Avery Drake began her high school softball career with a boom.
The Belton freshman played an excellent second base for the Lady Tigers, who went 31-4, won 29 straight games from Feb. 20 to May 20 and reached the Region IV semifinals of Class 6A.
Drake’s extensive contributions to Belton’s special season made her an easy selection for the 2016 Killeen Daily Herald All-Area Newcomer of the Year award.
“Just being a freshman, I feel very blessed,” Drake said, “and just to be a part of this team my freshman year and making it how far we did was amazing. I’m very blessed to accept the award.”
Playing at the varsity level for one of the state’s best softball teams proved not to be too much for Drake to handle. Her exceptional work ethic and diligence in both practices and games made that possible, according to Lady Tigers head coach Matt Blackburn.
“Avery works very hard in order to be the best,” Blackburn said. “She puts in a lot of hours hitting off of a tee to develop her swing. Her approach to the game is at a high level. She is always focused in practice and throughout the game.”
Drake hit an impeccable .667 this spring with four doubles, two triples and one home run with 15 RBIs. She scored 22 runs, drew five walks, stole 25 bases and reached base at a .706 clip.
For Blackburn, it is almost unimaginable that he will have Drake in the program for three more years.
“As a coach, you never expect a freshman to do what Avery did,” Blackburn said. “Hitting over .500 is a crazy feat for anyone. To have her back for three more years almost sounds crazy.
“We’ll take it in stride and continue to develop her both physically and mentally.”
But Drake’s immense talent is not the only value she brings to Belton. The reigning District 12-6A Newcomer of the Year is also versatile.
“Avery played second for us this season and did a very good job,” Blackburn said. “She made one error the entire season, and it was in the first week. She may pitch a little bit next season, but will most likely transition to third.”
And Drake looks forward to hauling in more hardware over the next three years — mainly of the team variety.
“That state championship is definitely something I want before I leave high school,” she said.