If Monique Miller was on base, Midway was going to score.
That might be overstating things, but the Pantherettes’ leadoff hitter and “spark plug” made her way around the bases 57 times in 2012.
“Coach (Michelle) Edwards calls me spark plug, and if I get on base, we most likely do better,” Miller said. “Our lineup is good at moving people around. When I’m in the box, the only thing I’m telling myself is get on base, just make contact and you’ll get there.”
Exactly the mindset you’d expect from the consummate leadoff hitter.
Miller proved her value over and over again in her senior season, whether it be at the plate with a .575 average, 80 hits and most importantly, .666 on-base percentage and 49 stolen bases, or from her shortstop position where she anchored the Pantherettes’ defense and displayed a vast knowledge of the game.
All of her efforts spearheaded Midway’s run to a third straight state tournament, and the District 8-4A MVP can now add the title as Super Centex Player of the Year.
“It means a lot,” Miller said. “I never thought about the award until my coach told me. I never thought about it because I was never worried about the awards. This one is something big because there are so many great players in Central Texas. Being picked as the No. 1 makes me feel accomplished.”
Miller, who will continue her playing career at Navarro College, edged out a worthy lot of Player of the Year candidates, such as state champion Crawford’s spark plug Jessica Tomchesson and Bruceville-Eddy’s slugging shortstop Shelby Friudenberg.
In doing so, she becomes the third straight Pantherette to earn the honor, following pitcher Kermetria Ward (2010) and catcher Kelley Schaefer (2011).
“Following in those two’s footsteps makes me feel pretty good because they’re great softball players,” Miller said.
Miller was at her best in the big moments.
Like with Midway down a game and facing elimination against Wichita Falls Rider and clinging to a 1-0 lead, she fielded a ground ball and stared down a runner at third — Rider’s fastest player — for seemingly forever before just nipping the runner at first. That run never crossed the plate, and the Pantherettes won the game, 1-0, when Miller alertly tagged the runner going from second to third instead of risking a throw across the diamond on the final play.
The Pantherettes crushed the Lady Raiders in Game 3 to advance to a one-game regional final, on the road against Birdville and flame-throwing right-hander Susan Welborn.
Midway led 2-0 before Birdville tied it in the top of the seventh. The Pantherettes struck right back and loaded the bases for Miller, who fought off several tough two-strike pitches before getting one she could handle.
Miller’s high chopper to third base brought home the winning run and sent Midway back to the state tournament.
The Pantherettes had a rocky first inning against Smithson Valley in the state semifinals and could never get back even, but getting to Austin for the third straight time was enough to allow Miller to leave with her head held high.
“Getting back to state was a good high note for us,” Miller said. “That’s really what we wanted to do was at least get back. Ending short wouldn’t have been a good feeling for us, especially the seniors. We did come up short, but it’s a good thing to get to the state tournament. There’s a lot of other teams that would wish they could get to the state tournament as well.”
Most would kill for Miller’s career, which include a state title in 2010 as a sophomore.
She describes her four years at Midway as “the best four years of my softball career,” and admits it’s nice to reflect about everything she and the team accomplished during that span.
“It’s fun to sit back and read all the clippings and articles, and know what I’ve done and all my stats,” Miller said. “When you’re in the game, you’re in game mode. You’re not worried about yourself. I worry more about my team than my individual self because you worry about the name on the front (of the jersey) and not the name on the back. It’s about your teammates, and I put them above myself.”
Coach of the Year:
Kirk Allen Crawford
Kirk Allen has said all along that he dreamed he could take a team to the state tournament just one time in his coaching career.
The Crawford coach did more than just get there this year — he and his Lady Pirates took the grand prize of a first state championship in school history.
“It’s surreal, and it’s still surreal,” said Allen, who led Crawford to a 36-2 record. “I still hear my name and hear things about Crawford, and I think, ‘Wow, we did it. We really did it.’ I think it’s sunk in because of all the things that have happened since then. What a great feeling.”
To the victors go the spoils, and Allen’s leadership during the championship season earned him the Super Centex Coach of the Year honor. He rose a notch above coaches who led their schools to third straight state tournament appearances. West’s Guyla Smith had to retool her team for the second straight year due to heavy graduation losses, but the Lady Trojans persevered and reached Austin again, while Midway’s Michelle Edwards guided her team back from one-game deficits twice in playoff series to get out of the region.
“I think the kids took me on a great ride,” Allen said. “It was great to be with them. I have great kids, and I give them all the credit. I had to put them in the right spot, and that’s my job as a coach — put them in the right spot, then try to help them be successful. I felt like I did that this year, but being Coach of the Year is pretty amazing because we have a lot of good coaches around here. Maybe this year, I had the best kids and we went the farthest, but it’s hard to say Coach of the Year. That’s a pretty big thing.”
It’s true he had a roster chock full of talent, but it was also a young one that could have easily been a year away from being a state title threat without the right leadership.
Eight sophomores dotted the roster, but they played with a maturity level beyond their years and never looked rattled in the final two games.
Even facing a three-run deficit in the semifinal against defending state champion Danbury, the Lady Pirates just went back to work, immediately answering Danbury’s three runs in the third with two in the bottom of the frame, then tying it in the fifth and putting the winner on the board in the sixth for the 4-3 decision.
The final wasn’t nearly as stressful, as Carrigan Chambers struck out nine Alpine hitters in an MVP performance. It was tied at 1, however, through five innings before the Lady Pirates broke the tie in the sixth with a run, then came through for three insurance runs in the 5-1 victory.
When Chambers caught a line drive for the final out, Allen and Crawford could finally let down their guard.
