Lake Country Conference trio leads fastpitch softball awards

Most Valuable Player: Haley McCutchen, Junior, Lone Grove

McCutchen all-around awesome for Longhorns

When Haley McCutchen steps on the softball field, odds are the junior will be the best at something.

Hitting, fielding, baserunning, power and arm strength. Those attributes that make up the five-tool player all appear to be present in the All-Ardmoreite Fastpitch Softball Most Valuable Player.

McCutchen said her best attribute would probably be her bat. That's a good answer, seeing as how she hit .467 out of the leadoff spot for the Longhorns.

But that excellence at the plate also translates to the defensive side of the ball, where McCutchen has the demeanor of a Division I shortstop. She frequently ranges left and right to get to ground balls many players would have no shot at.

Which brings us to another question — What is McCutchen's favorite part of softball: offense or defense?

"I hit really good this year," McCutchen said. "But I love both. I couldn't decide."

Neither could we. An MVP displays the best of all facets for their team, and McCutchen fits the bill.

— Baserunning: McCutchen led the Longhorns with 40 stolen bases in 41 chances.
— Fielding/arm strength: McCutchen led the Longhorns with 110 assists in 182 total chances. She committed just 12 errors in 34 games.
— Hitting/power: McCutchen led the Longhorns with 50 hits, 17 extra-base hits and four home runs. She also paced the team in walks (16) and on-base percentage (.560).

All of this is packaged in a player who has handled her duties with maturity, but also intensity, since her first day in high school. McCutchen, a three-time All-Ardmoreite Super Team selection and the 2012 Lake Country Conference MVP, said things change when she steps in between the lines.

Off the field, she describes herself as "crazy," "outgoing," and "not serious." When she's on the field, however, another tool is revealed: Her focus, her ability to be locked in. Behind wraparound shades, her expressions rarely shift.

"I change drastically," she said. "I'm determined, focused. I get the job done. It's paid off a lot.

"I love the game, the atmosphere it brings and just being around teammates. I'm always motivated to work harder."

McCutchen, who's been playing softball since she was about 5 years old, said she's more serious about softball than anything else in her life. She also plays basketball and runs track for Lone Grove, but knows her heart is on the diamond.

There's a strong chance that love will lead to a college scholarship. The 17-year-old is receiving interest from Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma Baptist among other schools.

Lone Grove senior and All-Ardmoreite Super Team catcher Nacona Presgrove thinks McCutchen is a surefire Division I player. But even she couldn't pinpoint the strongest part of McCutchen's game.

All Presgrove knows is that McCutchen has a chance to be an MVP wherever she ends up.

"Haley should go somewhere to where she can use her abilities and they will help her in the end," Presgrove said. "Haley covers a lot of ground (on defense), but she also held a .400 batting average.

"She's good at both (offense and defense). That's what separates her from everyone else."

Hitter of the Year: Casady Webb, Sophomore, Davis

For Wolves' Webb, hits keep coming

Last season as a freshman, Davis' Casady Webb let her glove do the talking for the most part.

This season? There weren't many teams that could keep Webb's bat quiet.

The sophomore fit seamlessly into the heart of the Wolves' batting order, mashing her way to All-Ardmoreite Hitter of the Year honors while also undergoing a position change for the sake of the team. It's all part of the game for Webb, who led the area with 11 home runs and 28 extra-base hits while playing the most physically demanding position in the field.

"Working everyday," Webb said on how she became such a good hitter. "I don't try to hit home runs, I just try to get base hits. That's my motto — swing hard."

Webb had the talent to start as a freshman at shortstop last season for Davis, helping the Wolves to a Class 3A state tournament appearance. This season, with the graduation of catcher Casha Birch, Webb was called into duty behind the plate and as the No. 3 hitter in the order.

No problem. The two-time All-Ardmoreite Super Teamer and the LCC's Co-Offensive Player of the Year paced
Davis in batting average (.506), on-base percentage (.587), doubles (12), triples (4), runs batted in (37), walks (19) and hits (44). She also only struck out seven times in 111 plate appearances.

Even more remarkable, Webb did not commit an error behind the plate. She didn't allow the weight of the team's offense to burden her on defense, and visa versa.

"I kinda play everywhere, but I'm a better catcher," Webb said of her position change this season. "It wears you out a lot, but I was kinda getting used to it at the end.

"I just a thing now; it's like muscle memory. That's how I am when it's softball."

It's nothing Webb can't handle. Pressure isn't a factor on someone who's a team leader as a sophomore and who's schedule is structured around softball.

After taking her pictures for the All-Ardmoreite softball honors, Webb hightailed it back to Davis so her father could drive her to a softball showcase in St. Louis. Webb is a year-round softball player.

"When other people are hanging out with their friends and everything, I'm at home with my dad usually hitting and playing catch," said Webb, who estimates she hits about 5-6 days out of the week, and everyday during the school season. "It's softball non-stop. I love it."

Pitcher of the Year: Sierra McCurry, Senior, Sulphur

McCurry foundation of Bulldogs' resurgence

Happy circumstance did not dictate what Sierra McCurry became for her Sulphur teammates this season.

The steady and reliable senior pitcher radiates a quiet strength, a sense of purpose that drives her on the softball diamond. It pushed McCurry to become the leader of a young team, filled with talent but short on experience. She allowed first-year head coach Health Gilbert to take chances, to be risky during the best year in Sulphur fast-pitch softball history.

All those accolades came because McCurry knew her duty, was driven to create a new bar for the Sulphur program, and in doing so to earn The All-Ardmoreite Pitcher of the Year honor.

"I've worked my whole life for this," McCurry said. "It means a lot."

It would be enough just to look at McCurry's stats in a vacuum. She accumulated a sterling 29-10 record in 204 innings pitched, with 135 strikeouts and a ERA of just 1.75.

But where McCurry separated herself from her competition was when the games were the most crucial, the stakes at their highest level.

During regional play, with Sulphur in a win-or-go-home scenario for the entirety of the tournament's second day, McCurry threw three complete games, including a stretch of 16 scoreless innings, to lift her Bulldogs past Plainview in a championship sweep.

"It was just one of those amazing days that you see something in someone you haven't seen before," Gilbert said. "It had such a great effect on the rest of the team, jacked them up to the point where they knew they could come back."

Despite a loss in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament, it isn't hard to see the effect McCurry and Sulphur's success has had on the younger generation of players.

Droves of students showed out for the team's trip to Oklahoma City in September, many of them younger girls who have aspirations to play for the Bulldogs.

"A lot of girls are wanting to come out for softball and that's awesome," McCurry said. "That's what we want to see."

At the beginning of the year, Sulphur was just another program, looking for something to spark them into a new era.
And behind the sturdy, consistent efforts of McCurry, that new era has come.

"When I came here, Sulphur didn't really have much to look at in terms of what it had accomplished as a program," McCurry said. "That's changed because we have a foundation now, one that we can be proud of."