While the softball landscape in Marion County changed dramatically in 2022, with a pair of new coaches and two of the four schools moving up in classification, the county remained littered with superstars that are deserving of some hardware.
Once again, there are five awards to dole out: Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Breakout Star of the Year and Most Improved Player. Below is a comprehensive list of the nominees that will be voted on by Marion County’s head coaches, C-P Publisher Joshua Campbell and C-P Sports Editor Brad Crowe. Coaches cannot vote for their own players.
There are four nominees for Most Valuable Player, including West Marion’s Olivia Miller and Gracie Odom, East Marion’s Car’Miyah Bullock and Columbia Academy’s Abbey Pevey. Miller was a do-it-all force for the Lady Trojans, both at the plate and in the circle. She batted .606 with a county-best 25 extra-base hits (13 doubles, seven triples and five home runs) in just 27 games to go along with 32 RBI, 52 runs, 28 stolen bases and an other-worldly 1.691 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). In the circle, she went 10-4 with a 3.03 ERA, 80 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings and a no-hitter.
Despite being only a freshman, Odom led the county with 40 RBI, batting .556 with 14 doubles, two triples, one homer, 48 runs, 19 steals and a 1.439 OPS. On top of her brilliance at the plate, she committed just one error all season in the field.
Bullock absolutely mashed at the plate with a sterling .600 average, four homers, seven doubles, one triple, 23 RBI, 26 runs, 24 steals and a 1.663 OPS. She finished the season second in the county in batting average and OPS and tied for third for most home runs.
In her first season with the Lady Cougars, Pevey proved to be everything CA hoped for when she arrived. Playing in a league with extremely advanced pitching, she hit .449 with four doubles, two homers, 24 RBI and a 1.111 OPS. In 79 innings in the circle, she struck out 78 batters with a 3.72 ERA.
Miller, Odom and Bullock are also nominated for Offensive Player of the Year, along with West Marion’s Paris Thompson and East Marion’s Kylie Watts. Thompson capped off the Lady Trojans’ dominant trio at the plate with a .486 average, 12 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 37 RBI, 33 runs, 10 steals and a 1.499 OPS.
Watts was a handful for opposing pitchers to deal with, hitting .582 with nine doubles, three triples, two homers, 21 RBI, 19 runs, 24 steals and a 1.599 OPS.
Miller and Pevey are up for Pitcher of the Year, as is West Marion’s Izzy Pittman. The eighth grader emerged as a legitimate shutdown pitcher for the Lady Trojans, which allowed them to deploy their best defense with Miller in the field. She went 9-2 with a county-best 1.54 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings.
There was no shortage of young players making a name for themselves in 2022, with five players being nominated for Breakout Star of the Year, including Columbia’s Jaylah McNease and Emma Grace Sanders, CA’s Macie Wilks and West Marion’s Kady Stringer and Pittman.
In her first year with the Lady Wildcats, McNease was the squad’s most productive hitter with a .429 average, nine doubles, 20 RBI, 20 runs and a 1.155 OPS. Sanders similarly had a breakout campaign, hitting .371 with four doubles, one triple, 18 RBI, 22 runs scored, 12 steals and a .911 OPS.
Wilks continually improved throughout the season and became one of CA’s best hitters by season’s end, batting .354 with five doubles, two homers, 13 RBI and a .956 OPS. The best is yet to come for Wilks, who has shown increased power in recent weeks during travel ball.
In her first year as a starter for West Marion, Stringer hit .356 with two doubles, 19 RBI, 20 runs and an .873 OPS. She also showed potential in the circle, registering a 1.40 ERA in five innings. On top of Pittman’s pitching prowess, the middle schooler hit .387 with three doubles, 20 RBI, 22 runs and a .991 OPS.
Bullock is also nominated for Most Improved Player, upping her average from .417 to .600, doubling her home run total, driving in eight more runs, scoring 18 more runs and increasing her OPS from 1.317 to 1.663. Other nominees include Columbia’s Jalaysia Everett, West Marion’s Lainey Brumfield and Wilks.
Everett was already a legitimate leadoff hitter for the Lady Wildcats as a junior, but she took it to another level in her final season. She increased her average from .317 to .380 and her OPS from .882 to .916 while decreasing her strikeouts from 23 to just six. She also stole 20 bases.
Brumfield, who became the first West Marion player to sign a volleyball scholarship in the fall, was a solid regular as a junior, but she became a complete hitter her senior year. She hit .339 with five doubles, two home runs, 16 RBI, 26 runs, 13 steals and a 1.070 OPS, which lengthened the Lady Trojans’ lethal lineup even further.
Wilks hit just .222 in 2020, upping her batting average 132 points, and went from a .640 OPS to .956 as well as connecting for five more extra-base hits.
The results for both baseball and softball will be announced in the June 9 edition of the C-P.