Plano, Frisco Wakeland softball the teams to beat in UIL playoffs
TEAMS TO WATCH
Plano (30-3): The No. 6 team in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association national rankings hasn’t lost since March 4 and will be motivated by falling one win short of the state tournament last season. Kat Batey (29-3) leads area pitchers in wins, and Kristen Miles (committed to Louisiana Tech) is hitting .545 and ranks third among area players in hits.
Keller (25-5-1): The state’s sixth-ranked 5A team owns wins over No. 2 Plano and No. 5 Houston Bellaire. Autumn Suydam (.500 average) and Tori Charters (.474) have combined for 77 runs and 43 steals, and pitcher Katie Ramsay (20-4) has a 1.20 ERA and is hitting .418.
Frisco Wakeland (28-3): The team is ranked fifth in the state and No. 21 nationally. Hannah Newcomb (26-3) leads area 4A pitchers in wins in addition to hitting .489 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs, and Darian Dunn and Brook Cline are hitting .471 and .461.
Forney (27-7): The state’s 11-ranked 4A team has a .420 team batting average and is averaging 9.6 runs per game. Laura Mabary (.524 average) is among the area leaders in hits, and Brooke McCarroll ranks second among area 4A players with 12 home runs.
DON’T OVERLOOK THEM
Flower Mound Marcus: The District 8-5A runner-up is ranked 12 in the state and has reached at least the third round of the playoffs three of the last four years. Arkansas signee Devon Wallace is hitting .535 with 39 RBIs, and Louisiana Tech signee Hailey Winter is hitting .404 with 40 RBIs.
Mesquite Horn: The District 11-5A runner-up beat nationally ranked Plano and state-ranked Flower Mound Marcus, and it has made the regional semifinals each of the last two years.
Princeton: The No. 2 seed from District 11-3A features Kansas signee Chanin Naudin (.536 average), Baylor signee Jordan Strickland (.400) and Louisiana Tech signee Janine Godwin (.375).
HITTERS TO WATCH
Mary Stephens, Wylie: The junior, who has committed to Missouri State, is hitting .570 and enters the playoffs with an area-best 18 home runs and 74 RBIs. That’s six home runs and 21 RBIs more than the area leaders had after the playoffs last season.
Meagan Michele, South Grand Prairie: The UT-Arlington signee is hitting .569 for the state’s 21st-ranked 5A team. She leads area 5A players with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs.
Breanna Dozier, Rowlett: The junior, who is committed to Texas A&M, has seen 67 percent of her hits go for extra bases. She is hitting .508 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs for the state’s 14th-ranked 5A team.
Taylor Schoblocher, North Forney: The junior, who is committed to North Texas, is hitting .484 with a 3A-area best 16 home runs and 53 RBIs.
Shelby Carter, Celina: Last year’s area RBI leader ranks second in hits in 2011, and she is hitting .548 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs for the state’s eighth-ranked 3A team. Celina was a regional finalist last season, and this season it beat defending 4A state champion Waco Midway and 5A state-ranked Rowlett.
PITCHERS TO WATCH
Alicia Pille, Royse City: The Kansas signee is 17-2 with a 4A-area best 0.69 ERA, and she is averaging 16.8 strikeouts per seven innings for the state’s 10-ranked team. Pille has won 17 straight decisions, and she has had a 22-strikeout game and a 20-strikeout game.
Samantha Montes, Burleson: The sophomore, who has committed to Baylor, is 25-3 with a 1.29 ERA for the state’s fourth-ranked 4A team. She is hitting .447 with a team-best six home runs.
Heather Stearns, Hebron: The junior, who is committed to Baylor, followed last year’s all-state season by going 20-8 with a 1.96 ERA. Last year, she won nine games in the playoffs to lead Hebron to its first state tournament appearance.
Shelby McCoy, Frisco Centennial: The senior is 23-5 with a 0.91 ERA for the state’s 13-ranked 4A team. She pitched a shutout against Frisco Wakeland, which was ranked No. 1 in the state in 4A at the time.
Victoria Bice, Mesquite: The sophomore leads area 5A players in strikeouts (256) and ranks sixth in ERA (1.40) for the state’s 19th-ranked 5A team.
BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS
Keller vs. Flower Mound: Flower Mound will try to duplicate what Plano East did in 2009 and what Hebron accomplished last season — make the state tournament as the No. 4 seed from its district. Keller is the District 7-5A champion, but Flower Mound beat defending 5A state champion Pearland and state-ranked Mesquite.
Denton Guyer vs. Hebron: Both teams were state semifinalists last season — Guyer in 4A and Hebron in 5A. Hebron’s Heather Stearns ranks second among area 5A pitchers in strikeouts but faces a Guyer team that is ranked 24 in the state and has two of the area’s top home run hitters in Suzette Palmer and Caitlin Christopher.
Irving Nimitz vs. Mansfield Legacy: District 6-5A champion Nimitz, ranked 17th in the state, is led by area hits leader Morgan Norris. Legacy was a regional finalist in 4A last season.
TOP STORY LINES
Can an area 5A team win a state title? A Dallas-area 5A team hasn’t won a state championship in softball since Garland won the second of back-to-back titles in 2007. It won’t be easy this year, either. In 5A Region I, state-ranked Plano, Keller, Flower Mound Marcus, Irving Nimitz, South Grand Prairie and Denton Guyer will have to contend with undefeated Lubbock Coronado — the nation’s ninth-ranked team. Meanwhile, state-ranked Rowlett and Mesquite will be joined in 5A Region II by undefeated The Woodlands — the nation’s No. 1 team.
Young programs thriving: Frisco Wakeland is in its fifth season of varsity play, but it has already reached a regional final (2010) and been a regional semifinalist twice (2008 and 2009). Lovejoy is ranked 10 in the state in 3A in its fourth year of varsity play, and last year it was a regional semifinalist. And North Forney, in its second year of varsity play, won the District 13-3A title and is ranked ninth in the state.