Kylie Brown anchors an Aztec softball team that hopes to finally bring home a state title
FARMINGTON — The Aztec softball team is on a mission this season, and the objective is to return to the state title game and bring home the blue trophy that has eluded the Lady Tigers for so long.
Aztec has reached the state title game in four of the past five seasons, and lost last year's title game 1-0 thanks to a solo home run from Centennial in the fourth inning.
But this year is different. The Lady Tigers lost only one senior from last year's roster, they have arguably the best pitcher in 5A with Paige Adair, a first team all-state selection last season, and a murderers' row-esque lineup that has scored 127 runs through 13 games this season.
At the heart of the lineup and batting cleanup is senior catcher Kylie Brown. Through 13 games, Brown boasts a .447 average with 21 runs batted in and four home runs.
"She's our No. 4 hitter, and that says it all right there," Aztec coach Roy Johnson said. "We have a lot of confidence that Kylie is going to put the ball in play and make things happen — and she does. She's been doing that for three years for us. She can play. She's the real deal and a top-notch player."
This past weekend at the Kristen Griego Softball Tournament in Rio Rancho, Brown helped the Lady Tigers win the title, outscoring opponents 53-9 in four games and earned all-tourney honors.
Brown's softball prowess goes far beyond her offensive skills set.
Behind the plate, Brown was a second team all-state selection last season, and this year she hasn't committed an error through the first 13 games of the season while keeping the Lady Tiger defense in line.
"From the catcher's position, she makes the defensive calls. She's in charge of the infield and moving people around, and she knows how to catch our pitchers," Johnson said. "There are catchers, and there are receivers. Receivers get back there and receive the ball, and that's about all they do. And there are catchers who know how to call a game and make sure the pitchers are going to have success. Kylie has been that for us for the last three years."
Brown is one of five seniors on the roster — Adair, Cheyanne Simkins, Sarrah Jones and Ashlynn Bradley are the other four — and all of them have signed letters of intent to play in college. They've dubbed themselves the "Fab Five" and are all best friends off the field.
That friendship between Brown and pitchers Adair and Simkins has led to an incredible trust when they're on the field.
"It makes it more relaxing on the field," Brown said of her friendship with Adair and Simkins, "because none of our friendships are forced because of softball. It's a more trusting relationship between us. I know I can call a pitch, and they're going to trust it's the right pitch for that batter. It builds more trust on the field with having that friendship off the field."
With Brown behind the plate, Adair and Simkins have a combined 1.65 ERA through 13 games and have struck out 119 batters.
The Lady Tigers are outscoring opponents by an average of 7.76 runs per game, and as great as they've been, Brown doesn’t think the team has reached its potential yet.
"There's always room for improvement," she said. "We made some errors (in Rio Rancho), and we can definitely improve on that. We've also made some great plays on defense, but there's always room to grow. You're never at your full potential. We know what our weaknesses are, and we know what we need to get better at, and we're ready to get back out there and improve."
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.