AZTEC — The Western Texas College softball team has gotten a big boost with the signings of Aztec’s Ashlynn Bradley and CheyAnne Simkins.
The two Aztec seniors inked with the Lady Westerners on Nov. 1.
“(Western Texas) is probably getting better players than they have now,” Aztec coach Roy Johnson said. “When we took them on the visit, (Simpkins) was the best pitcher there, and Ashlynn can play three different positions and was better than everyone who was there.”
Johnson added that Bradley and Simkins are as good as anyone as he has coached in his 41-year career, and both are capable of moving on to NCAA Division I programs.
WTC is a junior college located in Snyder, Texas. The softball program competes in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Region 5. The Lady Westerners finished last season with a 29-32 record.
Bradley and Simkins said their connection with WTC head coach Rome McNary eased their decision of picking WTC over the numerous junior college and Division II programs that had been recruiting them.
“All the coaches that I talked to were very straightforward, but (McNary) is the type of guy I want to be around,” Simkins said. “He’s a little bit like (coach Johnson) — kind of a jokester.”
Both players are receiving large scholarships at WTC. Johnson said Simkins is receiving a full ride, and Bradley will only have to pay a couple of hundred dollars a year.
Simkins expects to be a pitcher and shortstop for the Westerners, and Bradley thinks she’ll play in the outfield or at second base.
Bradley plans to major in sports medicine at WTC, and Simkins will enroll in the school’s wildlife sciences program.
The location and size of WTC also played a key role in the players' decision to sign with the Lady Westerners.
“It was small, and I liked that. Coming from a small school, I wanted to keep it small instead of going somewhere big,” Bradley said. “I just really felt like it was the right fit.”
For Simkins, the chance to maintain an outdoors lifestyle was also a key factor in her decision.
“Cheyanne, we always wanted to send her somewhere she would feel comfortable. She likes to hunt and fish, and do things outdoors,” Johnson said. “I always told her that I didn’t know where to send her because she’s not the norm. You can go to her house on the weekend, and she’ll be changing the oil in her truck. That’s Cheyanne.”
The two said signing a letter of intent during the early signing period will take pressure off of them during their senior softball season at Aztec, allowing them to focus on chasing an elusive state title after Aztec fell in the state title game three of the last four years.
Regardless of whether the Lady Tigers can finally win a state championship in the spring, Bradley and Simkins said they’ll have plenty of memories and lessons learned at Aztec they’ll carry with them to WTC to help smooth the transition from high school to the college level.
“The work we’ve put in. I guarantee that will stick with us,” Simkins said. “We’ve worked hard the past couple of years and came up short, but I think we’re doing everything for the right reasons.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.