By Chris Chaney
Not surprisingly, when the Eastern Cincinnati Conference announced its softball postseason awards in early June the two Clermont County teams that battled for the league crown were among the most decorated in the conference.
Milford and Glen Este played a de facto conference championship game on Wednesday, May 7 with both teams knotted at 10-1. Milford’s 4-3 win in the bottom of the seventh inning not only gave the Lady Eagles the league title, but the upper hand for the postseason awards.
Milford head coach Christy Gregory was named the conference’s Coach of the Year and the Lady Eagles’ senior shortstop Kayla Gregory was named the Player of the Year.
For Coach Gregory, the honor was a shared one that she accepted in concert with her husband and assistant coach Tim Gregory.
“I think (the award) is one of the highest honors,” she said. “When Tim came over from Glen Este (where he was named Coach of the Year every year from 2009-2012 in the Fort Ancient Valley Conference), we definitely became co-head coaches, even if the award just has my name. He should be recognized as well because he is a big part of our coaching staff.”
Any coach will tell you that they are only as good as the players they run out on the field and for the Coaches Gregory, they had a special player at shortstop.
“(Kayla) was Player of the Year last year as well,” Christy Gregory said. “I’m not sure how many people have received the award back-to-back — I went back and couldn’t find anything in the FAVC or ECC — so it’s quite an honor. I was really glad the coaches in the ECC recognized that and it wasn’t something that she may have deserved it, but she won it last year (so they should give it to someone else). They truly recognized that she was the best player in the league again.”
Kayla was among the league leaders in batting average, hitting at a .404 clip, knocking in 15 runs and scoring 25 others.
Joining Gregory on the First Team All-ECC were teammates Kelsey Seitz, Hannah Huffer and Katelyn Rheude.
Seitz, a freshman, was put behind the plate for the Lady Eagles during her first season playing varsity ball despite having little to no experience at the position.
“She’s just a true athlete,” Coach Gregory said. “We knew she would make a difference for us, we just didn’t know where it would be. We asked her to try catching for us and you would never know that was her first experience.”
Seitz hit as well, batting .473 with 32 RBI and three home runs.
Huffer, a sophomore pitcher, returned to the circle for her second year as the Lady Eagles’ hurler. The underclassman went 13-5 with a 1.66 earned run average over 109.2 innings, striking out 146 batters.
“(Huffer) had an outstanding year,” Gregory said. “She worked on keeping the ball low and hitting her spots. She’s a really smart pitcher and that’s what kept her as a leader on the mound for us this year.”
Finally, Rheude, a freshman outfielder, was a big contributor for the Lady Eagles. Gregory described her defensive instincts as smooth and quick with great hands.
Joining the Lady Eagles on the First Team was a quartet of Lady Trojans, headed up by senior Bailey Miller. Glen Este’s do-everything leader led the conference in runs batted in with 47, 15 more than the next closest pursuer (Seitz of Milford).
Hitting five home runs and batting .444 showcased her ability to hit for both power and average. While in the circle, Miller went 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA.
Another of the Lady Trojans’ pitching options was Brooke Parker. The junior took the lion’s share of innings, pitching 113 of them, while also boasting the best ERA in the league at 1.12. At the plate, Parker hit .513 and knocked in 25 runs to help her cause on the rubber.
Katelyn Maynard, another senior for GE, manned the outfield defensively and made some hay at the dish. Maynard batted .456 and scored 27 runs, third-most in the league.
Megan Downey, the fourth and final Lady Trojan on the First Team, led the league in the runs scored department crossing the plate 39 times. She batted .570 and knocked in 22 other runs as well, getting on base nearly 64 percent of the time.
Local Second Team selections include Alainna Henning and Valerie Thompson of Milford and Jess Dmochowski, Bailee Saunders and Lindsey Sweatland of Glen Este.
Honorable Mentions of note included Milford’s Shelby Kirk and Glen Este’s Sara Chesley.
Full All-Star lists can be found on the ECC website at eccsports.com.