FRISCO — In the days leading up to her 19th birthday, Leah Taylor knew that she was going to be playing on the same team with fellow Lovejoy alum McKenzie Mitchell in Tuesday’s DFW FastPitch Metroplex All-Star Game.
Taylor’s and Mitchell’s enthusiasm for the event grew two-fold when it was announced that they would be reunited with former Lovejoy coach and current Frisco Independence coach Brittany Lee.
Lee served as their head coach for the final time in their high school careers Tuesday.
“We don’t have a say in the teams that we get,” Lee said. “They just ask us if we want to come out and coach. Of course, I said, ‘Yes.’ Even when they sent the rosters out, just to the coaches a few days ago, it was great to see them put both of them (Taylor and Mitchell) on there.
“Just knowing that all of the hard work they put into our program at Lovejoy, I can’t speak more highly of the legacy that they left behind. Just knowing that I was going to be out here and coaching them one more time was a good cap on the time that I got to be with them.”
Taylor recorded a bunt single, a double that chalked the left-field line and reached on a fielder’s choice, putting a bow on her 19th birthday.
“I wouldn’t have expected this at all knowing coronavirus changed everything up,” she said. “It’s just cool that we got back together one more time.”
Mitchell, a North Central Texas College commit, finished the game with two hits and added a walk.
“It was tough at first with the cancellation of the high school season,” she said. “Then, we started to kind of get over it. By the time they (DFW FastPitch) announced this, I was excited to play with Leah. It was good to get another game with Leah.”
Taylor and Mitchell were among 69 players throughout the Metroplex rostered for the all-star game, which was comprised of seniors selected for DFW FastPitch’s all-Metroplex senior team. Players were divided into six teams coached by staffs from Independence, Flower Mound, Allen, Keller, Grapevine and Denton Guyer. Tuesday’s event, held at Frisco’s Warren Sports Complex, featured a home-run derby followed by a series of all-star games between the six squads.
It afforded players one last chance to represent their high schools, and Taylor, Mitchell and Lee weren’t the only player-coach combination to join forces.
Flower Mound head coach Mark Larriba and assistant coach Allison Baird were reunited with Katie Sadler and Kayla Wallace, who put on a hitting clinic in their game against a team coached by Keller High School.
Wallace, a Stephen F. Austin signee, went a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate, including a lead-off home run to commence the game, followed by a bunt single, a slap single and a double.
“I wasn’t aiming for the cycle,” she said. “Honestly, it was a lot of fun being with our high school coaches after not getting that full season. This was more chill, laid back and fun.”
Sadler, who will continue her softball career at McLennan College, drew a walk and hit two line drives for outs.
“They reached out to me last week and asked if I wanted to coach,” Baird said. “Of course, I said, ‘Yes.’ Then, they asked me if I wanted to coach my own players. I said in all caps, ‘ABSOLUTELY.’”
For Plano East alum and UCLA signee Carson Armijo, it felt like another session in the batting cage with her father, Mickey. He’s been pitching to her since she was 8 years old. She told her dad to pitch middle in. Carson hit six home runs in the first round and three more in the second round to finish in a three-way tie for second place in the event’s home-run derby.
“Me and my dad got to hit almost every day, take batting practice every day,” she said. “I was in pretty good shape to do the home run derby, and it showed.”
Marcus grad Lexi Benson, a Stephen F. Austin signee, and Prosper’s Julia Bumford, a University of Texas-San Antonio signee, Mesquite Poteet’s Makayla Geeslin, a Vernon College commit, and Anissa Lechner of McKinney Boyd, who will play college softball at Texas A&M-Kingsville, also participated in the home run derby.
The all-star game punctuated a month of special recognition for The Colony superstar and Oklahoma signee Jayda Coleman, who was named the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year on June 10 and the Gatorade Texas Softball Player of the Year at the end of May.
As for Tuesday’s game, Coleman doubled in a run and later crushed a home run over the outfield fence.
“It was an awesome time getting to see all of these high school players for one last time,” she said. “And my last at-bat was a home run, so that was nice. Everyone was just relaxed, having fun and joking around. A lot of hugging and tears, but it was an awesome way to end my high school career.”
Coleman’s high school teammate, Jacee Hamlin, a Texas Tech commit, had a single and came within inches of hitting a home run over the left-field fence for team Grapevine/Curtis.
“It was weird seeing all of the fans,” Hamlin said. “I haven’t seen that in so long. It was crazy. But, I missed it a lot.”
Frisco Wakeland alum Ashton Bryce and Little Elm alum Lauren Lucas were two of the five recipients of the Tracy Beard scholarship. A total of $4,000 in scholarship money was awarded. Bryce and Lucas were also presented with a plaque during a ceremony.
“It means a lot to me,” said Bryce, who finished the game with a single. “I know the legacy that Tracy Beard left behind and to win this award means a lot to me. I’ve been through a lot, too. To have him as a mentor and to receive this scholarship means a lot.”
Players rostered for DFW FastPitch All-Star Game
(From Star Local Media markets)
Mayce Allen - Frisco Independence
Carson Armijo - Plano East
Cate Bade - Plano Senior
Lexi Benson - Marcus
Julia Bumford - Prosper
Ashton Bryce - Frisco Wakeland
Kalei Christensen - McKinney
Jordan Cabana - McKinney
Jayda Coleman - The Colony
Makayla Geeslin - Mesquite Poteet
Kylie Green - Frisco
Jacee Hamlin - The Colony
Maddie Johnson - Marcus
Mikaila Kenney - Marcus
Anissa Lechner - McKinney Boyd
Lauren Lucas - Little Elm
Megan Lundt - Frisco Lone Star
Audrey McNeill - Plano Senior
McKenzie Mitchell - Lovejoy
Emma Ponder - McKinney
Katie Sadler - Flower Mound
Leah Taylor - Lovejoy
Kayla Wallace - Flower Mound