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By BRET H. McCORMICK
Justin Kees led the Buckeye Lady Panthers to their second straight state softball title, while Menard’s Emily DeSelle was one of the top power hitters in the nation this past season.
For those reasons and more Kees and DeSelle headline the inaugural Rapides Parish Journal All-Parish Softball Team.
Kees, who took over the Buckeye softball program three years ago, reloaded a team that lost several all-state players from the 2022 Class 3A state championship squad and led the Lady Panthers to a No. 1 seed and Division II Select state title this season – the first time in school history the program repeated as state champion.
The Lady Panthers played one of the toughest schedules in the parish and compiled a 25-9 record en route to being the only Rapides Parish team to win a state title in 2023. For his leadership, Kees was chosen as the All-Parish Coach of the Year over Tioga’s Brad Woodard, who guided the Lady Indians to their first state championship appearance since 1979 and a runner-up finish in Division I Select.
DeSelle, Menard’s junior shortstop, led all hitters in Rapides Parish with 23 home runs and 68 RBIs. Her home-run total ranked her in the top five in Louisiana, according to figures compiled by GeauxPreps and MaxPreps.
On the season, DeSelle batted .487 and also hit 16 doubles and four triples. She finished the year with an astonishing 43 extra-base hits as three out of every four hits DeSelle had went for extra bases. She helped lead Menard to the Division III Select quarterfinals.
DeSelle was selected as the All-Parish Most Outstanding Player over several other strong candidates including Buckeye junior pitcher Olivia Henry, Pineville senior second baseman and Northwestern State signee Bailey Henderson, and Tioga junior pitcher Christina Lambert.
The All-Parish Softball Team, selected by a panel of local sports journalists with input from the parish’s softball coaches, consists of one player at each standard position, four pitchers, two utility players and a designated player. The “Best of the Rest” features the top 15 remaining players who were given strong consideration for the first team. Those selections were not chosen by position.
2023 RPJ ALL-PARISH SOFTBALL TEAM
Outstanding Player: Emily DeSelle, Menard
Coach of the Year: Justin Kees, Buckeye
Pitcher: Olivia Henry, Jr., Buckeye – The two-time state champion was named Most Outstanding Player of the Division II Select tournament and finished the season with an 18-7 record in the circle, a 1.93 ERA, 204 strikeouts and two saves. Henry also batted .396 for the Lady Panthers with two homers, 15 doubles and 27 RBIs.
Pitcher: Christina Lambert, Jr., Tioga – The District 2-4A MVP was a standout in the circle and at the plate for the Lady Indians. The left-hander went 15-3 as a pitcher with a 2.30 ERA and also hit .440 on the season with eight home runs and 40 RBIs. She pitched the Lady Indians to the Division I Select championship game, the first state title appearance for Tioga since 1979.
Pitcher: Claire Thompson, Sr., ASH – A two-way standout in the circle and at the plate for the Lady Trojans, Thompson finished the season with a 23-8 record, 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts as a pitcher while also batting .434 and belting 10 homers.
Pitcher: Cortlynne Bennett, Sr., Pineville – Bennett stepped up as the Lady Rebels’ No. 1 pitcher this season while also playing standout defense at third base. She finished the season with a 15-5 record and 3.55 ERA in the circle while batting .400 with six homers, 12 doubles and 34 RBIs.
Catcher: Bevan Hartnett, Sr., Pineville – The Louisiana Christian signee moved from first base to fill a huge hole behind the plate for the Lady Rebels and continued her standout offensive performance with a .368 batting average, five home runs, 11 doubles and 37 RBIs.
First Base: Brielle Texada, Fr., ASH – The Lady Trojans’ newcomer made an immediate impact with her power at the plate, finishing second in the parish with 16 homers while batting .449 and driving in 54 runs.
Second Base: Bailey Henderson, Sr., Pineville – The Northwestern State signee overcame a major shoulder injury that nearly ended her career to hit .426 on the season with seven home runs, 18 doubles and 38 RBIs while finishing as the school’s leader in career home runs with 34.
Third Base: Sydney Avery, So., Grace Christian – Avery helped the Lady Warriors to a semifinal appearance in Division V Select by batting .436 with eight home runs, 51 runs scored and a parish-leading 34 stolen bases.
Shortstop: Emily DeSelle, Jr., Menard – The All-Parish Most Outstanding Player put up ridiculous offensive numbers with a .487 batting average, 23 homers, 16 doubles and 68 RBIs.
Outfield: Dayzja Williams, Sr., ASH – The speedy left-hander at the top of the Trojans’ lineup batted .492 with five homers, 25 stolen bases and only four strikeouts while covering as much ground as anyone in the parish in center field.
