Welcome to the first ever Statesboro Herald All-County softball team! It’s been a long time coming in my opinion.
Why hasn’t there been one in the past? It’s tough to say. My guess is softball has never been this prevalent or even worth writing about when it came to all four schools.
But this season was certainly special. Statesboro, Portal, Bulloch Academy and Southeast Bulloch all made the playoffs — with SEB going all the way to the Elite Eight. It’s an unprecedented collection of success for softball in Bulloch County.
Credit the recent influx of participation in travel ball into the county for the uptick of quality in the softball programs, but don’t forget about the dedication of the players and parents who invest their time and money in this sport too.
Either way, 2016 seemed all the more appropriate to finally recognize the best player at each position in Bulloch County. So without further ado, let’s get started.
How the selections were made
There was one and only one voter for this team: me. Sure, I could let the coaches vote on it. But that’s flawed for a number of reasons.
One: Portal, BA, Statesboro and SEB didn’t play one another once during the regular season. What would they know about one another? Probably not very much.
Two: That allowed for bias to creep in on voting. I’m saying any of the coaches would have cheated the system, but I couldn’t take chances.
Three: I have sabermetrics.
If you’ve read any of my football columns, you now know I’m a stat head. I love numbers, and the more complicated the better. And no sport does complicated metrics better than baseball/softball.
I can plug in all of these player’s numbers and instantly know who is better than who — and I’m not talking about batting average or RBI.
Those stats are dinosaurs in today’s world of sabermetrics, and there are better stats out there to indicate superior performance.
For offense players, I based these selections on the following stats: runs created, weighted on base average (wOBA), on base plus slugging (OPS) and isolated power (ISO). For pitchers, I used field independent pitching (FIP), walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and strikeout to walk ratio.
Now I could write a totally different column 10,000 words long on what sabermetrics are, why they’re better than regular stats and how to use them. But this is not that column. If you’re curious about any of these stats, there’s plenty of literature — online and off — about these statistics.
But I digress, it’s time to introduce these girls to the rest of Bulloch County and honor their accomplishments in what was a momentous year for softball in Bulloch County.
All-County first team
Pitcher: Madison Fields, senior SEB: From start to finish, there wasn’t a player in the county more dominant than Fields. She pitched her team into the Elite Eight on a 17 inning performance against Union Grove the likes of which SEB may never see again. She led the county in FIP (1.09) and WHIP (0.55) to go along with a county-best 9.1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Catcher: McKenzi Wilkerson, sophomore Statesboro: A member of the the Blue Devils big four, Wilkerson might be the best two-way position player in Bulloch County. Not only was she third in the county in runs created (61.5), second in wOBA (.487) and second in OPS (1.122) — she posted the highest range factor (defensive sabermetric) of anyone in the county.
First base: Morgan Thompson, sophomore Statesboro: Offensively, no player comes close to touching the kind of season Thompson had. She won the sabermetric triple crown, leading the county in runs created (72), wOBA (.504) and OPS (1.173). Take note she’s only a sophomore, meaning she’s got quite the act to follow the next two seasons.
Second base: Dashonda Morgan, senior Portal: Morgan beat out a close run by SEB’s Brylie Ritchie for this spot, but in the end Morgan meant more to the success of her team than Ritchie did. The senior created more runs for her team (43.3) than any other second baseman in the county on top of leading the position in ISO (.159).
Shortstop: Faith Oglseby, senior Portal: This was the closest call for any position on this team. While SEB’s Blair Chapman had an outstanding season in her own right, Oglesby was better. She was second in the county in runs created (68.1), third in wOBA (.479) and third in OPS (1.117). She was the best offensive player by far for Portal in 2016.
Third base: Jenna Coble, sophomore Statesboro: Coble was an easy choice at a position that wasn’t particularly deep in the county. Coble led all county third basemen in runs created (38.5) and OPS (.805). Along with Wilkerson, Thompson and Brinson Anne Rogers — Statesboro has a scorching bright future with this core the next two years.
Outfield: McKenzie Crooms, junior Bulloch Academy: The lone Gator on this list, Crooms stood out amongst her teammates as her team’s best offensive player. She led BA in runs
created, ISO, wOBA and OPS — and was third amongst county outfielders in OPS (.819) and runs created (38.4).
Outfield: Emma Britt, senior SEB: Look no further for a better outfielder in Bulloch County than Britt, who had clutch moments in the playoffs for SEB on top of a stellar regular season. Britt led all county outfielders in runs created (47.5), wOBA (.447) and OPS (1.007). While outfield wasn’t particularly deep in Bulloch County, Britt was objectively great.
Outfield: Mallory Hardy, sophomore SEB: Nipping on Britt’s heels was her teammate and outfield partner Hardy. The sophomore was right behind Britt in runs created (46.6), wOBA (.434) and OPS (.998). However, Hardy did edge Britt in ISO (.138) to be the better power hitter of the two.
DP: Brinson Anne Rogers, freshman Statesboro: These next two positions are here purely to recognize the pitchers who had excellent seasons on both sides of the bump. Rogers was easily the best freshman in the county, leading all players in ISO (.322) and was fifth in runs created (54.9) and OPS (1.055). Not to mention she was second in FIP (2.23) and third in WHIP (1.23).
Flex: Keri Carter, senior Portal: Carter might be the most responsible for Portal’s unprecedented 2016 success. On the mound, she was third in the county in FIP (2.48) and second in WHIP (1.16). On offense she was only behind Oglesby on her team in runs created (48.8), wOBA (.421) and OPS (.956).
All-County second team: Pitcher: Brinson Anne Rogers, Fr., SHS. 1st base: Kailin McDuffie, Fr., SEB. 2nd base: Brylie Ritchie, So., SEB. Shortstop: Blair Chapman, Sr., SEB. 3rd base: Madison Grams, Fr., SEB. Outfield: Madison Bishop, Sr., PTL. Madelyn Fennell, So., SHS. Cassidi Rushing, Jr., SHS.