Here’s a breakdown of how the softball player of the year was chosen, with a glimpse into the top five candidates.
1. Lauren Maley (Jr., pitcher, Ferndale): Maley was the out-and-out pick for player of the year. There was really no debate or discussion. Not only did her stats support the decision (20-4 record, 1.35 ERA over 135 1/3 innings, 174 strikeouts, hit .368 with 38 RBI and three home runs), but she also led the Golden Eagles to their first ever appearance to the state tournament. She dominated the Northwest Conference en route to a league crown, and was largely an untouchable force. With that, she made it an easy decision.
2. Aleks Toivola (Jr., pitcher, Mount Baker): Toivola was the only other player that truly contended with Maley for the All-Whatcom County honor. She meant equally as much to her team, leading the Mountaineers to the 1A state title game, and her two shutouts to open the state tournament were indicative of how well she pitched in the postseason. She finished with slightly-less impressive numbers in the circle (18-6 record, 2.41 ERA, 102 strikeouts over 151 1/3 innings), but her performance at the plate with a .505 batting average and 27 RBI spoke to her dual-threat capabilities.
3. Tanna Benson (Jr., pitcher/infielder, Lynden): Benson’s pitching-hitting abilities helped lift Lynden to a third-place finish at the Class 2A state tournament. She was at times dominating in the circle, holding a 2.21 ERA over 123 2/3 innings, pairing that with a .552 batting average, three home runs and 29 RBI. She is a true talent who has overpowering stuff and one of the strongest bats in the Northwest Conference, making her a top candidate for this honor.
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4. Shelby Brown (Sr., outfield, Lynden Christian): Brown was arguably the most feared hitter in the Northwest Conference. Her numbers of a .475 batting average, eight home runs, seven doubles, six triples, 36 RBI and 38 runs scored almost seem unreal. She provided a solid defensive presence in the outfield, as well, helping Lynden Christian to be a Cinderella story of sorts, coming out of nowhere to make the state tournament. Her hitting numbers alone left her as the top candidate up for consideration taking into account solely hitting numbers.
5. Morgan Henry (Jr., catcher, Sehome): Henry was an offensive juggernaut for the Mariners’ softball team, batting .583 with 23 RBI, 28 runs scored, seven doubles and five home runs, all while playing the most demanding defensive position on the field: catcher. All of that taken into account, she cracked the top five.