In past years, VYPE has traditionally rolled out its preseason rankings for the top softball teams in the city of Houston.
In 2019, we shook it up and broke up whom we viewed as the top teams into three categories. Contenders. Dark Horses. Sleepers. It is time to meet the Contenders and whom we feel has the best chance to make a run to Austin and hoist the trophy in June.
In 2018, their motto was “Why Not Us”. Those are the exact words Atascocita got inscribed on the side of its Class 6A State Championship ring after winning the title last season. The Lady Eagles went 35-7 during their title run, which became the first-ever team state championship in Atascocita High School history. Ashley Boyd enters her fifth season as the head coach of Atascocita with a 121-23 overall record and brings back 13 starters from last season’s title team. The headliners are University of Texas signee London Marder (.321/28 RBIs/11 doubles) and all-state selection Katie Cimusz (.415/.829 slg/11 HR/48 RBIs). Cimusz was just a freshman last year during the Lady Eagles’ run. Another standout freshman was Mikayla Garza, who will be one of the key pieces in the circle in 2019. Other key returners include Bryanna Bell (Prairie View A&M), Emery Stanush (Cisco), Lesly Miranda (East Texas Baptist University), Sarah Bledsoe (ETBU) and Skylar Wilabay (ETBU). This team is loaded with talent and will definitely contend for a repeat run in 2019.
Another year and another loaded roster for The Woodlands. The Highlanders finished 2018 with a 24-8-1 record and fell in the Regional Semifinals to Klein Collins, which will be a district rival starting this year. The Woodlands will be in the mix again to make a run as it returns seven starters. Leading the group will be District MVP and TSWA all-state selection Amanda Curran (Tennessee) and TSWA and TGCA all-state selection and District Utility MVP Kayla Falterman (ULL). Last season, Falterman was a freshman and led the team with a .472 batting average, 18 RBIs, six doubles and six triples. Curran returns as the leader in the circle after going 11-2 with a 1.29 ERA. Curran recorded 71 strikeouts, to only 12 walks in 76 innings. In the offseason, the Highlanders did lose Emiley Kennedy to Lake Creek High School as her father Pat was named the new head football coach there last fall. Other key returners for the Highlanders include Abby Jones (Tulsa), Jordan Neely (St. Edwards), Skylar Stockton (UNCWilmington), Angela Wang (University of Dallas), Abby Newlun (Nebraska) and Skylar Sirdashney (Wisconsin). Keys for success this season The Woodlands coach Tim Borths (3rd season; 55- 19-1) said, include “whatever it takes to play solid defense and score runs.”
Katy was on the verge of heading to Austin in 2018. The Tigers ran into Atascocita in what turned out to be an epic Region III-6A Final, which went three games. Katy finished the year 39-2 and return a ton of talent to the 2019 roster. The group is led by Alyssa LeBlanc (Texas A&M-Commerce), who was the District 19-6A MVP and was an all-state selection. Chloe Cobb (Texas Tech) was also selected all-state. Other key returners include first-team, all-district selections Cait Calland (LSU), Amy Hitt (Blinn) and Tori Whillock (Texas Tech). The list of college-level talent is rounded out by Chloe Woodward (Blinn), Sidney Jones (UTSA) and Shannon Flowers (Missouri S&T). The key to success for Katy this year according to head coach Kalum Haack is “execution.” Sounds routine for a program that has reached the playoffs the last 20 seasons.
What is scary about the team that fell short to Oak Ridge in the Region II-6A Finals a year ago is that the big stars are all back for Audra Troutman’s crew at Klein Collins. Katy Schaefer (Houston Baptist), Kenedy Hines (UT-Arlington), Renata Boyd (Colorado School of Mines) and Mia Cantu (ULL) headline the group of returners. Schaefer, Hines and Cantu were TGCA All-State selections. Hines was the 15-6A MVP and Tiger MVP, while Boyd was a TGCA All-Star Team selection. In the circle last season, Hines went 25-3 with a 1.95 ERA with 182 strikeouts and just 44 walks in 164 2/3 innings. Schaefer led the charge offensively with 72 RBIs and hit .538 on the year. Cantu registered a big season as well with 45 RBIs and 22 doubles. Other key returners include Caley McGuff (ULM), Madison Dillon (Sam Houston State), Araya Williams (St. Johns Rivers State), Skylar Wooten (Angelina JC) and Madison Stokes (Paris CC). Keys to success this season include making things happen offensively, being aggressive, sound defense, playing as a team and humbly for each other Troutman said.
