Varsity Softball

All-Metro Softball: History is made on The Eagle’s 2019 squad as Wichita’s best meet

The Wichita Eagle’s 2019 All-Metro Softball Team: (Back row): Bishop Carroll’s Reagan Smith, Andale/Garden Plain’s Macie Eck, Maize South’s Lauren Johnson, Bishop Carroll’s Isabel Marcotte, Andale/Garden Plain’s Chuck Schrader, (Middle row) Augusta’s Bailey Pennycuff, Augusta’s Gracie Johnston, Maize South’s Ashlie Thissen, Goddard’s Gentry Shepherd, Bishop Carroll’s Kaylin Watkins, (Front row) Bluestem’s Natalie Bevan, Augusta’s Sophie Johnston, Derby’s Madi Young, Maize’s Sophia Buzard
The Wichita Eagle’s 2019 All-Metro Softball Team: (Back row): Bishop Carroll’s Reagan Smith, Andale/Garden Plain’s Macie Eck, Maize South’s Lauren Johnson, Bishop Carroll’s Isabel Marcotte, Andale/Garden Plain’s Chuck Schrader, (Middle row) Augusta’s Bailey Pennycuff, Augusta’s Gracie Johnston, Maize South’s Ashlie Thissen, Goddard’s Gentry Shepherd, Bishop Carroll’s Kaylin Watkins, (Front row) Bluestem’s Natalie Bevan, Augusta’s Sophie Johnston, Derby’s Madi Young, Maize’s Sophia Buzard The Wichita Eagle

With three Division I players and three state champions, the 2019 Wichita Eagle All-Metro Softball Team is loaded.

Here are the selections of the top players from Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties:

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Bluestem's Natalie Bevan

Photo: Natalie Bevan/Twitter

For just the second time in Bluestem history, a Lion appears on The Eagle’s All-Metro team, joining long-time friend and former teammate Ashtyn Jurging in 2016

Bevan helped bring nine titles back to Bluestem, including four straight trips to state and a third-place trophy last year. Although the Lions didn’t advance past the quarterfinals, Bevan’s numbers were outstanding.

She hit for a .633 average with 30 RBIs and didn’t strike out once in her senior season. All the while, she fielded her shortstop position at 93.8% efficiency.

“I feel very blessed that I have been able to receive this, but I know I couldn’t have done it without my teammates; it takes all of us for me to be here,” Bevan said. “I’m going to miss all the memories, my coach — she’s just really awesome. She knows what she’s talking about and taught me a whole bunch of new things. I’m a completely new player since I played with her.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Middle Infielder, Bluestem’s Natalie Bevan Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Outfielder, Maize's Sophia Buzard

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

Maize didn’t have any seniors on its 2019 roster, but Buzard led like one.

Marking the Eagles’ 23rd All-Metro selection, Buzard was a vital piece to keeping the Maize tradition alive. She hit for a .550 average with a 1.463 OPS.

She had 44 hits as junior and struck out only three times. Already verbally committed to the University of Kansas, Buzard will be set to attack 2020 with a solid group of senior leaders.

“We came together and said, ‘We can do this,’ ” she said. “I know we are all still young ourselves, but we are all kind of in the same boat. We just wanted to get to know each other and have a little fun this year.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Outfielder, Maize’s Sophia Buzard Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Andale/Garden Plain's Macie Eck

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

Andale/Garden Plain coach Chuck Schrader has seen a lot of quality softball players in his time as a coach. But he isn’t sure he’s had one like Eck.

The Indians’ lone senior in 2019, Eck helped Andale/Garden Plain all the way to the Class 4A state championship game and a runner-up finish to rival Augusta.

Eck made her third and final All-Metro appearance as a senior after hitting for a .506 average with 40 hits, 42 RBIs, eight home runs and a 1.051 slugging percentage. She is heading to Notre Dame.

“I didn’t know how this year was going to go, but once I came back from basketball and had that first day of practice, I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be a great year. We might actually have a shot,’ ” she said. “I kind of liked being the only senior because it was all up to me. It was nice to be my own leader, and people stepped up.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Outfielder, Andale/Garden Plain’s Macie Eck Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Maize South's Lauren Johnson

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

Given Maize South’s record against Bishop Carroll and a strong showing against Shawnee Heights in the 5A semifinals, calling the Mavericks “Wichita’s best” isn’t without merit.

