This year's All-Metro Softball Team is filled with some of the usual suspects and a blend of eye-popping talent from the 2018 season.
Players were selected based on coaches' nominations and individual evaluations of high school players from Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties.
Here are the selections:
Madi Arnold-Maize, Utility, Senior
Arnold was part of the most dominant pitching pair in Wichita this season.
She and fellow senior Lauryn Ogden were outstanding for the Eagles. Arnold had a 1.068 ERA in 59 innings. She allowed nine earned runs with a 1.153 WHIP. She ended her Maize career with a 9-1 record this season.
"Me and Lauryn are really good friends, and we are both really great pitchers," Arnold said. "I'm glad that we had each other all four years."
Arnold also was a force at the plate. She hit for a .440 average with 22 hits and struck out only three times in 63 plate appearances.
She helped lead the Eagles to another AVCTL I title and was the starting pitcher in Maize's 2-0 win against Carroll. It was one of the first shutouts in Carroll history.
Arnold was part of one of the winningest senior classes in Maize history, and that cannot be taken away, regardless of how the season ended.
"We were 17-0 going into the final weeks of the season, but then we just had a difficult time with our chemistry," Arnold said. "But overall, it was a great season."
Arnold has committed to play at Nazarene Christian College.
Kayli Dryden-Northwest, Second Base, Junior
Dryden was the motor to the Grizzlies' engine in 2018.
Northwest finished as the City League runner-up, and Dryden was one of the main reasons. She finished her season with a .568 batting average, .679 on-base percentage. She had 18 extra-base hits and scored 39 runs.
Dryden led the Grizzlies in most offensive categories while helping play a vital role in the middle infield.
Northwest graduated more than a handful of seniors last season, so the complexion of the team was in the air to start the year. It went better than expected.
"Last year we had a lot of drama, so this year we had a lot more friendships," Dryden said. "We were all good together, and we worked together well."
Northwest fell a game short of a regional championship to Free State, but the Grizzlies return a healthy crop of starters, including Dryden, to give it another crack in 2019 after earning City League second team honors.
She said she was ecstatic when she learned she was selected to the All-Metro team.
"It means the world to me," she said. "Since I was a freshman, I've always tried to get first team or All-Metro or All-State."
Macie Eck-Andale/Garden Plain, Outfielder, Junior
Eck kept it rolling in 2018.
After verbally committing to Notre Dame in 2016, Eck has continued her outstanding play for the Indians. She was named the AVCTL IV Player of the Year and makes her second appearance on the Eagle's All-Metro team.
"To put in the world, it just means a lot because I know that Andale is such a big name," Eck said. "We're always expected to get to state, so it's kind of hard to reach up to those expectations."
Eck led the Indians in most offensive stats, including batting average at .547 and RBIs at 35, making it to the Class 4A-Division I quarterfinals.
Andale/Garden Plain won its home regional tournament over Rose Hill in the championship game but fell in the first round of the Class 4A-Division I state tournament to Tonganoxie.
Eck is one of the most tradition-laced names in the Wichita area and Andale specifically. Eck said she often meets other Ecks and doesn't know how they are related.
She said playing for the Indians, one of the best teams traditionally in the area, while representing the Eck name has meant a lot to her.
"I know there are lots of Ecks that have gone through Andale that have had huge success," she said. "My little sister has also joined the team, so having her there helps a lot with it."
Emily Fox-Southeast, Outfielder, Senior
Southeast's softball team has undergone a revitalization in the past few years, and Fox was one of the catalysts.
Fox and fellow senior Sydni Hawkins will go down as arguably the best players in Southeast history, and Fox backed that claim up in 2018.
She was named to the City League first team for the fourth straight season. She was named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Player of the Week on April 24 after six multi-hit games, driving in at least two runs in five of those games and going 18-for-21.
"It feels pretty great knowing that we let something behind at the school," Fox said. "I know that a lot of kids can't say that they've done that, so it just feels pretty great knowing that we accomplished something."
Fox hit .662 with six doubles, seven triples, seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 44 runs scored. She committed no errors in center field, threw six players out and was 10-for-10 in stolen bases.
"Our team has really good chemistry, so working together just comes really easily for us," Fox said.
Fox is committed to play at Johnson County Community College.
Brooklyn Gallagher-Goddard, Catcher, Senior
Goddard coach Rita Smith called Gallagher one of the best catchers in Kansas, and there is a case to be made.
