By Tony Adams
The Belton Lady Tigers 2016 softball season was the best in the school history, with many first’s and records set.
Belton head coach Matt Blackburn’s 2016 edition of Lady Tigers softball can add another first: a program-record eight players named to the Texas Sports Writers Association’s All-State Team.
The 2016 TSWA All-State teams came out on Saturday evening. Sidney Holman, Bethany Edwards and Kaitlyn Jones were named First Team All-State. Avery Drake, Meredith Lusby and Destynie Moore were named Third Team All-State. Caleigh Robinson and Kendall Mraz were named Honorable Mention,
The All-State honors gave the 2016 team four All-State members that qualify for Belton’s Wall of Honor just from this year’s campaign. Holman collected Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State honors, as did Moore. Jones had already qualified as a TSWA All-Stater in 2014 and 2015. This was Edwards’ first All-State honor.
Holman, a four-year starter, had astronomical numbers in 2016. Having sliced in half her earned run average in the past two seasons, Holman went 29-4 in 33 outings in 2016. Abilene Christian signee, 29-4 in 2016, reset Belton single-season strikeout mark for third consecutive season, reduced ERA from 2.66 in sophomore season, to 1.33 in junior year to 0.46 (just 10 earned runs) her senior season. She had 354 strikeouts against 44 walks, in 197 2/3 innings and wrapped her career with a school record 990 strikeouts for her career. She had a streak of three consecutive perfect games in a 100-hour span and retired 57 hitters in a district stretch. She had seven no-hitters in 2016 and 12 for her career. Hit .385 with three home runs, 22 RBI, 40 hits, 10 doubles and .439 on-base percentage.
Edwards, the sophomore catcher, hit .461 overall (35-of-76) with 11 home runs (school single-season record), 43 RBI, 42 runs, 35 hits, 14 doubles, 14 walks, 17-of-40 (.425) with runners in scoring position, .547 OBP, had caught seven no-hitters and no errors in 263 put-outs behind the plate for the District 12-6A Champions. Working with Seth Alcozer on her technique behind the plate in offseason, Edwards refined her style and was extremely effective both offensively and defensively. The Lamar University verbal commit was the Offensive MVP in District 12-6A in 2016.
Jones, at third base for her senior season, hit .444 (36-of-81) with 1 HR, 26 RBI, 34 runs, 36 hits, 13 walks, 14 stolen bases, 22-of-48 (.458) with runners in scoring position, .526 OBP and .951 fielding percentage with only three errors for Belton. At third base, there was no one her equal. Opponents saw her 5-foot stature at third base and found out in a big hurry “Roo” was all business and no pushover. Her throw out on the run of Midway shortstop Taylor Ellis to end the game in Hewitt to clinch the district championship was one of the key defensive plays of the season. Ellis also made the TSWA First Team All-State list.
Jones also became the first female athlete in Belton history to make All-State at three different positions in the same sport. In 2014, she was a utility player. In 2015, she was a second baseman. Temple College and head coach Kristen Zaleski will have steady options with Jones for the next two seasons.
Drake, the Lady Tigers’ second baseman, had an amazing freshman season. She hit .504 in 121 at-bats, set school records in runs (46), hits (61) and stolen bases (39). She hit two critical home runs, 28 RBI, went 25-of-40 (.625) with runners in scoring position and had an on-base percentage of .549. Her .968 fielding percentage with only two errors for the season showed amazing glove work. The one-two speed and punch of Drake and Moore made the Lady Tigers a force at the top of the lineup.
Lusby, the Lady Tigers’ third-year shortstop as a junior, hit .276 (24-of-87) with two homers, 18 RBI and had a team-leading 16 walks. She had six errors in 61 opportunities, but some of the plays that she made throughout the season and the playoffs were amazing. She went 13-of-37 (.351) with runners in scoring position and had an on-base percentage of .442. Her signature moment in the season, without question, was the 10th inning, centerfield, walk-off, two-run homer in game one of the Class 6A Regional Semifinals against Humble Atascocita and Baylor commit Shelby McGlaun in Mumford. That home run will be talked about for years to come, as it was the third time in the ballgame that the Lady Tigers were down to their final strike from a defeat.
Moore, the 2016 senior centerfielder, hit .447 (51-of-114) with 26 RBI, 35 runs, 51 hits (including 15 bunt singles), 27 stolen bases, .480 on-base percentage, and was 24-of-52 (.458) with runners in scoring position for the Lady Tigers. Moore’s work over the past four seasons from being a junior varsity pitcher and product of the Belton Youth Softball Association 15U division to her commitment to Midwestern State demonstrated perseverance and dedication to the team.
Robinson, the freshman first baseman, hit .412 (40-of-97), with three HR, 33 RBI, 44 runs scored, .482 on-base percentage, hit .447 (21-of-47) with runners in scoring position, one error in 195 opportunities at first base for a .995 fielding percentage for Belton. Robinson’s smooth, unflappable play at first, combined with Drake’s slick fielding at second, gives Belton a solid right side of the infield for another three seasons. Of course, unless Blackburn decides to move Drake to third in 2017 the way he shifted Jones to third in 2016.
Mraz, the senior left fielder, hit .337 (29-of-86), with two HR, 21 RBI, 24 runs, 10 walks, was hit eight times and had an on-base percentage of .452 for Belton. She set the tone for season with a grand slam in the first game of the season against Clear Springs at the Bryan-College Station Tournament in a 4-0 win and an insurance two-run double in the second game to beat Mansfield Legacy 4-0. She was a steady contributor during the season when the team needed her. She will be attending UMHB in the fall.
“I told the kids forever ‘Sacrifice for the team and the individual accolades will pour in,” Blackburn said. “I guess it has finally come full circle.”
Blackburn, who picked up his 200th career win in a victory over Garland in the bi-district playoffs, will have Lusby as his lone senior starter returning in 2017. Edwards, Robinson, and Drake also return, as well as young bench that will compete for the openings left by Holman, Moore, Mraz and Jones.