The spring signing period for colleges begins next Wednesday and summer travel team season is not far away. But several local softball players now have another honor from last fall's high school campaign -- a spot on the All-Region 1-AAAAA team.
Thirteen players from Lowndes High and Valdosta High, the top two finishers in the region, were selected by a vote of area sportswriters recently. In fact, the Lady Vikings and Lady Wildcats combined to take nine of the 11 slots on the first team.
Leading the way for Lowndes was Region 1-AAAAA player of the year Jade Jarvis, a senior shortstop who was already named the Class AAAAA player of the year last fall. Jarvis, who signed in the early period with the University of Georgia, had 49 hits and a .510 average in 30 games for Lowndes, a state quarterfinalist for the second straight year. She also drove in 36 runs and had 11 extra-base hits.
Two more Lowndes infielders joined Jarvis on the first team. Senior Kristin McLeod hit .372 with 18 RBIs and 25 runs scored. Sophomore Lauren Rowe finished with a .316 batting average and 21 RBIs, in addition to drawing 11 walks.
The first-team outfield is an all-Winnersville unit. Lowndes senior Kelly Summers -- another UGA signee -- hit .324 despite drawing 24 walks. She also had six extra-base hits and stole 12 bases.
Also making first-team were Valdosta outfielders Courtney Ruttinger and Lauren Sellars. Ruttinger hit .361 with 18 RBIs for the Lady Wildcats, while Sellers scored a team-high 31 runs, hit .333 and had a .453 on-base percentage.
Behind the plate, Lowndes catcher Lauren Lineberger returned from a year off due to a back injury to claim a spot on the first team. Lineberger, a senior expected to sign with North Georgia next week, hit .266 with 13 RBIs for the Lady Vikings.
The two pitchers on the first team were Sara McMichael of Lowndes and Katie Walthall of Valdosta. McMichael went 10-2 with an 0.84 ERA and 29 strikeouts while emerging as the No. 1 pitcher later in the season for Lowndes. Walthall went 10-4 with a 1.32 ERA and three shutouts. She also struck out 84 batters for the Lady Wildcats.
Rounding out the first team were Colquitt County infielder Jill Clark and Coffee's Haley Davis, who was listed as a designated hitter.
Lowndes and Valdosta had two players apiece on the second team. Pitcher Shelli Sirmons (9-2 record, 0.62 ERA, 46 strikeouts) and infielder Amy Gaiss (.330 average, 18 RBIs, 31 hits) represented the Lady Vikings, while catcher Jennifer Mullis (.254 average, six doubles, 20 runs) and outfielder Jill Courson (.333 average, .518 on-base percentage, 10 RBIs) represented Valdosta.
Lowndes coach Nick Petro was named the Region 1-AAAAA coach of the year. In his first season, Petro directed the Lady Vikings to a 26-4 record, and an undefeated mark in region play.
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