Firsts never cease to be special.

Over the last three seasons, the Gatesville softball team has specialized in bringing firsts to the school.

In 2007, the Lady Hornets reached the playoffs for the first time. In 2008, they won a playoff game for the first time.

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Randi Smith
Gatesville's Randi Smith was named the Super Centex Player of the Year after hitting .441, going 9-1 in the circle and earning the District 7-3A defensive MVP award. (Rod Aydelotte photo)

But neither of those seasons will go down in history quite like 2009, when Gatesville blew past anything it had ever done before with a trip to Austin for the school’s first-ever state tournament appearance.

A slew of Lady Hornets have their handprints on the meteoric rise, but no player contributed in as many ways as the versatile Randi Smith.

So nearly a month after helping Gatesville make history with the state tournament berth, Smith has made some of her own as the first Lady Hornet softball player to be selected as the Super Centex Player of the Year.

“This award is a big deal for our team,” Smith said. “I definitely see this as a team award. We had our softball banquet and Emily (Leib) and I got the co-MVP award, and she easily could’ve gotten this award, too.”

Smith was the Lady Hornets’ biggest run-producer this season, driving in 45 to go with a .441 average. She blasted three home runs and 21 doubles, all of which added up to a .941 slugging percentage.

She said being fundamentally sound is the key to her ability at the plate. And those fundamentals come from a strong work ethic.

“I’m one of those people who if I didn’t do good in practice that day, I’ll go hit off the tee because it will bother me,” Smith said. “It has to be great. If it’s not, I’ll get my dad to come out and throw to me.”

But Smith, who has signed to play at Trinity Valley Community College next season, is anything but a one-way player.

She was 9-1 in the circle as a No. 2 to Leib and earned the District 7-3A Defensive Player of the Year award playing primarily at third base.

“Randi is one of those kids I can play anywhere on the field,” Gatesville coach Michelle Bartch said. “Anywhere you put her, she’s going to help you. Anywhere she’s not, you’re going to be a little weaker. She’s just an awesome defensive player.”

When Gatesville reached the state tournament, Smith lived one of her dreams by playing at McCombs Field, the same field as her idol, former University of Texas star pitcher Cat Osterman.

But there was a time this season when that looked like a near impossibility — especially at the end of district play when the Lady Hornets dropped back-to-back games to China Spring and West to finish third in 7-3A.

All that meant was that somebody needed to step up and be a leader to turn it around for Gatesville. And Smith took it upon herself to do just that.

With the Lady Hornets struggling early in their bi-district game against Wimberley, Smith called the team together with the message that they had worked too hard for their season to end that way.

The rest it history.

Gatesville settled down and never looked back until a 2-1 loss to Needville — the eventual state champion — in the state semifinals. It was the second straight year the Lady Hornets had bowed out to the eventual champion.

“Randi’s a fun kid to coach,” Bartch said. “She’s so talented, and she has a lot of heart. She’s also a vocal kid and backs it up because she’s so good. The kids responded to her because they didn’t want it to end the way it looked like it was headed.”

Smith edged out some tough competition for the Player of the Year honor, including Mart pitcher Mikel-Ann Cadell and her 23-2 record; always steady Midway pitcher Kermitria Ward, who was 12-1 in the circle and struck out 128 batters while walking just 11; and Rosebud-Lott sophomore Victoria Connors, who was 19-6 in the circle while hitting .418 with five home runs.

Coach of the Year: Michelle Bartch, Gatesville

When Gatesville was struggling at the end of the regular season, a lot of it was because of mental breakdowns.

So when the swine flu forced the UIL to postpone playoff games, the Lady Hornets used that extra time to get their mental focus back.

“We changed focuses a little bit because of the way we ended district,” Bartch said. “We had a lot of mental breakdowns, a lot of pressure situations we didn’t play well. So we worked on nothing but that, and they did a much better job with it in the playoffs.”

They absolutely did, and the result was Gatesville’s first-ever state tournament trip, which earned Bartch the Super Centex Coach of the Year award.

“It’s an honor, I was actually really surprised,” Bartch said. “There are so many talented coaches in the area, and a lot of them had teams that were so successful. So this is definitely an honor.”

Bartch said it didn’t take long for what the Lady Hornets accomplished this season to sink in.

“It hit us when we stepped onto the field at UT to take pictures before the game,” she said. “It was super special, and the people around town are still being supportive and congratulatory to us. It’s been a real fun ride.”

