Three Lady Rams named to all-state team
by Jessica Pickens
BOONVILLE - Five Starmount softball players earned top honors when the North Carolina Softball Coaches Association released their annual end-of-the-season awards last week.
Ace Courtney Groce highlighted the group of Lady Rams honored, and was joined by Amber Smith, Rachel Wagoner, Ashley Osborne and Mackenzie Hutchens.
Groce, Wagoner and Smith were named to the 2A All-State squad by the NCSCA - the highest accolade in high school softball. Groce earned the nomination as the Lady Rams’ top pitcher, while Wagoner (first base) and Smith (third base) anchored Starmount’s infield at the corners.
The trio headlined the Lady Rams’ selections on the District 7 2A team. Groce, Wagoner and Smith were joined by recent graduate Ashley Osborne and freshman sensation Mackenzie Hutchens on the district club.
Osborne, who spent time on the mound in relief, earned recognition as a second baseman, while Hutchens was a standout at shortstop in her first season.
Groce capped her final season with the District 7 2A Player of the Year award, but ironically was not named the pitcher of the year despite her domination in the circle. That honor went to East Burke’s Taylor Burkhalter.
All five honorees were also named to the Mountain Valley Conference All-Conference teams at the conclusion of the season. Groce, Wagoner and Smith earned all-conference nods, while Osborne and Hutchens were honorable mentions.
Three of the five honorees will continue their softball careers in the collegiate ranks.
Groce, the proud holder of multiple school records, will suit up at Chowan University in Murfreesboro in the spring. Osborne will stay close to home and join several other Starmount alums at Surry Community College, while Smith will head to Danville, Va., and play for Averett University.
The five standouts helped lead Starmount to a surprising No. 1 2A seed from the MVAC with an 18-6 mark. Despite replacing seven starters on the field, recently departed head coach Heather Courts relied on the five honorees, along with seniors Courtney Barnes and Sam Couch, to grab the top seed.
The Lady Rams advanced into the second round of the state playoffs before losing to West Stokes to close out their season in heart-breaking fashion.
East Wilkes and Surry Central were the only other area clubs to put players on the annual awards.
Kennedy Lester and Payton Lyons earned 1A All-State and District 7 1A honors for the Lady Cardinals, while Brittany Myers and Elise Austin were named to the 2A All-State and District 7 2A teams from Surry Central.
For more information on the North Carolina Softball Coaches Association and the complete all-state and all-district lists, visit www.ncfastpitch.org.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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