Gallagher led the Lions to the Class 5A tournament each of her four seasons, including in 2018 as Goddard won its regional tournament over Kapaun.
Gallagher was named to the AVCTL II first team, one of the toughest spots to earn as five of the seven league teams made it to their state tournaments.
She hit .485 with 32 hits, including two doubles, three triples and a home run. She struck out only three times in 66 at-bats. She scored 23 runs and drove in 26 others.
Gallagher finished her senior season with a .652 slugging percentage and just one error in the field.
Sydni Hawkins-Southeast, Short Stop, Senior
Few players in Kansas filled the stat book like Hawkins.
Hawkins earned Class 6A first team All-State honors for the second straight season after another remarkable season. She hit for a .701 average with 12 doubles, five triples and six home runs, including four in one night. She drove in 33 runs and scored 48 of her own.
She didn't strike out all season and wasn't thrown out in 19 steal attempts.
"I think it's more having confidence and knowing you can do it," Hawkins said. "Since I did it last year, I was like, 'Well, gotta do it again.' "
Hawkins is a four-time City League first team selection and a two-time All-Metro pick.
Southeast finished fourth in a stout City League field this season and fell one game short of a regional championship and a spot in the 6A state tournament.
Hawkins said this year was emotional because it was her last year and coach Loren Scarbrough's last season, as she will move into an assistant principal role at Southeast.
"I felt like we wanted top lay for her a lot and give her the best last year possible," Hawkins said.
Hawkins is committed to play at Missouri Western State.
Savannah Hughes-Maize, First Base, Senior
Hughes will be remembered as one of the greatest players to come through one of the greatest programs in the Wichita area.
"When I came in as a freshman, that's kind of what I set my bar at because I knew if I didn't reach it that I wouldn't be losing anything," Hughes said. "But the fact that I did reach it is just a big accomplishment."
She came into her senior season already holding Maize's home run record with 25 and added six more in 2018. She also added 37 RBIs, scored 29 runs and had 15 extra-base hits.
Hughes hit for a .494 batting average, slugged at .891 and struck out only five times in 87 plate appearances.
Maize fell short of a Class 5A state tournament appearance but finished the season with a 17-4 record, including wins over Carroll, Derby, Northwest, Goddard and Campus, a game in which Hughes hit her first career walkoff.
She said that will be her biggest memory throughout her four years wearing a Maize uniform.
"That was just a big moment and then just rounding third and seeing all my teammates there and them tackling me," Hughes said. "It was a big relief, and I honestly started crying.
"It just felt good being able to do that for my teammates. I'm really going to miss them a lot."
Hughes has committed to play at Furman University.
Lauren Johnson-Maize South, Outfielder, Junior
Johnson might be the most athletic softball player in the Wichita area.
Standing about 6-foot, Johnson offers incredible speed and size, remarkable body control and a bat to match.
She hit for a .422 batting average with 27 hits, 15 RBIs, two home runs and went 14-for-15 on steal attempts. She struck fear into opposing coaches.
Johnson was named an AVCTL II first team outfielder and makes her second straight appearance on the Eagle's All-Metro team. She said the team chemistry this year made it special.
"You can really feel that confidence in how we grew from the beginning of the year," she said. "It's just awesome how we came together."
Johnson was instrumental in getting the Mavericks back to the Class 5A state tournament for the first time since 2014, beating Maize on its home field in the regional final. She went 3-of-5 with three RBIs in the 12-4 win.
She said she will remember the energy the group had that day.
"It was just crazy the team that you saw that day and some of the other games that we probably should have won or split with other teams," she said. "It just is a whole different team."
Johnson is verbally committed to play at Wichita State.
Gracie Johnston-Augusta, Pitcher, Junior
Few pitchers in Kansas were as dominant as Johnston when she was in her zone.
Over the course of two games against two league champions from a year ago, Johnston struck out 35 batters, got three runs of offense and won both games.
Less than a month later, Johnston threw a perfect game in a three-inning 15-0 win against McPherson.
She said being in that kind of space is nothing but fun.
"It's just a great feeling," Johnston said. "it's a hard feeling to explain because it's just so awesome."
Johnston finished her junior season with a 10-1 record. She had 110 strikeouts in 63 innings with a 1.55 ERA and a .841 WHIP.
She had 7.33 strikeouts per walk.
She had four shutouts, one perfect game, four one-hitters and one two-hitter. She had five games with at least 10 strikeouts and was understandably named the AVCTL III Most Valuable Player.
