Aztec, PV well-represented on All-State squads

Kirtland Central, Bloomfield put one player apiece on 4A second team

Jake Newby

FARMINGTON — Aztec and Piedra Vista were two of the top three softball teams in 5A this season, and they were rewarded accordingly with 11 combined All-State selections.

Aztec's Trinity Pollock catches a fly ball in left field during an April 7 game at the Farmington Sports Complex.

Half of the 22 players named to the first and second team are from Aztec and PV as seven Lady Tigers and four Lady Panthers were chosen. Centennial, the 5A state champion, had nine players make both teams.

Bloomfield outfielder Daysha Smith and Kirtland Central catcher Nikki Begay made the 4A All-State second squad.

Every softball coach in the state is surveyed on who they believe deserves to be selected by position. Players earn spots on the first and second teams depending on how many selections, or points, they accrue.

The 5A first team was dominated by Centennial, Aztec and PV, which finished first, second and third in the state, respectively.

A whopping eight girls from the Lady Hawks got the nod, while pitcher Paige Adair and outfielder Trinity Pollock made it from Aztec. PV's Katie Jensen was selected to the first-team outfield.

Nearly all of Aztec's infield made the second team, as Kylie Brown, Sarah Jones, Alaina Saylor and Jocelyn Ulrich were selected. Ashlynn Bradley made it onto the second-team outfield.

PV's Aleja Armenta, Hayley Parson and Cheyenne Stark also earned second-team honors.

Piedra Vista's Katie Jensen tries to avoid being tagged at third base during a game against Farmington on April 22 at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

Aztec coach Roy Johnson couldn't say enough about Adair, who slugged a team-high 17 doubles and batted .456 while serving as the unquestioned ace of the Lady Tigers' staff.

"Paige is our leader. She deserves any accolade she gets for being a pitcher and a hitter," Johnson said. "Not only does she do things for our team, she does things for the community. She makes sure she's involved in youth programs and she helps little girls learn how to pitch. She's just a really outstanding individual; you don't find many like her."

Johnson thinks the best is yet to come for Pollock, who just finished up her freshman season. He was surprised Pollock got the first-team nod over Bradley.

"Trinity deserves to be in the conversation, but at the state tournament you saw Ashlynn make catches that were unreal," he said.

Johnson, who is entering his second season as Aztec's head coach, criticized the All-State voting process, saying he thinks some coaches in the state are unfit to vote, simply because they're not watching certain teams and players play.

"The bad thing about this process is coaches that don't go to state get to vote in this," Johnson said. "We're in Aztec, we're up in the Four Corners area. So if you don't see us play in the regular season or see us play down into the final few rounds at state, you don't know what kind of talent we have."

Johnson thought Aztec's Cheyenne Simkins — who led the entire state in home runs at one point during the season — was snubbed. PV coach Kevin Werth agreed with his rival.

"It's obviously real subjective, and to the victors go the spoils. I've said that for years," Werth said. "Nothing against another kid who made it, but I don't understand how Cheyenne Simkins gets left off that team. I think a lot of coaches don't see teams, they just see how far they get and say 'Wow, they must be good,' and then they vote (those players) first team."

Jensen earned first-team honors in part because of her ability to find her way on and around the bases. The recent PV graduate hit .376 and scored a team-high 36 runs.

Bloomfield's Daysha Smith gets a hit during a game against San Juan, Utah, on March 11 at the Bloomfield Softball Complex.

Bloomfield's Smith made highlight-reel catches all season long for the Lady Bobcats and contributed on the base paths with 22 steals. She'll be joined on the 4A second team by KC's Begay, who caught for most of the season until a shoulder injury forced her into a designated-player role during the state tournament.

Lady Broncos coach Cody Gilmore said Begay's consistency made her a solid addition to the second team.

"Hitting from the four-hole like she did for most of the year, she had opportunities to drive in runs and she took advantage of those opportunities," Gilmore said. "Her speed and versatility were big for us. She definitely deserved this."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.