Outfield: Kaitlyn Roberts, Jr., Tioga – The Lady Indians’ left fielder batted .457 on the season with six homers and 44 RBIs while also compiling a 4-0 record with a 1.18 ERA and two saves as Tioga’s No. 2 pitcher.
Outfield: Allison Brossett, Jr., Buckeye – The Lady Panthers’ speedy center fielder and leadoff hitter batted .344 on the season with three home runs, 13 doubles, 27 RBIs and 40 runs scored.
Designated Player: Madelyn Halle, So., Pineville – A first-year starter at first base, Halle was the Lady Rebels’ top hitter in almost every offensive category, compiling a .509 batting average with 10 homers, 17 doubles and 46 RBIs.
Utility: Abbi Troquille, Jr., Tioga – The Indians’ smooth-fielding shortstop and a Southern Miss commitment, Troquille finished the season with a .515 batting average, .630 on-base percentage, six home runs, 30 RBIs and 26 stolen bases.
Utility: Maddie Sinclair, Sr., Buckeye – The lone senior and emotional leader for the Lady Panthers, the Mississippi College signee set a single-season school record with 12 home runs while batting .437 with 13 doubles, 42 RBIs, 43 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
BEST OF THE REST (listed in alphabetical order)
Laryn Aymond, Sr., ASH – Lala, as she’s known by her teammates, made the switch from third base to catcher for her senior season, batting .282 with two home runs and 12 stolen bases.
Mary Claire Brinkman, So., ASH – One of several new starters on the Lady Trojans’ retooled infield, the shortstop batted .323 with 13 stolen bases and a .950 fielding percentage.
Traxtyn Finney, Sr., ASH – The Lady Trojans’ second baseman hit .355 with three home runs on the season while providing key leadership on an infield that started two sophomores and a freshman.
Sophie Giordano, So., Menard – The Lady Eagles’ third baseman batted .321 on the season with two homers, 11 doubles and 32 RBIs.
Ava Guillot, Jr., Grace Christian – Guillot stepped in midseason as the Lady Warriors’ starting pitcher, moving over from shortstop following an injury, and played a key role with a .402 batting average and 27 runs scored for the Division V Select semifinalist.
Chloe Kelly, Sr., Oak Hill – Perhaps the biggest “snub” from the All-Parish team, the pitcher/shortstop batted .538 on the season with seven home runs, 30 RBIs and 26 runs scored.
Kaylee Methvin, Fr., Menard – Despite her youth, Methvin didn’t shy away from the spotlight, compiling a 14-2 record and 1.34 ERA for the Lady Eagles while striking out 162 batters in 153 innings. She also contributed at the plate with a .266 batting average, two homers and 20 RBIs.
Adysen Mitchell, So., Buckeye – The right fielder and cleanup hitter for the state champion Lady Panthers, Mitchell batted .356 with five homers, seven doubles and 32 RBIs while also going 6-2 in the circle with two saves as the team’s No. 2 pitcher.
Rikki Nitz, So., Buckeye – Stepping in for a graduated all-state player at first base, Nitz made just two errors on the season while batting .324 with six doubles and 16 RBIs.
Zoe Roland, Jr., Tioga – A key glove at second base, Roland teamed with Abbi Troquille to form perhaps the parish’s top middle-infield tandem while batting .446 with four home runs and 43 RBIs.
Sawyer Shelton, Fr., Menard – A speedy center fielder and left-handed slapper, maybe the fastest softball player in Rapides Parish, Shelton stood out with her strong defense and ability to get on base. She finished the season with a .458 batting average, .566 on-base percentage, two homers, six doubles, two triples and 23 RBIs.
Cassidy Sicuro, So., Pineville – Moving over from second base to shortstop because of Bailey Henderson’s shoulder injury, Sicuro shined defensively for the Lady Rebels while batting .398 with 11 doubles and 34 RBIs.
Sidney St. Pe’, Jr., Buckeye – An irreplaceable cog behind the plate, St. Pe’ caught all but 14 innings on the season while finishing with a .989 fielding percentage, six home runs, seven doubles and 26 RBIs.
Annalee Stevens, Jr., Pineville – A first-year starter, Stevens eventually found her way to center field because of her speed and defensive prowess while also providing great production at the bottom of the Lady Rebels’ batting order. On the season, Stevens batted .396 with 20 stolen bases.
Wynlee Vincent, Fr., Grace Christian – The Lady Warriors’ batting leader split her time between shortstop and the outfield while racking up a .483 batting average with 43 runs scored and 20 stolen bases.
Photo: Graphic by BRET H. McCORMICK