When the time came for the Division I-A Southern Region softball coaches to pick a most valuable player, the choice couldn’t have been too difficult.
All it took was one look at Vanessa Sanders’ statistics.
The Cheyenne senior catcher was 67-for-101 (.663) with 23 doubles, eight home runs and 87 RBIs in just 35 games.
“She capitalized on every opportunity,” said Cheyenne coach Teri Hernandez. “We had leadoff hitters who could get on base, and every chance she got, she would drive them in. The kid is just an awesome ballplayer.
“Without a doubt, it’s the best season I’ve seen from any kid I’ve coached.”
Sanders hit .500 as a junior, but drove in only 17 runs as Cheyenne often struggled to score while playing most of its games in the Class 4A Northwest League. A move to Division I-A this season made the Desert Shields more competitive and allowed the team’s run totals to explode. Cheyenne made its first playoff appearance in 10 seasons.
Sanders and Centennial’s Savannah Horvath each drove in 87 runs this season, 15 more than what is believed to be the previous state record.
“It was hard for her the first three years because we had our struggles,” Hernandez said. “Her eyes were always on the bigger prize at the end. Her goal was to play after high school.”
But maybe the most impressive of all of Sanders’ stats was her one strikeout in 131 plate appearances. She was walked 22 times and was hit by a pitch seven times. She finished the season with a .733 on-base percentage and a slugging average of 1.208.
Sanders, who attends school at Northwest Tech but plays for her zoned school, intends to play at the College of Southern Nevada next season.
“It’s going to be pretty impossible to replace her,” Hernandez said. “The intensity that she brings every game is amazing. Someone will have to work very hard to step in.”
Chaparral’s A.J. Coleman was named the Southern Region Coach of the Year.
Faith Lutheran’s John Chilman earned Sunset League Coach of the Year honors.
Chaparral’s Nicole Lesniak was the Sunrise League’s MVP, and Boulder City’s Bruce Reid the league’s Coach of the Year.
Division I state champion Centennial had the Southwest League’s MVP (Horvath), pitcher (Taylor Huntly) and coach (Mike Livreri) of the year.
State runner-up Palo Verde had a near clean sweep in the Northwest with Kelsea Sweeney earning Pitcher of the Year and Kelly Glass earning Coach of the Year honors. Palo Verde’s Brooke Stover and Arbor View’s Letty Valenzuela were Co-Players of the Year.
In the Southeast League, Coronado’s Danielle Amato was both MVP and Pitcher of the Year, and the Cougars’ Missy Krueger was top coach.
In the Northeast League, Green Valley’s Fenixx Henderson was MVP, and the Gators’ Lauren Taylor was Coach of the Year. Las Vegas’ Kristina Nelson was Pitcher of the Year.
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at email@example.com or 702-387-5230.