It took a while, but the final Northwestern Conference team still active in the state softball playoffs finally finished its season, freeing up the league to release the All-Conference team.
The South Caldwell Spartans beat Wilmington Hoggard in a best-of-three series to claim the State 4A Championship last weekend. By a league-wide agreement, all-conference teams in a given sport are not released to the media until all teams have finished playing in the postseason.
The McDowell Lady Titans, who finished a respectable third behind South Caldwell and second-place Alexander Central in the final conference standings, placed five on the All-NWC team as voted on by the conference coaches.
Senior outfielder Dezi Williams led the way, earning all-conference honors for the third consecutive season. Senior pitcher/outfielder Candace Cooper made her second all-conference team. Senior Emma Banks and sophomore twins Jada and Jessica Cannon made their first all-conference appearances.
Each member of the quintet was outstanding throughout the season for the 11-12 Lady Titans, who went 9-5 in league play.
Williams, who has signed to play at USC-Upstate, was second on the team in hitting (.412), runs scored (17), hits (28), RBIs (14) and on-base percentage (.481) and led the club with 16 stolen bases. She also had five doubles, a .485 slugging percentage, a .966 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and a .932 fielding percentage.
Cooper, who recently signed to play at UNC-Wilmington, led the team in hitting (.432), walks (12), on-base percentage (.576), slugging percentage (.704), and OPS (1.281), and tied for the club lead in homers (1). She was third in runs scored (13) and extra-base hits (8). Cooper drove in 12 runs and had 19 hits, five doubles, six stolen bases and tied for second on the team with two triples. In the circle, Cooper led the Lady Titans in innings pitched (69 2/3), and strikeouts (48) and tied for first in earned run average (1.91).
Banks, a senior first baseman who has signed with Emory and Henry, hit .314 with 10 RBIs and tied for the team lead in home runs (1). Banks was second on the squad in doubles (8) and extra-base hits (11), and tied for second in triples (2). Banks tied for third on the club with 22 hits. She also scored 11 runs and posted percentages of .377 (on-base), .528 (slugging), .906 (OPS) and .957 (fielding).
Jada Cannon, a sophomore outfielder, led McDowell in several statistical categories, including runs (20), hits (29), RBIs (16), doubles (9), triples (6) and extra-base hits (15). She was second on the roster in slugging percentage (.641), OPS (1.036) and steals (12), and third in batting average (.372). Cannon had a .395 on-base percentage and a .966 fielding percentage.
Jessica Cannon, a sophomore shortstop, hit .339 with 11 runs scored, 21 hits, six RBIs, five doubles, two triples (tied for second on the team) and four stolen bases. She posted percentages of .369 (on-base), .483 (slugging), .853 (OPS) and .901 (fielding).
Not surprisingly, South Caldwell had the lion’s share of all-conference picks (10) and swept the three postseason awards.
Spartans sophomore Regan Weisner was an obvious choice for Player of the Year after posting an outrageous slash line of .519/.613/1.246 and an OPS of 1.860 to go with 17 home runs, 53 RBIs, 42 hits and 41 runs scored.
Her senior teammate, Jenna Pittman, was named Pitcher of the Year after going 15-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings pitched.
South Caldwell’s Casey Justice was Coach of the Year for the second straight season after leading the Spartans to a 14-0 NWC season and a 25-5 overall mark.
The rest of the all-conference team consisted of South Caldwell’s Ciara Hanson, Logan Keller, Katie Wright, Kenley Jackson, Lauren Spears, Addison Blair, Jenna Jackson and Jasmine Hall; Alexander Central’s Gracie Rhoney, Faith Carrigan, Lanie Goforth, Mattie Starnes, Ashley Seagle, Alexa Rush and Alea Seagle; St. Stephens’ Mayson Lail, Macey Pennell and Sadie Watts; Freedom’s Brandi Buchanan; Watauga’s Sam Reese, Jada Wilson and Taylor Lipford; Hickory’s Karissa Atapobvich; and West Caldwell’s Kylie Ried, Haley Price and Cambria Crisp.