It was one of those no-brainers. In fact the big surprise would have been if Erica Harper was not selected as the Most Valuable Player when the all-conference teams were selected.
Coming off a record-setting season, Harper earned the award everyone knew she would – the MVP of the Jayhawk West.
The sophomore standout from Topeka had some company on the first team for the Barton Community College softball team. Harper was a first team pick in the outfield and was joined by teammates Bailey Hensley at second base and Kylie Everill at first base on the first team while Brianna Ward garnered second team honors at third base.
Harper and Hensley were second team selections last season.
Harper and her teammates’ efforts have led Barton to its best record since 2002. The team also won its first Region VI title since 1993 and is headed to Western Nebraska to play for the right to earn its first NJCAA National Tournament appearance since 1993 as well.
Currently Barton is 36-18 as it heads to Scottbluff, Neb. for a best 2-of-3 series starting Wednesday.
With at least two games left to play Harper has put her name in the record books at Barton with 24 home runs this season. That topped the mark set by Whitney Boeh who hit 21 in 2008. That mark is currently tied for the NJCAA lead. She is second in the nation in RBI with 92. That is 31 more RBI than anyone else in conference.
But her gaudy numbers don’t stop there. Her .456 batting average was second in the conference as was her slugging percentage of .896. She was second in the conference with 67 runs scored.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable numbers is the fact that with all those power numbers she has struck out only 10 times this season in 193 at bats.
Harper provided two of the biggest home runs of the season in the Region VI title game, including a grand slam that propelled Barton to a 6-0 win over Garden City.
“Erica showed why she is All Conference MVP especially the way she hit in the championship game,” Barton assistant coach Anna Voss said. “It’s complete respect for a team to give her two intentional walks after her grand slam. Erica definitely has a chance to be selected as an All-American.”
Everill is also in the top 20 in the NJCAA in home runs. The freshman from Utah has 15 so far this season – the second best in the region and 17th in the nation. Her 59 RBI is third most in the region. She is also in the top five with 22 walks.
“Kylie has battled with a shoulder injury most of the year,” Voss said. “Our goal in the off season was to get her throwing overhand and thankfully she overcame the injury to play first base.”
Everill hit a big home run in Barton’s 3-1 win over West regular season champion and 4-time defending region champion Butler in the first game of the Region VI tournament, putting Barton ahead for good. She is hitting .343 on the season.
“Bailey is the kind of player every coach wants,” Voss said. “She comes early, stays late. She is a true leader, being one who leads by example. Bailey writes down her goals and keeps them in front of her. I think that’s what helps her stay focused.”
Hensley is a 2-year starter for the Cougars at second. The sophomore from Ellis is third on the team with a .392 average and belted seven home runs. Hensley drove in 48 runs and drew more walks than anyone on the team with 24 from her leadoff spots in the lineup. Her .471 on base percentage was tops for the Cougars.
Hensley had a .940 fielding percentage and led the team with 89 assists in the field. She led the conference with 68 runs scored.
Ward had a big offensive season as well for the Cougars. She clubbed 12 home runs and drove in 55. The 12 home runs were the fourth most in the region while the 55 RBI ranked her sixth.
The Olathe South graduate hit .398, good for seventh in the conference. She was third in the conference with 62 runs scored.
“We had some issues with other players and weren’t sure who we would play at third base,” Voss said. “I’d say things worked out for Bree. She’s had one heck of a season compared to last year. Her goal was to hit double digits in home runs this year and she hit her tenth in the Pratt game; she’s still adding on.”
All Jayhawk West
Coach of the Year – Becky Gundy, Garden City
Most Valuable Player – Erica Harper, Barton
Freshman of the Year – Megan Wurts, Butler
FIRST TEAM: Pitcher Jenny Hittinger-Butler, pitcher Kaelah McMullen-Butler, catcher Vanessa Oakden-Seward, first base Kylie Everill-Barton, first base Mattie Miller-Garden City, second base Bailey Hensley-Barton, shortstop Brooke Lovus-Garden City, third base Monica Islava-Butler, outfield Erica Harper-Barton, outfield Megan Wurts-Butler, utility Jaidyn Mawhinney-Seward
SECOND TEAM: Pitcher Jaclyn Wagner-Seward, pitcher Bard Nigon-Garden City, catcher Erica Edison-Pratt, first base Anna Plante-Pratt, first base Gracie Bogle-Butler, second base Aujanae McCoy-Butler, shortstop Danielle Orr-Seward, third base Brianna Ward-Barton, outfield Joe Ann Rapoza-Seward, outfield Tanner Harvey-Colby, outfield Kolby Hamilton-Seward, utility Morgan Heckart-Butler