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Deer Park's Emma Overla shows off the UIL Class 6A state softball trophy the Deer won last season. Deer Park is hoping to make it back-to-back state titles this weekend.
Deer Park and Lake Creek are the Greater Houston area’s two representatives at the Class 6A and Class 5A state softball tournament this weekend at McCombs Field in Austin.
Deer Park is seeking a second straight state title, while Lake Creek is looking for its first. Both teams are nationally ranked.
The Class 5A state championship game will be played Saturday at 4 p.m. The 6A title game will be Saturday at 7 p.m.
A preview of both teams going into this weekend’s semifinals.
Deer Park junior Julia Donnell celebrates with teammates after the Deer beat Pearland in their regional final last week.VYPE Media
Deer Park (40-4) vs. Lake Ridge (31-6)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Deer Park is ranked No. 5 nationally in MaxPreps’ Top 25. … It’s the sixth state tournament appearance for the Deer since 2012. They are seeking back-to-back state titles, and are looking for No. 4 overall (2012, 2014, 2021). … Deer Park is the only Greater Houston area softball program with three state championships. … Deer Park has plenty of dominant pitching in seniors Madison Applebe (17-3), a Central Florida signee, and Reanna Nieman (15-0). Junior Aubrey Graham provides a third dynamic arm. She is 7-1 this season. … Deer Park has eight players hitting .400 or better: senior Ashtyn Aldrete (.400), junior Kaitlyn Zaid (.400), Graham (.400), sophomore Kylie Wilson (.429), junior Angelina Morales (.509), senior Emma Overla (.509), senior Kayla Zaid (.525) and Nieman (.556). Kayla Zaid is a University of Houston signee. … Deer Park is averaging 8.3 runs per game and giving up just 1.6. … Lake Ridge is on a 15-game winning streak. … The Eagles are averaging 9.7 runs per game and giving up 2.5. … In the circle, the Eagles are led by freshman Avery Hoang (15-1). … Lake Ridge has seven players hitting .400 or better, led by junior centerfielder Tia Warsop’s .579 mark. She is an Oklahoma State commit. The others are junior Iyanna Callahan (.400), senior Maritza Arellano (.408), senior Maggie Miller (.417), senior Brooklyn Morris (.500), sophomore Kassidy Chance (.505) and junior Paris Johnson (.553).
Lake Creek's Maddie McKee (2) looks on during the Lions' regional quarterfinal playoff series against Waller earlier this season.VYPE Media
Lake Creek (39-0) vs. Prosper Rock Hill (33-9)
Friday, 10 a.m.
Lake Creek is ranked No. 2 nationally in MaxPreps’ Top 25. … Lake Creek High School opened in 2018. Four years later, the softball team is at state in just its third full varsity season (2020 was canceled due to COVID-19) after playing in the regional final last year. … The Lions are led by junior Ava Brown, a Florida commit. Brown is hitting .389 with 40 RBIs and 10 home runs and a .455 on-base percentage. She’s even more impressive in the circle, going 28-0 with a 0.5o ERA and 318 strikeouts to 22 walks. Opponents are hitting just. 106 against Brown. … Lake Creek has three players hitting .464 or better. Senior and Syracuse signee Madelyn Lopez is hitting .464 with 46 RBIs and four homers, sophomore Carmen Uribe is hitting .500 with 28 RBIs and a .531 on-base percentage, and junior and LSU commit Maddie McKee is hitting a team-best .534 with 47 RBIs and seven home runs. … Lake Creek is outscoring its playoff opponents, 72-13. … Rock Hill is in its second varsity season. … Senior Grace Berlage is the ace, going 19-2 with a 1.27 ERA and 171 strikeouts to 46 walks. Opponents are hitting .177 against her. … The Blue Hawks have two players hitting above. 400. Junior Veronica Cully is hitting a team-high .432 with 16 RBIs and freshman Ella Berlage is hitting .423 with 46 RBIs and a team-best five home runs.
Lake Creek senior and Texas A&M signee Shane Sdao.
No matter how or when this dream season ends for Lake Creek’s baseball team, history will be made. The Lions are in the regional final for the first time, impressively and quickly establishing a winning program at a school that is almost four years old.
A considerable boon to the Lions’ rapid rise is senior Shane Sdao.
The 6-foot-3, 155-pound left-hander will go down as one of the first marquee talents in Lions baseball history. A Texas A&M signee, Sdao is well aware he is helping author his and his team’s legacies going into Game 2 of their Class 5A Region III final tonight against Friendswood at Reckling Park at Rice University.
“I want to be remembered as a team player,” Sdao said. “As a leader. Building trust and connections within the team has been important. We rely on each other, and hopefully that mentality continues in the years to come at Lake Creek.”
Sdao has helped formulate a culture of success at Lake Creek.
The Lions went 25-13-1 as regional semifinalists last year. This year, they are 28-5 and two wins away from a state tournament appearance.
In five playoff starts, Sdao is 3-2 with a 1.94 ERA, 31 strikeouts to 16 walks, and seven earned runs allowed in 25 2/3 innings.
“This season has been great,” Sdao said. “Not only because we have made program history and we are so close to reaching our final goal this year, which is the state title, but also that this team makes each and every game fun and entertaining to watch and to play in. (It’s) Staying focused on what’s in front of you and not letting the past affect your future.”
Sdao said what he and the team took away from last season was how different the competition is in the playoffs compared to the district season. Yes, winning a district championship, like the Lions accomplished this year, is tough. But the playoffs are tougher.
So Sdao worked himself into a more effective pitcher this season, mechanically and physically. Over the offseason, he trained with a pitching coach to fine-tune ways to help him stay consistent when going down the mound.
He spent time working on conditioning and in the weight room to get his arm healthier and stronger, enabling him to make more starts and pitch deeper into games.
“I’ve grown mentally a ton,” Sdao said. “Last year, I would let things get to me easily, but I’ve learned over the past year to just let things go and move on to the next pitch. I feel that I have more confidence in all of my pitches compared to last year.”
Sdao determined at a young age that baseball was his destiny. Since he was 12 years old, he committed to the sport, “taking ownership” of his passion every step of the way.
He has played baseball since he was six years old, falling in love with how competitive the game is and the work required in succeeding.
“I enjoy the competitiveness and pressure that it takes to be a pitcher and having the power of pacing the game my way, the ball in my hands for me to control what happens next,” Sdao said. “I like to win, and the hitting side of the game does not have a lot of winning involved. Pitching is more my playing style, and I hate losing more than I like winning.”
He hasn’t had to do a lot of hating lately. Sdao has not only set the course for his own future through his remarkable talent and dedication, but the Lake Creek program’s as well.
“It’s been great being a part of the building of this program,” he said. “We are the first to do everything there. No one is in front of us to set any records. We set the standards, and I would say that we set them pretty high.”