The 9-5A softball race was one of the most entertaining in the state this season.
With a shortened preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as being one of the largest districts in the state with 10 teams, a bulk of the team’s regular season counted toward the 9-5A race.
That meant teams often had to adjust on the fly from game to game without the normal tournament slate to work out the kinks.
As the battle headed down the stretch, five teams broke from the pack, and while it remained close until the final day, it was Memorial that made history, not only clinching its first playoff berth ever by winnings its inaugural district championship.
The Warriors, who were 15-3, were able to hold off Heritage by one game for the title. Reedy and Wakeland (13-5) tied for third place to secure the final two postseason spots, edging out Independence by a single game.
With that type of balance, it was no surprise that the honors on the 9-5A all-district team were also spread around.
Memorial, who not only made its first playoff appearance, but also advanced to the regional quarterfinals, had 10 players selected to the team, including one superlative award winner as senior Gracelyn Taylor was named catcher of the year.
Taylor batted .371 overall on the season, with three doubles, one triple, two home runs and 18 runs batted in.
Joining Taylor on the first team are seniors Peyton Chianese and Sarah Kronschnabl.
Chianese led Memorial in several hitting categories, including a .426 batting average, a .530 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, six home runs and 30 runs batted in.
Kronschnabl was also a key part of the lineup, hitting .309 with seven doubles, 21 RBIs and a team-high 23 runs scored.
There were a trio of Warriors on the second team, including their top two pithers in senior Sarah Overholtzer and junior Maddie Mueller.
Overholtzer posted a 6-3 record with a 1.95 earned run average. Overholtzer recorded a pair of saves and had 95 strikeouts in 68.1 innings.
Muller went 12-3 with two saves and a 2.25 ERA, striking out 103 in 81 innings.
Junior Payton Newlin hit .333 with five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 17 RBIs.
Memorial’s honorable mention selections included seniors Jaci Armond (.301, 2 3Bs, 14 RBIs, 19 runs), Gabby King (2 3Bs, 20 runs, 10 SBs) and Ashley Camacho (.321, 2 HRs, 10 RBIs, 20 runs, 12 SBs) and freshman Avery Cannon (.302, 5 2Bs, 17 runs)
Heritage, who also made it three rounds deep, earned six selections, including a district-high three superlative awards.
Senior Riley Lunsford was named offensive player of the year. Lunsford put up some of the best numbers in the state, hitting .653 with a .695 on-base percentage and a 1.510 slugging clip. Despite missing a handful of games, Lunsford belted 11 home runs, including a streak of eight games in a row, had 33 RBIs, 20 runs and struck out just once in 49 at-bats.
Junior Elyse LeClair was voted as the defensive player of the year. She posted a .957 fielding percentage from here shortstop position, committing only two errors all season. She was also a force at the plate, hitting .400 with 21 RBIs and 25 runs scored.
Sophomore Jensin Hall was recognized as the pitcher of the year. Shouldering the load on the mound, Hall posted a 14-4 record with a 1.83 ERA. In 107 innings, she struck out 132 and allowed only 28 earned runs. Hall also contributed at the plate with a .524 batting average and 14 RBIs.
The second team featured junior Nadya Quezada, senior Kaya Lee and sophomore Kailey Sweezey.
Quezada hit one home run and drove in 11 runs, Lee batted .412 with a pair of home runs, 15 runs batted in and 25 runs scored and Sweezey hit .276, ranked second on the team with eight home runs and also added 22 RBIs.
Reedy, making its third straight trip to the playoffs, placed five players on the team, including a trio of first-teamers.
Senior Ally Ryan led the team in hitting with a .475 batting average that included nine doubles, five home runs, 18 RBIs and 19 runs scored.
Senior Maddie Treutlein hit .377 with six doubles, three triples, two home runs and 18 runs batted in and sophomore Makayla Cox batted .322 with six doubles, two home runs and 16 RBIs. Cox was also the No. 1 pitcher, where she posted a 11-5 record with a 3.24 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 127.1 innings.
