, Fr., C; Laryn Brinkman, Shoemaker, Jr., C
Infield — Irene Espinoza, Copperas Cove, Jr., SS; Melodie Brown, Waco Midway, Sr., 3B; Miranda Coronado, Killeen, So., SS/3B; Dusti Douglas, Ellison, So., SS; Kennedy Connell, Ellison, So., C; Madison Stanley, Harker Heights, Jr., 1B; Alexandra Roques, Harker Heights, So., RF/3B
Outfield — Ashlee Smith, Killeen, Sr., LF; Alexis Watson, Ellison, So., CF/LF; Elliana Doubleday, Copperas Cove, Jr., CF; Helana Carter, Shoemaker, Sr., LF; Courtney Leudecking, Harker Heights, Sr., LF/RF; Kaitlyn Dunahoo, Belton, Jr., CF
Infield — Bryanna Sanchez, Ellison; Felicia Camargo, Ellison; CJ Anderson, Temple, Sr.; Destiny Henderson, Copperas Cove; Brianna Sinclair, Copperas Cove; Amanda Daniels, Killeen, So.; Meredith Langford, Belton; Allyssa Victorian, Harker Heights; Ashley Olson, Harker Heights; Alexia Rowe, Waco Midway, Jr.
Outfield — Karla Cosme, Harker Heights
Utility — Brittany Bass, Belton
Catcher — Shelby Hitt, Belton