By Chris Chaney
The Southern Buckeye Conference honored the league’s softball standouts after an exceptional season that saw four teams make it to sectional championships. Highlighting the individual honors was Williamsburg’s Kacey Smith, a freshman pitcher, who took home Player of the Year honors in the National Division.
“A huge part of any team — baseball or softball — is who is on the pitching rubber,” Williamsburg head coach, and Co-Coach of the Year, Rick Healey said. “Our freshman, Kacey Smith, (threw) really well. It makes it easier to win when your pitcher is not giving up any runs.”
Healey’s Lady Wildcats were one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 season. Coming off of a 2013 year that saw Burg go 2-8 in the conference, Smith and her teammates turned things around to notch a 9-1 mark in the league and a 26-3 overall record.
Smith showed her worth in the circle, boasting the best earned run average in the area of pitchers who threw over 110.0 innings this season. In fact, Smith went 133-innings strong, giving up 0.32 earned runs per outing and sitting down 262 batters, second only behind Kiley Sosby of Whiteoak in the Cincinnati area.
Smith was joined on the All-SBC First Team by four teammates: Kelsey Burnett, Kennedy Clark, Morgan Gullett and Hannah Klein. Second Team members from the Lady Wildcats were seniors Taylor Haubert and Marissa Wells.
The Lady Wildcats were Division III’s top seed in the postseason, sectional champions and district finalists. What’s more, Williamsburg brings back a strong core of talent headed up by Smith. Five seniors will be lost to graduation, but underclassmen dominate the 2015 roster.
Not unlike their National Division rivals, the Felicity-Franklin Lady Cardinals also made the most of a young roster. Boasting just one player graduating this year, the Lady Cards made the most of their talent tying Williamsburg for the league title. Five members of the squad who advanced to the regional semifinals were honored on the SBC-National First Team.
Juniors Kaitlyn Clark, McKayla Jacobs and Sandy Woodmansee were the elder statesmen of the Felicity contingent, while sophomores Brittany Drake and Rachel McConnell rounded out the top players selected by the league. Freshman Lauren Mitchell and junior Allie Rodriguez were placed on the Second Team.
For Felicity head coach Rob Wear, the Co-Coach of the Year award was the third time in four years he was recognized as one of the best in the conference.
“It means a lot to me, it truly does,” Wear said of the honor. “But, if I were to not win Coach of the Year (in the league), as long as I’m Coach of the Year in my girls’ eyes, that’s good enough for me.”
Rounding out the National Division First Team was Brianna Appel, Alister Nickley and Katie Taulbee of Batavia, Allison Gilkerson of Clermont Northeastern, Savanna Brown, Mackenzie Curless and Makayla Shank of Blanchester and Allison Kistler of Georgetown.
On the Second Team were Haley Kilgore and Erin O’Brien of Batavia, Lindsay Wright of CNE, Savanna Greene and Brooke Jones of Blanchester and Morgan Gast of Georgetown.
In the American Division, Western Brown swept the individual awards with Morgan Nickell claiming Player of the Year and Blaine Wallace being named Coach of the Year. Nickell, along with First Team selections Morgan Fischer, Hope Jamison, Josie McElroy and Brianna Stacy, led the Lady Broncos to a perfect season in the conference and a Division I sectional title.
Also earning First Team honors were locals Maggie Block, Kendall Kaiser and Kyleigh Schultz of Amelia, Chelsea Cooper, Shelby Murphy and MacKenzie Watson of Bethel-Tate, Rian Adams, Ashleigh Campbell, Bailey Rodgers and Brittany Strauss of Goshen and Kelsi Curry of New Richmond. Norwood’s Misty Wolf rounded out the First Team honorees.
On the American’s Second Team were Amelia’s Elena McDonald and Kristen Meyer, Bethel-Tate’s Cassidy DeVore and Julia Weber, Goshen’s Annie Gadberry and Shalee Gray, New Richmond’s Amber Fischer, Norwood’s Serenity Rowe and Western Brown’s Kasey and Kristen York.
Full lists of all of the SBC’s All-Stars can be found on the conference’s website at sbaac.net.