Sophomore Alyssa Thompson was named to the second team, as she hit .379 with two doubles, two triples, 13 stolen bases and a team-high 21 runs.
Senior Ashlyn MacVeigh represented Reedy on the honorable mention list.
Wakeland, making its first trip to the playoffs in three years, nabbed eight spots on the list, headlined by sophomore Kate Piskor being voted as the utility player of the year.
Piskor did the job on the mound and at the plate. She posted a 6-2 record with a 2.26 ERA and struck out 93 batters in 52.2 innings. Piskor was also a force at the plate, hitting .554 with eight doubles, one triple, one home run and 22 RBIs.
Seniors Lily Acuna and Lane Kohler were named to the first team.
Acuna also topped the .500 mark, posting a .516 average with five doubles, two triples, two home runs, 15 stolen bases and a team-high 31 runs. Kohler hit .414 with six doubles and 14 RBIs and also had a 3.11 earned run average with 29 strikeouts in 18 innings.
The second team included seniors Carissa Peters and McKinley Hopkins. Peters went 5-1 with a 3.36 earned run average and 33 strikeouts in 50 frames. Hopkins batted .351 with five doubles and 17 runs scored.
Wakeland’s honorable mentions included senior Jaina Head (.282, 4 2Bs, 9 runs), sophomore Riley Langford (3 2Bs, 9 RBIs) and senior Kate Ellis (8 RBIs, 6 runs).
Independence was shooting for a third straight playoff berth, but despite posting a winning 12-6 record, came up one game short.
The Knights had seven representatives, including the top honor as senior Savy Williams was honored as the 9-5A most valuable player.
Williams, who has signed with North Dakota State University, was one of the most dominant pitchers in the area, posting a 0.981 ERA for the season and a tiny 0.67 earned run average during district play. She recorded 204 strikeouts and allowed only 52 hits to the 419 batters she faced. Williams also hit .273 at the plate with five home runs.
Freshman Reagan Bedell, sophomore Sydney Sabin and senior Madison Tabor were named to the second team.
Bedell made an instant splash, hitting .432 with one home run at the plate and adding two assists from her spot in center field. Sabin batted .317 with one home run playing a number of different positions, while Tabor had a .320 batting average with three home runs and 14 assists and 216 putouts from her catcher position.
The Knights were also represented by senior Alyssa Field, sophomore Tristyn Madden and junior AnaGaby Padilla as honorable mentions.
Lone Star and Centennial finished in a tie for sixth place.
The Rangers had seven players tabbed, with one major award winner in freshman Emily Prochaska, who is the newcomer of the year. Prochaska made a big impact in her inaugural varsity campaign, leading the team with a .509 batting average with eight doubles, one triple, six home runs, 22 runs and 34 RBIs.
Senior Haley Feinstein was named to the first team, as she hit .340 with a pair of doubles, four home runs and 16 RBIs. She was joined by sophomore Emma Zaboronek, who had a .431 average with six doubles, four home runs, 21 runs batted in and 23 runs scored.
Junior Autumn Benavides (.308, HR, 16 RBIs), sophomore Kaylee Smith (.265, 4 2Bs, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs, 20 IP), freshman Kirstyn Jones (2 HRs, 16 runs) and freshman Brianna Stokes (18 runs, 5 SBs) were named to the honorable mention list.
The Titans had six selections, with a pair of first-teamers in junior Tatum Wright and freshman Emily Lawson.
Wright established herself as one of the best power hitters in the area, batting .567 with 14 home runs, eight doubles, 28 runs scored and 38 RBIs. Lawson was another key bat, with a .381 average, six doubles, three home runs and 15 runs batted in.
Senior Emma Gasperich was tabbed to the second team after hitting .392 with 10 doubles, one triple, four home runs and 19 RBIs. She was joined by junior Sierra Corbin, who hit .446 with three doubles, three triples, four home runs and 25 RBIs, and junior Emily Zhao, who had a .318 average, three home runs and 26 runs scored.
