By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
This week, she was named one of the best softball players in the country. Last month, she was deemed one of the top 10 softball players in the state. Today, Cara Goodwin can lay claim to her rightful title of best softball player in Cullman County.
Following yet another sensational season in the pitcher’s circle and at the plate, the Good Hope hurler was an easy pick for Player of the Year on The Times’ 2013 All-Area Softball Team.
Goodwin spent her Tuesday at UAB’s freshmen orientation, not too long after completing a final prep campaign that oriented the Blazers on the kind of talent they’ll add to their arsenal next spring.
As a pitcher, the Raider was most batters’ worst nightmare, regularly fooling foes with her signature rise ball and rounded-out reportoire. As a batter, Goodwin was cruel to her counterparts, generally hitting the ball sharper and further off opposing aces than they ever managed to do off of her.
It was hard to imagine Goodwin could top her production from 2012, but she found a way in her last go-round in Red and White. The superstar etched her name in the state record books with seven perfect games and nearly notched another appearance with 13 no-hitters. To top it off, Goodwin went wild for 514 strikeouts, 29 shutouts, a 41-8 record and razor-thin 0.54 earned run average.
On the flip side, Goodwin’s 38 runs scored were 15 more than opponents were able to muster during her 297-2/3 innings in the pitcher’s circle. Further helping her cause, the slugger batted .396, cranked out 63 hits, 46 RBIs, four home runs, 13 doubles and even turned on the jets for two stolen bases.
As stout as those offensive numbers may be, they’re not quite as hearty as the ones turned in by teammate Kayla Tillman, who joins Goodwin on the All-Area award’s pedestal as the Hitter of the Year.
Wielding a bigger stick than most leadoff batters at the prep level, the quick-gloved third baseman reeled off team highs in average (.405), slugging percentage (.607), hits (68), runs (60), home runs (five), triples (four) and sacrifice flies (four). To top it off, Tillman tacked on 32 RBIs, 11 doubles and seven stolen bases.
Considering Good Hope made a second consecutive trip to Montgomery, where it won its first state game since 2007, it should come as no surprise Wayne Harris was named The Times’ All-Area Coach of the Year.
Harris highlighted a 10-year stint at Demopolis with a Class 4A state title in 2003 and has inched the Raiders closer to lifting a beautiful, blue trophy of their own in each of his five seasons atop the program. In the last two years alone, he’s steered the Red and White to an astounding 85-17-2 record and matching state berths.
With hurlers like Raven Christiansen (Vinemont), Rilee White (Cold Springs) and Montana Holcombe (Holly Pond) sprinkled throughout the county, coming up with a clear-cut Pitcher of the Year was by far the hardest part of putting together the 2013 All-Area Team.
In the end, the honor was bestowed upon Christiansen, who served as a driving force in Vinemont’s run to the North Central Regional Tournament. With the now-senior’s wonderful work ethic rubbing off every step of the way, the Eagles edged Danville 2-1 to advance to Tuscaloosa, where they stayed for the weekend after crushing Sipsey Valley 11-1 in a six-inning mercy.
“She pitches year-round. She’s determined. She doesn’t like to perform poorly. She has a lot of support from her family. Those kinds of things make a big difference,” Vinemont coach Mark Smothers said of Christiansen. “And then she gets a lot of practice. She pitches batting practice just about every day, and I think she pitched all but two games this year. If we played, she pitched.”
Some of Christiansen’s success could be contributed to the sturdy defense that was usually played behind her. In Smother’s eyes, though, those position players saw how hard their pitcher was working for them and therefore had no problem giving their all to return the favor.
“My opinion is that all those other girls are going to do their very best because they know she is,” the coach said. “They don’t want to let her down.”
No matter which of her five pitches (curveball, rise ball, downer, changeup and screwball) Christiansen chooses to launch toward the plate, there’s a good chance it’s going to land in the strike zone. In Smothers’ best estimation, the righty only handed out about 12 free passes to first base all season.
“There were several games we were in position to win because Raven didn’t walk people,” he said. “If an umpire wasn’t giving her the outside corner, she’d throw it down the middle. Probably the biggest plus she had was she didn’t get herself in trouble by putting people onbase.”
Though Christiansen edged both out for the top accolade, White and Holcombe didn’t head home empty-handed. Cold Springs’ and Holly Pond’s respective aces took up both pitching spaces on the All-Area first team, which was also graced by Darcie Wilson, Good Hope; Taylor Payne, Cold Springs; Katlyn Whitehead, Holly Pond; Alannah Henke, Good Hope; Kendra Pearson, Vinemont; Karra Elam, West Point; Hayden Short, Cullman; McKinnley Davis, Cold Springs; Taylor Rowell, Holly Pond; Bailie Andrews, Good Hope; Katie Speer, Vinemont; and Claire Jenkins, Cullman.
See the entire All-Area Softball Team below:
Player of the Year: Cara Goodwin, Good Hope
Hitter of the Year: Kayla Tillman, Good Hope
Pitcher of the Year: Raven Christiansen, Vinemont
Coach of the Year: Wayne Harris, Good Hope
Montana Holcombe, Holly Pond
Rilee White, Cold Springs
Darcie Wilson, Good Hope
Taylor Payne, Cold Springs
Katlyn Whitehead, Holly Pond
Alannah Henke, Good Hope
Kendra Pearson, Vinemont
Karra Elam, West Point
Hayden Short, Cullman
McKinnley Davis, Cold Springs
Taylor Rowell, Holly Pond
Bailie Andrews, Good Hope
Katie Speer, Vinemont
Claire Jenkins, Cullman
Haley Freeman, INF, Cold Springs
Hayden West, OF, Cold Springs
Hannah Morton, P, Cullman
Melody Manasco, OF, Fairview
Kaylynn Holcomb, P/INF, Fairview
Maegan Sterling, INF, Good Hope
Katie Tankersley, C, Hanceville
Shayla Goodwin, OF, Hanceville
Kolby Holcombe, C, Holly Pond
Katie Fuller, Vinemont
Karli Beck, West Point
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.