"It's a great feeling," Johnston said. "I feel like we're just gonna keep growing throughout the years. We have a great freshman class coming up, and I'm just excited for next season."
Reagan Smith-Carroll, Pitcher, Sophomore
The youngest player on the All-Metro team, Smith played above her years in 2018.
"It feels really good because I've been working really hard for this, and my team helped me out a lot in the infield and the outfield," Smith said.
With a 10-1 record and a .813 ERA, Smith was one of the most prolific pitchers in the area and especially in the City League.
She finished with 66 strikeouts and just six walks all season.
Smith paired with fellow All-Metro selection, Kaylin Watkins, in the circle to form a dynamic pitching approach that sent Carroll to the Class 5A title game against Shawnee Heights.
"We are very ready for next season," Smith said. "And I'm more into it for next season, too."
Ally Vonfeldt-Carroll, Third Base, Junior
Playing out of position never looked so easy.
Vonfeldt, normally a catcher, was moved to third for the 2018 and excelled, finishing her junior season with a .977 fielding percentage. Even she said she was surprised.
"Getting this honor, it feels great," Vonfeldt said. "I'm really happy to get it, and I'm happy that all my hard work paid off."
She was also a force at the plate. Vonfeldt finished with a .561 batting average with 11 doubles, 20 RBIs and 35 runs scored.
She went 4-for-8 in the City League championship doubleheader against Northwest, scoring four runs and was 2-of-2 with three RBIs and two runs scored in the Eagles' quarterfinal game against Eisenhower.
All of this came while playing out of position in the field.
"I just thought, 'Try to be better than the person before,' and to try to do it for my team and not just myself," she said. "
Kaylin Watkins-Carroll, Utility, Junior
Making her third appearance on the Eagle's All-Metro team, Watkins shined again in 2018.
Watkins led the area with 15 home runs this season and had a stout .575 batting average to match. She wasn't just a force in the circle though.
While leading the Eagles offensively, Watkins also had an .875 ERA this season with wins over Southeast, Northwest, Kapaun and Eisenhower in the state quarterfinals.
"Most of my practice was spent pitching and hitting," she said. "I never really worked at first, but on the side outside of team practices, I always got ground balls hit to me."
Watkins has become one of the most well-known names around Wichita and her third round with an All-Metro selection certainly won't hurt that.
"It just feels good because I keep working hard," she said. "So being rewarded with that makes feel successful with what I've been doing."
Madi Young-Derby, Short Stop, Junior
On one of the best teams in Kansas, Young was one of its best players and leaders.
Young, who will play collegiately at Kansas, hit with a .479 batting average in 2018 with 37 runs scored and 30 RBIs. She also had an area-high 26 stolen bases. She led Derby to the Class 6A tournament with a 20-2 record.
But it wasn't always easy, she said.
"It was tough at the beginning because we just didn't know who was going to go where, and we needed to fill a lot of different roles and who was going to take the lead," Young said. "We figured out that, and then we just worked together as a team, and going on defense, we just worked every day to get better."
Young was named to the AVCTL I first team and became one of the Panthers' go-to players throughout the season.
She said she is excited for what 2019 may offer.
"We definitely need to be more calm," she said. "I need to learn my role and take control over the defense and just keep everybody calm and excited for this year."
Rita Frakes-Andover Central, Coach of the Year
Frakes had perhaps the best story in Kansas this spring.
After beating stage 3 breast cancer, Frakes took Andover Central in the Class 4A-Division I tournament with a 12-10 record.
Few pegged them as state championship contenders heading in, but after wins against KC Piper, Paola and a then-unbeaten Independent team, the Jaguars came home with a title, their first since 2009. Frakes was coach for that team, too.
"I think the biggest memory is just seeing a bunch of kids that maybe we didn't have all the All-Stars on our team, but I just had a bunch of kids that were blue-collar and grit it out and said, 'We're not gonna lose,' " Frakes said. "I think my kids just had more heart and not that the other teams didn't.
"But my kids really just would not die, and I asked them to just make sure that when we left that day that they did not have one ounce of anything left."
The teams Andover Central had to beat to win a state title had a combined 64-5 record heading into their games, but Frakes said the girls continued to lift one another up as they did for her when she was going through her cancer treatment.
Frakes said after everything she has gone through, earning this All-Metro selection is an honor.
"Cancer was just one step of the way, and I think if nothing else, it kind of makes you humble again, and reminds you why you're here," she said. "It's taught me a little bit about how much I appreciated every day being with my kids because it's what got me through it."