Deer Park has been a power program in the state of Texas for years and will be a force come playoff time. Cypress Ranch also has a deep lineup and young pitching that will propel the 'Stangs deep in the postseason.
Big Mac will represent MacArthur, while Fort Bend will carry the torch for Ridge Point.
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DEER PARK DEER
It’s a new time at Deer Park – the Errica Cantu-era. Cantu takes over the Deer program after eight years as an assistant. The Deer (28-9, 14-0 in district) have won two state titles over the past six years (2012, 2014) and are pretty loaded this spring. “We have a strong core of leadership,” Cantu said. “Our strengths are defense and pitching. My philosophy is to foster a winning culture while demonstrating the highest level of sportsmanship and character both on and off the field.” Leading the way will be Sara Vanderford (Texas State), Amaya Montano (Texas A&M), KK Morado (UTSA), Courtney Plocheck (Texas State) and Jasie Roberts (HBU). Alaina Cortez (Texas A&M-CC) and Tabitha Burnett (San Jac) will also play key roles.
CY RANCH MUSTANGS
The Mustangs reached the regional semis two years ago and the area-round last season. In that time, Ranch has two outright district titles. Could this be the year that Cypress Ranch takes the next step? Back in the circle is District MVP Britton Rogers (Georgia), who dominated as a sophomore. Ashley Colonnetta (Seton Hall) also returns for her senior season. Ashley Croft (UT-Tyler) is a salty No. 2 pitcher after an all-district season a year ago. Infielder Gabi Lopez (Blinn) and Mikaela Lopez (SFA) are talented seniors, while Camryn Carmouche and Kendall Johnson will play bigger roles in 2019. Others to mention include Ruby Fernandez (Midland), Kylie Baldwin (Aurora), Olivia Yargo (Galveston College) and Abby Shull (MIT).
The Generals are back... Big Mac (25-6) made school history last season reaching the regional semis under the direction of coach Leechelle Lara. The Gens fell to Oak Ridge, but the scary thing for Houston-area softball teams is that eight starters return. First-team, all-district selection Angel Morales (UH-commit) returns along with Newcomer of the Year Wyllo Gayle. “We have to give 100-percent effort day in and day out,” Lara said. “Our keys are determination, grit, drive and unity.” Also pitching in will be Desiree Castillo and Lizabeth Munoz, who are both signed to Laredo Community College. Illyana Camacho will also play a key role.
RIDGE POINT PANTHERS
The Herzog-era is over at Ridge Point. Morgan and Makinzy Herzog have been the anchors for coach James McClanahan the past several years. Morgan signed with Texas A&M and Makinzy is a freshman at Florida State, leaving tremendous legacies. So, who is left for the Fort Bend power squad? Leading the Panthers will be Payton Jackson behind the plate. The Texas Tech-signee will be joined by Taylor Soanes (SHSU), Taylor Roman (UL-L), Emily Dipuma, Jade Merrell and Tamer McKnight. “This season will be about adjustments,” Jackson said. “Our defense is strong and eight returners are back, who will be key. It’s going to be a challenging season, but we are up for it. I couldn’t be more excited to get on the field with these girls.”
SUMMER CREEK BULLDOGS
There is a buzz around the Dog House at Summer Creek. Coach Gabe Castillo enters his fourth season with significant optimism. With good reason. Back in the dugout are first-teamers Sam Rodriguez (Northwestern State), a USA Junior National Team trials invitee, and Derika Castillo. Second-teamers include Dani Moreno, Jillian Walters and Tyra Parker. The biggest surprise is Tauryn Cummings, who was a USA Junior National Team trials invitee this summer. Cummings combines power, great defense and a strong arm. “Everyone is buying into our motto ‘All In’ and our softball motto of ‘Whatever it Takes.’” To be a real playoff threat, Castillo says that the “routine plays, must be routine” and “quality at-bats are key.”
Crosby was right on the verge of getting back into the playoffs in 2018. Heading into 2019, the Cougars have a plethora of experience coming back and expect them to be in the playoff conversation. One of the key returners for Crosby is Maggie Herdejurgen – who was the District 21-5A Newcomer of the Year last season – as she returns as one of the big bats. The Oklahoma State-commit batted .468 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs last season. Also returning is second-team, all-district selections Jamie Slone and Jenna Johnson. Last year, Slone hit .416 with 19 RBIs and four triples, while Johnson hit .377 at the plate. Another key returner is Cece Pace, who went 3-0 in 26 appearances. Pace tossed 108 innings with 69 strikeouts and 37 walks last season. Crosby has the pieces to get back into the postseason in 2019.
KLEIN OAK PANTHERS
Coach Barry Wilson made a tremendous first impression last season, his first running the Panthers’ program. Klein Oak reached the regional quarters last year, finishing behind only Klein Collins in district play. Wilson came over from The Woodlands baseball program, where he was an assistant. He was a part of two state titles and a National Championship during his tenure as a Highlander. So, who returns to the Panther den in 2019? Handling the defense up the middle will be Paige Hulsey (UH), while Lacy Ornelas (Ouachita Baptist) should lead the lineup at the plate. The ace will be Angel Cochran (Williams Baptist). The district will be tough with The Woodlands, Klein Collins and Oak Ridge all battling for the District 15-6A title.
CLEAR FALLS KNIGHTS
The Clear Falls Knights were a craft, scrappy, senior-laden bunch last season, winning District 24-6A and advancing to the regional quarters. Coach Kim Partin will lean on her experienced players returning to the dugout in 2019. On the mound is sophomore Payton Bean, who had a breakout freshman season. Erica Riley (Lamar State) and Alex Bradford (Southern) must come up clutch and carry the leadership banner for the Knights.