Bartch is the first Gatesville coach to win the award. Mart’s Darrell Lehrmann, who guided his team to the regional final, and David Hurtado, who took Reicher to the TAPPS state title game, were also considered.

Newcomer of the Year: Lexxi Davenport, Mart

Mart’s coaches couldn’t wait to get the 2009 season started.

Part of the reason for their excitement was they knew Lexxi Davenport would be playing for them. Once the season started, Davenport quickly justified their optimism, helping the Panthers reach the regional final. That earned her the nod as the Super Centex Newcomer of the Year.

“During the school year, the coaches were talking to me like they were ready to get the season going because I was going to be playing,” Davenport said. “And Coach Lehrmann, I’ve wanted to play for him for 10 years, becuase he’s been here.”

In her initial season, Davenport became a vital part of the Panthers’ success, hitting .463 with a slugging percentage of .747, with three home runs and 33 RBIs.

“(This award) means a lot to me,” Davenport said. “I had all the coaches and parents helping me through the season. I had a big feeling we were going to go far — farther than we had ever gone. And I have an even bigger feeling we’re going to go all the way to state next season.”

Davenport was selected over Crawford’s Kristen Goodwin, Midway’s Monique Miller and Reicher’s Sarah Teague.

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2009 Super Centex Softball Team

Player of the Year: Randi Smith, Gatesville

Newcomer of the Year: Lexxi Davenport, Mart

Coach of the Year: Michelle Bartch, Gatesville

FIRST TEAM
 
Pos Player Cl Avg RBI School
C Grace Getman Sr .600 21 Bosqueville
1B Loren McCormick Sr .480 25 Bosqueville
2B Brooke Keel Jr .449 21 West
SS Sienna Miller Sr .412 25 Midway
3B Randi Smith Sr .441 45 Gatesville
OF Megan Chartier Sr .472 20 Gatesville
OF Brittany Andrews Sr .535 33 China Spring
OF Summer Moore Sr .583 29 Teague
DH Michelle Miller Sr .570 28 Bosqueville
UT Taylor Kelm So .462 30 Lorena
Pos Player Cl W-L ERA School
P Kermitria Ward Jr 12-1 1.01 Midway
P Mikel-Ann Cadell Jr 23-2 0.75 Mart
P Victoria Connors So 19-6 1.41 Rosebud-Lott
P Arianna Rodriguez Sr 16-5 0.79 Bruceville-Eddy
P Emily Leib Jr 23-9 0.82 Gatesville
P Ashley Anz Jr 20-4 0.91 West
SECOND TEAM
 
Pos Player Cl Avg RBI School
C Kelly Zacharias Sr .448 24 McGregor
1B Alyssa Lewis Sr .303 26 Midway
2B Skylar Savage Jr .452 24 Rosebud-Lott
SS Kylie Nichols Sr .360 22 Gatesville
3B Rachel Dieterich Jr .447 32 Crawford
OF Erica Estrada Sr .435 24 Reicher
OF Miranda Villareal Sr .352 12 Robinson
OF Makenzie Robertson Jr .395 11 Midway
DH Morgan Elkins Sr .560 28 Bosqueville
UT Haley Feight Sr .530 29 Bosqueville
Pos Player Cl W-L ERA School
P Hannah White Sr 12-5 0.43 Robinson
P Nataly Gutierrez Jr 14-4 1.79 Reicher
P Tori Pankonien Jr 18-9 2.99 Groesbeck
P Stephanie Roberts So 12-4 0.89 China Spring
P Lizzy Kelly Sr 12-5 1.19 Midway
P Courtney Nelson Sr 14-8 1.35 Fairfield
HONORABLE MENTION
 
Cayla Crews, Bosqueville; Kirsten Goodwin, Crawford; Emily Jaska, Kristie Oliver and Kaylyn Vranich, Lorena; Celeste Hefelfinger and Megan Terry, Mart; Lena Capps, McGregor; Valerie Ramirez, Lauren Griffith, Caitlynn Gummelt and Monique Miller, Midway; Kate Harrison and Sarah Teague, Reicher; Kailyn Meyer and Julie Thornton, Rosebud-Lott; Abi Jobe, Alissa Graves, Alison Cox and Ellen Deeley, Valley Mills; Breanna Pavlas, West

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