Johnson was the biggest reason. Making her third and final All-Metro appearance in 2019 before joining the Wichita State program, Johnson was named the AVCTL II MVP and helped Maize South to its first top three finish at state since 2013.

Johnson hit for a .472 average, stole 19 bases and served as a rock in center field, working at a 95% efficiency.

“I feel like we were kind of the underdogs all season,” Johnson said. “We started off rough and then kind of got our stuff together. ... It was overall just a super fun ride. I got to give all the credit to my teammates, all the people that have helped us along the way, but I think it was that energy and that drive and that chemistry that we all had. That really made it special.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Outfielder, Maize South’s Lauren Johnson Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Augusta's Gracie Johnston

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

There might not have been a more dominant player in the Wichita area.

Throwing 199 strikeouts in 106 innings, earning a perfect game and a no-hitter, Johnston led Augusta to its first Class 4A state championship since 2015.

Johnston threw every game of the state tournament, and against teams with a combined 50-9 record, she struck out 53 batters in 28 innings. Now she’s Augusta’s first Division I softball player, having signed with Missouri State. She finished her season with a 0.79 ERA.

“I loved all the players, and I’m going to miss playing with my little sister and my best friend Bailey (Pennycuff),” Johnston said. “I wasn’t really tired (at state), I was hurt. Right before the last game, my hip flexor got injured, but I pitched through it. I stopped hitting that game because I couldn’t run. After that game, I had all the adrenaline, and on the way home, I was really feeling it.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Pitcher, Augusta’s Gracie Johnston Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Augusta's Sophie Johnston

Photo: Courtesy of Sophie Johnston

Few college catchers are allowed to call pitches, but Johnston did it for her sister in high school.

Serving as the backstop to one of Kansas’ most dominant pitchers, Johnston was instrumental in her sister’s numbers in 2019 while posting some of her own.

Although outstanding defensively, committing just one error all season, Johnston posted a .486 batting average with a .526 on-base percentage and a .722 slugging percentage.

“It was big to win state my sister’s senior year and for all the seniors,” she said. “They went to state as freshmen and hadn’t been back, so getting the seniors that state title meant a lot to us.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Catcher, Augusta’s Sophie Johnston Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Bishop Carroll's Isabel Marcotte

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

She played in the final game of the Kansas high school softball season and didn’t strike out once.

Over 25 games, Marcotte was about as flawless as it gets. She was arguably the top defensive infielder in the Wichita area and arguably its top hitter, too.

She posted a .641 average with 41 hits, 32 RBIs and 20 extra-base hits and scored 49 runs, and was a headliner to one of Carroll’s most talented senior classes in recent years.

“I was hoping as a senior, I would lead my team,” she said. “Throughout the season, I feel like I did my role, and I hoped the girls would just let loose and have fun. That helped us back to the state game again this year.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Third Baseman, Bishop Carroll’s Isabel Marcotte Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Augusta's Bailey Pennycuff

Photo: Bailey Pennycuff/Twitter

If Gracie Johnston was the face of Augusta softball and Sophie Johnston was the brain of the operation on the field, Pennycuff was the soul.

Serving as the emotional leader for the Orioles through their state championship run, Pennycuff took her own game to the next level. She hit for a .565 average with a .648 on-base percentage.

She scored 38 runs and stole 20 bases, and played a flawless center field. She said “rewarding” is an understatement.

“We walked in knowing we had to uphold the tradition, we have to uphold everything those before us did to help us get to where we were,” she said. “We all kind of expected what we got into, and we would have been disappointed if we didn’t get what we got out of it.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Outfielder, Augusta’s Bailey Pennycuff Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Goddard's Gentry Shepherd

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

Shepherd waited her turn at Goddard, and it paid off.

Leading the Lions to their first state semifinal appearance since 2013, Shepherd was their top power hitter and most reliable to come through in a big moment.

