With 26 consecutive league victories to their credit and district championship trophies from each of the last three seasons on display, it should come as no surprise that the Brownwood Lady Lions again dominated the 5-3A all-district softball selections.
Nine members of the 5-3A champion Lady Lions earned honors — including three of the district's superlative awards. For the third time in her career, junior pitcher Sydney Laws was voted district MVP, while senior shortstop Larisa Salazar was selected defensive player of the year and freshman Shelbi Winstead was tabbed as co-utility player of the year.
Earning first-team recognition for the Lady Lions were senior catcher Sydnie Darden, senior second baseman Nathalie de la Torre, junior third baseman Cherita George and sophomore right fielder Alyson Finnigan. Receiving honorable mention were sophomore first baseman Kathryn Walker and freshman outfielder Emma Mullins.
"Having so many accolades shows how much talent we have," said Lady Lions head coach Amanda Sheffield, who guided Brownwood to a 20-6 record this season and has not lost a district game as head coach. "These kids deserve every bit of recognition."
In the circle, Laws recorded a staggering 212 strikeouts with a mere seven walks in 143 innings pitched, while posting an 18-5 record with a 1.61 ERA. At the plate, Laws batted .500 during the regular season with three home runs, 28 RBIs and 11 doubles — all team-highs.
"Sydney is simply deserving of this award," Sheffield said. "She has proven year after year that she is the best in our district and continued that this year. She works hard, is a competitor and plays with heart. She is the complete package on the mound and at the plate."
Salazar, who began her career as a part time outfielder, elevated her game throughout her high school playing days. As a senior, Salazar batted .494 with 10 RBIs, seven doubles and scored 22 runs out of the leadoff spot in the order — and was the only infielder to play the same position in district this season.
"Larisa began as a right fielder when I took over this team and then played second base before I moved her to shortstop the last two years," Sheffield said. "She shows relentless heart and that's what makes her special. Her size and joyful spirit cause her to get overlooked at times but it hasn't stopped her. She continued to prove to people that dynamite comes in small packages and she will only continue to do that at the next level. She was the cornerstone of our defense and deserves player of the year."
Winstead was used in various positions as a freshman — in the infield, outfield and as a designated player — and began to hit her stride during the district campaign. During the regular season, Winstead batted .250 with one home run and five RBIs.
"Shelbi is one of the best kids I've coached," Sheffield said. "It didn't matter where I put her, she was up for the challenge. She played outfield and second base in district and showed a tremendous amount of effort and courage for a freshman."
The rest of the district superlative award winners included offensive player of the Ambra Hill of Big Spring, designated player of the year Makenley Lunsford of Abilene Wylie, co-newcomers of the year Lindzi Clemmer of Snyder and Claire Williams of Sweetwater and the other co-utility player — Maitlyn Yarbrough of Wylie.
Joining Darden (.394, HR, 13 RBIs), de la Torre (.357, 18 RBIs), George (.429, HR, 17 RBIs) and Finnigan (.344, 18 RBIs) on the first team were pitcher Maty Montgomery from Sweetwater; infielders Taylor Garcia of Snyder, Suede Shirley of Sweetwater and Braleigh Middleton and Melyssa Lunsford of Wylie; and outfielders Haley Dimidjian of Big Spring, Kelsi Crosson of Sweetwater and Pricilla Guzman of Snyder.
The second team featured Snyder pitcher Adrianna Hernandez; Snyder catcher Amanda Luecke; infielders Heather Medrano and Taylor Hinojos of Snyder, Kinsey Browning and Alicia Finn of Sweetwater and Olyvia Hamilton and Brianna West of Wylie; and outfielders Kaylee Rowe and Tabby Reyes of Wylie, Kendra Crosson of Sweetwater, Jaeda Jordan of Snyder and Gabbi Torres of Big Spring.
Walker finished with a .324 batting average and 10 RBIs, while Mullins batted .219 with six RBIs for the Lady Lions.