2014 The Messenger All-Area Softball Team
Published 9:35 pm Thursday, May 29, 2014
Player of the Year
Kayla Benton – SS/C, Pike Liberal Arts
AVG. – .536, 11 doubles, 10 triples, 40 RBIs
When Kayla Benton settled in the batter’s box in 2014, all of her teammates got up off the bench at found a good vantage point to watch her go to work.
Benton batted .536 and slugged 22 extra base hits en route to being named the 2014 The Messenger Player of the Year. Benton’s .536 average means she got a hit more often than not during her junior season, something head coach Allie Park came to expect.
“Everyone knew that Kayla was going to get a hit, or at least put the ball in play,” said Park. “Everyone had confidence in her, and she delivered in some big sports for us the entire year.”
Park, in her first year at Pike Liberal, admits that, upon meeting her for the first time, she didn’t expect Benton to be a powerful as she came to be.
All it took to change Park’s mind was one batting practice session.
“When I first saw her, I thought I had found the perfect slapper,” Park said. “She’s fast and a lefty. But when I asked her, a couple of the other girls laughed and said ‘You don’t want her to slap Coach. You have to let her hit.’ After that first BP, I was convinced. I told her that she wouldn’t be a slapper for me. You don’t expect that much power to come from such a tiny girl, but it was there.”
But it wasn’t just Benton’s bat that led the Lady Patriots to the AISA State Tournament. Along the way, Pike was plagued with injuries and needed a player to step in a fill the void.
Benton raised her had.
During the 2013 season, Benton played most of the year behind the plate at catcher. Prior to the 2014 season, Amberlynn Baker, a natural catcher, transferred to PLAS and Benton gladly moved to shortstop. Baker was injured during the season, and Benton never hesitated in putting the gear on and settling in behind the dish once again.
“She was always willing to do whatever we needed her to do,” said Park. “She is just a raw athlete and can play any position on the field. Whenever we needed her to catch, she stepped right up and did it. She can do it all. She can catch, play infield and anywhere else she is put.”
Benton is one of several key members of the Lady Pats that returns in 2015. She, along with Baker, Bailey Rushing, Amanda Finlayson and Kayla Dendy, look to dethrone multiple-time state champion Macon-East Montgomery Academy.
“With the group of girls that we have coming back, I like what our team is looking like,” Park said. “Benton will put us in contention and the rest of the girls will do a great job.”
Rounding out the All-Area team are two Pike Liberal seniors – Kailee Taylor and Ellie Barron, two Charles Henderson underclassmae – Sidney Armstrong and Lindsey Fox and a handful of Goshen Lady Eagles – Lizzy Galloway, Fran Warrick, Casey Allen, Haley Hughes and Katie Thomas.
2014 All-Area Team
Lizzy Galloway, P – Goshen
Kailee Taylor, P – Pike Liberal Arts
Casey Allen, C – Goshen
Lindsey Fox, IF – Charles Henderson
Fran Warrick, IF – Goshen
Kayla Benton, IF – Pike Liberal Arts
Haley Hughes, IF – Goshen
Katie Thomas, OF – Goshen
Ellie Barron, OF – Pike Liberal Arts
Sidney Armstrong, Utility – Charles Henderson
AmberLynn Baker, DH – Pike Liberal Arts
Coach of the Year
Allie Park, Pike Liberal Arts
The 2014 The Messenger Coach of the Year is Allie Park. Park, in her first year as head coach of the Pike Liber Arts Lady Patriots, led the team and an area title and the No. 3 overall seed in the AISA State Tournament.
The team finished the season ranked ninth in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.