Last season, Barbers Hill reached the UIL State Softball Tournament for the third time in program history. The Eagles went 39-7 last year and reached the state semifinals. They are eyeing a return trip with title hopes in focus in 2019. Barbers Hill returns a trio of all-state selections in Jessica Mullins (Texas State), Sydney Hoyt (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) and Rebecca Miller (Pittsburgh). Also returning are first-team, all-district selections Matee Simon (UT Dallas) and Hayley Freudenberg (Lamar University). Other key returners include Samantha Landry (ULL) and Kaitlyn Dutton (Texas State). Keys to success for fifth-year coach Aaron Fuller (127-27) include the team having a “strong defense” and “depth in the circle.” Watch out for Barbers Hill in 2019.
The Ladycats of Angleton finished one win shy of heading to Austin in 2018. Falling in a decisive Game 3 of the Region IV-5A Finals to Foster ended Angleton’s season at 34-5. Looking towards this year, Cindy Rubio returns seven players in her 10th season (230-77-1) at Angleton. Two of the key returners include senior Aaliyah Garcia, who was the District 27-5A Pitcher of the Year last season; District 27-5A Newcomer of the Year Mia Scott and District 27-5A Defensive Player of the Year Avery Farr. Last year, Garcia (Georgia Southern) posted a 0.76 ERA and went 25-5 in the circle. At the plate, Scott (Texas A&M) hit .565 with 44 RBIs and Farr (UT-Tyler) batted .352 with 44 RBIs. Other key returners include first-team, all-district selections Danieca Coffey (LSU), Ellie Grill (Sam Houston State) and Teagan Whitley (McNeese State). Keys to success for Rubio’s team in 2019 include “improving on the little things, eliminating mental errors and focusing from the beginning to the end.”
Foster reached the final game of the year in 2018. The Falcons fell just short in the Class 5A State Championship game, finishing the season 36-9-1 overall. The Falcons do return some key pieces. Kylie Neel (ULL) leads the group after hitting .453 last season with 35 RBIs. Also back is Ciarra Mata (UTSA), who hit .352 with 25 RBIs. Leea Dempsey (UT-Tyler) hit .367 with 24 RBIs, while Alyssa Muceu hit .292 with 23 RBIs. Sierra Toman (Shawnee CC) will also contribute. Fifth-year coach Keely Shuler (109- 35-2) has the goal of creating a fun, successful atmosphere where kids can learn to push themselves to reach their full potential while having fun. That has been her magic formula to success and she won’t change what is working in 2019.
Last season, Splendora made noise finishing in a three-way tie for first in District 21-5A play and rumbled into the playoffs. The LadyCats reached the Regional Quarterfinals and finished the year 23-12. Heading into 2019, Splendora slides back down to Class 4A – joining District 21-4A with Livingston, Huffman, Tarkington, Liberty and Shepard – and with a plethora of returners, including eight starters, are a favorite to make an even deeper playoff run this season. Splendora is led by pitcher Caleigh Millican, who was named the co-Defensive MVP of District 21- 5A last year. Millican (Louisiana Tech-commit) finished 7-3 with a 2.18 ERA and struck out 134 in 74 innings. Also returning in the circle is Gracie Bumpurs (UT-Arlington-commit), who went 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA in 34 1/3 innings. In the field, Shaelyn Sanders (Blinn-commit) and Taylor Jordan are back after first-team, all-district selections. Sanders hit .389 with 11 RBIs, while Jordan hit for .322 and 13 RBIs. Other key returners include Kaicey Hagler (HBU) and Kerstyn Mclain (University of Dallas). Splendora will seek its fourth-straight 20-plus win season this spring as Deana Eubanks enters her fifth year at Splendora with an 81-37 record. Expect the LadyCats to definitely be a contender in 2019.