Goddard was 3-3 after its first six games, but the Lions turned it around and won 13 straight to seal their fifth regional championship in seven years. Shepherd hit .524 along the way.

“It’s really great to know that I was a part of something that hasn’t happened for our program in such a long time,” she said. “It let me know how much of an impact I could have on the team.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Utility, Goddard’s Gentry Shepherd Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Bishop Carroll's Reagan Smith

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

Smith was the youngest All-Metro selection on the 2018 team, and she showed much of the same skills as a junior.

Finishing the season with a 1.52 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 53 innings pitched, Smith was instrumental in taking Bishop Carroll to its second straight Class 5A state championship game. She took over for fellow All-Metro selection Kaylin Watkins as the Golden Eagles’ ace and owned the position well.

Smith is now a two-time All-Metro honoree, three-time selection on the City League first team and two-time pick for the first team in Class 5A.

“It’s really nice to be a part of this Carroll team and having the opportunity to be here again,” she said. “Having the Carroll team have my back during the season really helped.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Pitcher, Bishop Carroll’s Reagan Smith Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Maize South's Ashlie Thissen

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

In a big game, Thissen ain’t missing.

For the third straight year, she blew through the Bishop Carroll lineup for a Maize South win, believed to be a first in Kansas softball history against the Golden Eagles. She also threw a gem against Blue Valley Southwest in the state quarterfinals and came back the next day to throw six excellent innings against eventual champion Shawnee Heights.

Thissen was key to the Mavericks’ first state semifinal appearance since 2013 and posted a 1.88 ERA with a 9-3 record while hitting at a .365 clip.

“(All-Metro is) really rewarding and super humbling, too, because I know all the other pitchers are really good and they put in all the work, too,” she said. “It’s humbling to know that I can compete with them and that I’m up there with them.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Pitcher, Maize South’s Ashlie Thissen Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Bishop Carroll's Kaylin Watkins

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

There has never been one like Watkins.

In Bishop Carroll’s illustrious softball history as the most storied program in Kansas, the Golden Eagles have never had a four-time All-Metro selection ... until 2019. Watkins led Carroll back to the state title game as a senior and finished her career as a four-time City League champion with four regional titles.

Watkins hit for a .515 average with just one strikeout this season. She raked in 63 RBIs with nine home runs, all while posting a 1.181 ERA with 56 strikeouts.

“It’s so rewarding to have the opportunity to be on this team four times,” Watkins said. “When i found out I was one of the first (four-timers), I thought, ‘Wow, that’s crazy,’ because I know all the people that came through before me.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Utility, Bishop Carroll’s Kaylin Watkins Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Team, Derby's Madi Young

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

Being the face of program comes with a lot of pressure, but Young handled it like a professional.

Young led Derby to its ninth straight trip to state in 2019, but this year was different as the Panthers reached the semifinal round for the second time in that streak. Young’s contributions were invaluable, as they were all season.

Young hit for a .551 average with 25 stolen bases. She was key in Derby’s quarterfinal win over Topeka and crucial in keeping the Panthers in it against top-seeded Washburn Rural a day later.

“This was by far my favorite year just knowing how well we played together and how good we got along,” Young said. “This team was just something different, and we had a feeling from the beginning.”

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2019 All-Metro Softball Short Stop, Derby’s Madi Young Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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2019 All-Metro Softball Coach of the Year, Andale/Garden Plain's Chuck Schrader

Photo: Hayden Barber, The Wichita Eagle

Schrader had a good senior in 2019, but she was the only one.

Outside of All-Metro selection Macie Eck, the Andale/Garden Plain coach took a bunch of underclassmen all the way to the Class 4A state championship game in 2019.

The Indians relied heavily on their leader, but Schrader inspired a group of relatively inexperienced players to contribute on the biggest stage, winning the AVCTL IV title and regional championship.

“I’m excited for what’s to come, and I think the kids are, too,” Schrader said. “We have some young kids in our program that no one has seen play yet, too, that are really good. Hopefully next year they’ll be able to step up and assume some roles in our program as time goes along.”

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2019 All-Metro Coach of the Year, Andale/Garden Plain’s Chuck Schrader Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

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