“It was a huge sigh of relief because we had expectations, but I was just so happy for those girls,” Allen said. “What an opportunity for them to play for their school, and the stands were packed with fans from Crawford. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Newcomer of the Year:
Melina Martinez University
University coach Ed Trochim couldn’t wait to have Melina Martinez as his shortstop.
He’d seen her play enough over the years in select ball to know she could come in and make an impact.
Martinez proved her coach right this season.
She hit .429 with five doubles and seven triples, while stealing 15 bases and playing a solid shortstop.
That was enough to garner the District 8-4A Newcomer of the Year honor and now she can add Super Centex Newcomer of the Year to her list of accolades.
“Me and my wife used to joke, and I’d say, ‘That’s my shortstop for the next four years,’ ” Trochim said. “Offensively, she was our catalyst, and then on defense, the shortstop is the heart and soul of your whole defense. She did a great job.”
While the Lady Trojans weren’t able to make the playoffs, Martinez made her mark, and has three more years to take her game even farther.
“She’ll get better as she gets older and stronger,” Trochim said. “Everybody has room to improve, but to come in and play the way she did as a freshman, that’s pretty good.”
|C||Sydney Christensen||So||.517||19 2Bs||Crawford|
|1B||Amy Feind||Sr||.409||38 RBIs||Midway|
|2B||Kelly Baker||Sr||.535||37 RBIs||Robinson|
|3B||Heather Reed||Jr||.540||70 Ks||Connally|
|SS||Monique Miller||Sr||.575||57 runs||Midway|
|OF||Jessica Tomchesson||So||.647||64 runs||Crawford|
|OF||Dakota Holly||Jr||.622||45 SBs||B-Eddy|
|OF||Tori Phillips||So||.565||70 hits||Crawford|
|DH||Shelby Friudenberg||So||.542||45 RBIs||B-Eddy|
|UT||Morgan Groppe||So||.583||63 runs||Crawford|
|P||Mollie Kinlaw||So||15-8||1.78||China Spring|
|P||Sarah Beth Toben||Jr||20-5||0.72||Reicher|
|P||Morgan Van Meter||Sr||20-5||1.58||Robinson|
Player of the Year: Monique Miller, Midway
Newcomer of the Year: Melina Martinez, University
Coach of the Year: Kirk Allen, Crawford
|C||Courtney Colunga||Jr||.430||5 HRs||Midway|
|1B||Nicole Hutyra||Jr||.402||36 RBIs||West|
|2B||Jennifer Prnka||So||.413||43 hits||West|
|3B||Leah Brown||Jr||.421||42 RBIs||Crawford|
|SS||Lindsey Cargill||Jr||.530||7 HRs||Robinson|
|OF||Sarah Truelove||Sr||.356||25 runs||Temple|
|OF||Morgan Chambers||Jr||.490||37 RBIs||Gatesville|
|OF||Brittany Myers||Sr||.478||30 RBIs||Groesbeck|
|DH||Kelsey Krenek||Jr||.454||12 HRs||Cameron Yoe|
|UT||Kate Saucke||So||.556||12 2Bs||Hubbard|
Infielders: Alyssa Bienski and Sarah Pruett, Bremond; Maeson Mondrik, Cameron Yoe; Amelia Cluke, China Spring; Emily Brewer, Clifton; Keona Dawkins and Shelby Lefever, Connally; Cheyenne Fisk, Crawford; Lauren Nichols, Gatesville; Taylor Jobe, Haylie Reynolds and Kailey Swick, Groesbeck; Cheyenne Bell, Summer Dolezel and Emily Jaska, Lorena; Kaymee Gooden and Cheyenne Goodnight, Mart; Melodie Brown, Midway; Destiny Davis and Jill Schmidt, Moody; Klemson Lancaster and Sarah Teague, Reicher; Gloria Alonzo and Sydney Betke, Robinson; Adelyn Irons, Kaegan Jimenez and Taylor Valentin, Temple; Krystal Alvarez and Starr Guardiola, University; Jordan Horn and Hallie Monkres, West; Jennifer Geren, Whitney
Outfielders/designated hitters: Octavia Sutton, Connally; Jaycee Summers, Gatesville; Bailey Johnson and HayLeigh King, Groesbeck; Nakaila Banks, Hubbard; Meredith Bristow and Taylor Mordecai, Midway; Abby Goodwin, Temple; Leeza Valdez, Valley Mills; Mackenzie Wernet, West
Pitchers: Alaina Stilley, Bremond; Ashley Mills, Groesbeck; Lexxi Davenport, Mart; Courtney Wilson, Moody; Krysten Shavers, Waco High; Bethany Williams, Whitney
Two-way star hit .517 with 19 doubles, 3 home runs, also gunned down more than half of attempted base-stealers she faced
Left-handed masher in middle of Pantherettes’ order backed up 38 RBIs with nearly perfect defense with only 1 error
Batted .535 with 45 hits, drove in 37 runs and stole 15 bases to help Rockettes advance to regional semifinals
Combined .540 average and only 7 strikeouts at plate with fanning 70 hitters in 96 innings as Lady Cadets’ top pitcher
Super Centex Player of Year sparked Midway’s offense with .575 hitting, 57 runs while turning in sparkling defense
Terror on bases had eye-popping .647 average, scored 64 times to set table for Class 2A champion Lady Pirates
Leadoff hitter started potent offense with .622 average, 45 stolen bases to garner all-district honors
No. 2 hitter had 2 hits, drove in 1st run of state title game, finished year with .565 average, drove in 32 runs
Took young, talented Lady Pirates to school’s 1st-ever state crown, finished year with 36-2 record.
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