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HOUSTON – Bringing home the hardware from the softball diamond at year’s end is something that Houston-area teams have been very good at.
Last year, it was Deer Park, Barbers Hill, and Liberty to bring home the crowns in Class 6A, 5A and 4A, respectively. It was the second-straight season (not counting the cancelled 2020 year due to COVID-19) that the Houston-area brought home three titles.
In fact, in the past three seasons, it has been eight state titles and 10 since 2015.
So, which team could bring it home in 2022?
Time to break down 5 Big Things to watch as the 2022 softball playoffs begin Wednesday.
The Back-To-Back Tour
You must start with the champs. Right? All the talk to open the 2022 playoffs will surround the teams that are trying to defend their titles from a year ago.
Deer Park, which won its third crown in program history a year ago, has gone 30-2 overall this season and is ranked No. 2 in Texas by MaxPreps. The Deer rolled through District 22-6A play, outscoring opponents 147-9. They open the playoffs against North Shore.
Barbers Hill was a team that had some question marks around not if they could hit and score runs in 2022 but who would hold down the circle for the talent that had graduated in Sophia Simpson and Samantha Landry. In step freshman Hailey Nutter, who quickly turned into the ace of the team. A perfect record in district, including a sweep of rival Crosby. The Eagles open their title defense this week with a best-of-three against Manvel.
Liberty is the final piece to this puzzle. The Panthers have won two state titles in the past five seasons and looks to add number three in 2022. Liberty just capped off a 25-4 regular season, going 10-2 in district play.
Coming into the season we knew on paper that Lake Creek with its plethora of college signees and commits was going to be a statistical machine. The Lions entered this week with a perfect 29-0 mark and outscoring foes 249-28 this season.
Let’s start with Florida-commit Ava Brown in the circle. The junior’s numbers have been just flat-out silly in 2022. Brown boasts a 19-0 record with a 0.37 ERA, giving up just six earned runs with 251 strikeouts and 17 walks in 113 2/3 innings. Opponents are batting 0.072 against her.
At the plate, LSU-commit Maddie McKee leads the team with a .582 average, 11 doubles, six triples, seven home runs and 43 RBIs. Syracuse-signee Madelyn Lopez hit .507 with a team-leading 12 doubles and 30 RBIs, while Brown hit .378 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 29 RBIs.
This team is loaded and after making the Region III-5A Championship a year ago has its eyes set on Austin.
According to MaxPreps, the Lions are ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Roncalli from Indiana and No. 1 in Texas, ahead of Deer Park.
Putting a Charge into It
Clear Springs was one series win away from heading to Austin a year ago.
The Chargers fell to eventual Class 6A Champion Deer Park 3-1 in the Class 6A Region Championship in a decisive Game 3.
In 2022, Clear Springs has gone 24-4 overall, went 11-1 in district play and nearly scored 200 runs in the regular season. Junior Anna Soles leads the team at the dish with a .421 average, eight doubles and 28 RBIs, Erianna Garcia is right behind her with a .329 average and 26 RBIs and Clair Pollack is hitting .345 with 24 RBIs. Emma King leads the team in stolen bases with 19.
LSU-signee Emma Strood has hit .384 for the Chargers with six doubles and a team-leading five home runs and 22 RBIs in 2022.
Strood has also been the Chargers’ ace in the circle. The senior boasts a 17-3 record in 21 appearances with a 0.91 ERA for the season. Strood has struck out 215 batters and walked just 20 in 107 2/3 innings.
The Chargers have the hitting and pitching to make a run back to the Regional Championship and beyond in the coming weeks.
The Stat Machines!!
It is always fun to peruse the stats and see who has balled out in 2022. These are the leaders in each category, according to MaxPreps.
Home Runs – Kasidi Pickering, Atascocita (13), Kelsie Kelso, Atascocita (12), Addyson Sheppard, Kingwood (12) RBIs – Halee Vance, Cypress Woods (53), Kelsie Kelso, Atascocita (48), Kasidi Pickering, Atascocita (47), Karlie Barba, Dobie (46), Maddie McKee, Lake Creek (43), Ahlana Bruins, New Caney (43), Mayson Garret, Angleton (43), Kristyn Whitlock, Pearland (42), Molly Yoo, Cypress Ranch (41), Addyson Sheppard, Kingwood (41), Kaeden Bell, Spring (40)
Strikeouts – Ava Brown, Lake Creek (251), Emma Strood, Clear Springs (215), Kynlei Chapman, Willis (211), Molly Yoo, Cy Ranch (168), Chloe Riassetto, Friendswood (153) Mary Martinez, Kingwood (151), Elise Adams, Memorial (147)
Other Teams to Watch
As teams try and dodge the rain, it's Regional Semi week for Hill Country softball. Stay tuned to VYPE all week for results.
6A REGION IV
Converse Judson vs SA O'Connor
At San Antonio Hardin Athletics Complex, Field #1 (Friday 6:30pm)
At Converse Judson (Saturday noon)
At Converse Judson (Saturday 2:00pm) *if necessary
Converse Judson and SA O'Connor have been consistency in the top 5 in the SATX Softball Rankings all season. Expect this one to be a tough matchup between these two squads.
HOW CONVERSE JUDSON GOT HERE
HOW SA O'CONNOR GOT HERE
PREDICTION: Converse Judson Advances.
Austin Bowie vs Los Fresnos
At Corpus Christi Cabaniss (Friday 7:00pm)
At Corpus Christi Cabaniss (Saturday 1:00pm)
At Corpus Christi Cabaniss (Saturday 3:00pm) *if necessary
Austin Bowie played for the state championship game in 2017. Lead by Auburn signee Abbey Smith, the Bowie Bulldogs are playing solid softball after a slow start to the season. Los Fresnos knocked off SATX No. 1 Warren in the second round of the playoffs and have been rolling this season. This match-up will be a hard fought showdown.
HOW AUSTIN BOWIE GOT HERE
HOW LOS FRESNOS GOT HERE
PREDICTION: Bowie advances
CLASS 5A Region IV
Georgetown vs Victoria West
At Marion (Friday 6:00pm)
At Marion (Saturday 1:00pm)
At Marion (Saturday 3:00pm) *if necessary
Georgetown knocked off New Braunfels Canyon after losing the first game in that series. Georgetown finished second in their district behind, No. 1 in the country, Leander. This team is talented and confident in themselves. Victoria West is having a great season as well and has gone undefeated in the postseason.
HOW GEORGETOWN GOT HERE
HOW VICTORIA WEST GOT HERE
PREDICTION: Victoria West Advances
Leander vs CC Carroll
At Somerset (Thursday 6:00pm)
At Somerset (Friday 6:00pm)
At Somerset (Saturday 1:00pm) *if necessary
This could easily be 6A Region IV Final. Both these teams finished first in their respective districts. Leander was the No. 1 team in the entire country this season so they enter as the favorite, but lost their first game of the season last round again Medina Valley. However, that could take off the pressure of an undefeated season. CC Carroll will be stiff competition since they have won 30 games and have cruised through the postseason. This a battle of two heavyweights.
HOW LEANDER GOT HERE
HOW CC CARROLL GOT HERE
PREDICTION: Leander Advances