Junior Alex Byrd (.333, 4 2Bs, 2 HRs, 22 runs) was an honorable mention selection.
Lebanon Trail senior Jane Horn was voted to the first team, as she hit .469 with two home runs, nine runs batted in and 14 runs scored.
Junior Riley Williams made the second team, as batted .395 with a pair of home runs and 22 RBIs, and senior Victoria Pena (.296, 12 runs) made honorable mention for the Trail Blazers.
Frisco had three players named to the second team and two more on the honorable mention list.
Junior Madison Hubbard led the team with a .511 average with seven doubles, two home runs and 19 runs scored. Senior Lexi Manzi hit .434 with seven doubles and 13 RBIs and freshman Drea Thompson batted .354 with a team-high six home runs and 16 runs batted in.
Sophomores Emma Leraas (.314, 3 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 13 runs) and sophomore Emilie Gilbert (.326, 6 2Bs, 11 RBIs)
Liberty had one second-team selection in junior Maegan Shannon, who led the team in hitting with a .406 average, five doubles, one home run and six RBIs, while senior Sakshi Bolar (.256, 2 3Bs, 8 RBIs) and senior Karina Otrhalek (5 runs, 22.2 IP) were chosen honorable mentions.
9-5A Softball All-District Team
Most Valuable Player
Savy Williams Sr. Independence
Offensive Player of the Year
Riley Lunsford Sr. Heritage
Defensive Player of the Year
Elyse LeClair Jr. Heritage
Pitcher of the Year
Jensin Hall So. Heritage
Catcher of the Year
Gracelyn Taylor Sr. Memorial
Newcomer of the Year
Emilee Prochaska Fr. Lone Star
Utility Player of the Year
Kate Piskor So. Wakeland
Peyton Chianese Sr. Memorial
Sarah Kronschnabl Sr. Memorial
Ally Ryan Sr. Reedy
Maddie Treutlein Sr. Reedy
Makayla Cox So. Reedy
Tatum Wright Jr. Centennial
Emily Lawson Fr. Centennial
Jane Horn Sr. Lebanon Trail
Lily Acuna Sr. Wakeland
Lane Kohler Sr. Wakeland
Emma Zaboronek So. Lone Star
Haley Feinstein Sr. Lone Star
Sydney Sabin So. Independence
Madison Tabor Sr. Independence
Reagan Bedell Fr. Independence
McKinley Hopkins Sr. Wakeland
Carissa Peters Sr. Wakeland
Payton Newlin Jr. Memorial
Sarah Overholtzer Sr. Memorial
Maddie Muller Jr. Memorial
Emma Gasperich Sr. Centennial
Sierra Corbin Jr. Centennial
Emily Zhao Jr. Centennial
Riley Williams Jr. Lebanon Trail
Madison Hubbard Jr. Frisco
Lexi Manzi Sr. Frisco
Drea Thompson Fr. Frisco
Nadya Quezada Jr. Heritage
Kaya Lee Sr. Heritage
Kailey Sweezey So. Heritage
Alyssa Thompson So. Reedy
Maegan Shannon Jr. Liberty
Alyssa Field Sr. Independence
Tristyn Madden So. Independence
AnaGaby Padilla Jr. Independence
Jaina Head Sr. Wakeland
Riley Langford So. Wakeland
Kate Ellis Sr. Wakeland
Avery Cannon Fr. Memorial
Gabby King Sr. Memorial
Ashley Camacho Sr. Memorial
Jaci Armond Sr. Memorial
Ashlyn MacVeigh Sr. Reedy
Brianna Stokes Fr. Lone Star
Kirstyn Jones Fr. Lone Star
Kaylee Smith So. Lone Star
Autumn Benavides Jr. Lone Star
Alex Byrd Jr. Centennial
Victoria Pena Sr. Lebanon Trail
Emma Leraas So. Frisco
Emilie Gilbert So. Frisco
Sakshi Bolar Sr. Liberty
Karina Otrhalek Sr. Liberty