Statements were made at every level.
One year after the coronavirus pandemic erased a majority of the softball season, area athletes made big impacts in their returns, producing competitive district races and deep playoff runs.
Along the way, it became evident players were doing more than just winning games, they were also making impressions.
For Copperas Cove third baseman Larisa Perez, it was an opportunity to establish herself as one of District 12-6A’s elite players, and she did.
The freshman capped off her varsity debut campaign by landing on the Texas Sports Writers Association Class 6A All-State Softball Third Team.
Earning such a prestigious accolade was never Perez’s intention, though. It was merely a byproduct.
“I didn’t really think about making the all-state team,” she said. “I was just focusing on how I needed to perform on the field and help my teammates.”
Perez consistently delivered offensively, finishing the season with a .476 batting average highlighted by 50 hits, including 11 doubles, six home runs and four triples, 47 RBIs, 37 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.
Although it was not a goal, now, it is a precedent Perez, who was the lone third baseman placed on the third team, hopes to continue throughout her career.
“I’d like to improve on my hitting and moving my feet,” she said, “but most importantly, I’d like to have a louder voice on the field.
“I want to become a better leader for my teammates.”
Perez was not the only Lady Bulldawg recognized.
Fellow freshman Meagan Hunt, a utility player, landed on the list as an honorable mention, and while the pair accomplished immediate individual success, others viewed the all-state team differently.
Harker Heights produced multiple all-state selections for the first time in program history as a trio of juniors – outfielders Clarissa Gutierrez and Evan Fuller and catcher Rozalyn Simmons – were named
honorable mentions after guiding the Lady Knights into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The acknowledgements were critical to the team’s revival, according to Harker Heights head coach Kye Robertson.
“We don’t have to sit back and hope to be recognized anymore,” he said. “Now, this makes it more of an expectation.
“The fact that some of our girls are being recognized at the state level is a motivator, because now everybody sees that this is a program is building something big.”
Additionally, Belton placed two players on the list as catcher Paige Nunes and first baseman Bethany Sherwood capped off their high school careers by being named honorable mentions.
In total, 10 players from the district landed on the team as Bryan players earned a spot on the first team, second team and as an honorable mention, and Robertson believes the district’s widespread attention should put the state on notice.
“It is a pretty impressive accomplishment,” he said. “The district was well represented, and the potential for next year is really high.
“A lot of these kids are getting better.”
LAKE BELTON, SALADO MAKE 4A TEAM
The Lady Broncos closed their first season by opening a lot of eyes as three players landed on the Class 4A list.
Freshman pitcher Shelby Schultz was given the greatest honor, being named to the third team after helping Lake Belton finish its season just one victory shy of reaching the state tournament.
The left-hander was responsible for 23 wins on the mound, and she struck out 198 batters, while also posting a .403 batting average to go with 34 runs scored and 33 RBIs.
Three pitchers were placed on the third team.
Joining Schultz on the list was freshman shortstop Casey Schultz and sophomore outfielder Autumn Holman, who were each named honorable mentions.
Salado standout Rylee Oborski was the only other area player to land on the squad. The catcher was named an honorable mention.