This wasn’t the best of softball seasons for many of the bigger schools in the North Central Florida area, but the one team that advanced further than anyone else deservedly has the most representatives on the Mainstreet Daily News’ 2022 All Area team.
Keystone Heights, who barely missed out on their first state semifinal appearance since 2018, placed four players on the team for the 2022 season.
“All four of these players worked hard and gave it their all all the time,” said Keystone Heights coach Jessica Marquart. “I’m super proud of them to be honored.”
A panel of local sportswriters and coaches chose the All Area teams—presented by Drummond Community Bank—from Mainstreet’s eight-county coverage area. All players and coaches will receive commemorative plaques to recognize their accomplishments.
Keystone Heights started the season 4-7 against a loaded schedule, which included losses to Baldwin, Eustis, and Fleming Island (Orange Park).
But the Indians got it going, winning nine in a row and 15 of 17, heading into the Region 1-3A final at Baldwin. Keystone came up short, losing 3-2 to Baldwin, who advanced to its first softball state semifinal appearance.
But it was a season to remember for coach Marquart’s squad.
Senior catcher Emma Rogel was the team leader for the Indians, hitting a team-high .444 and also topping the team in runs with 38 and hits with 40 while driving in 17 runs.
Rogel is joined by her teammate sophomore second baseman Alaina Kinsal. Kinsal hit .345 with 29 hits, 20 RBI and a team-high nine doubles.
Junior shortstop Kiley Channell was also selected after she led the Indians in RBI with 29, while adding seven doubles and 36 hits for a .419 batting average.
“Kiley and Alaina are my middles who dominated the infield,” Marquart said. “They made some unbelievable plays that saved some of our games.”
The fourth and final Keystone Heights player selected is senior starting pitcher Madison Mitzel. Mitzel led the Indians in the circle with a 12-6 record and 2.14 ERA and walked only 11 while striking out 78 batters in just over 101 innings pitched.
“Emma and Madi were tremendous leaders behind the plate and in the circle,” Marquart said. “They had so much heart and determination that it was infectious to our team.”
Despite just missing the postseason, Santa Fe (Alachua) is represented with four players on the team.
The Raiders finished 13-10 after losing 12-2 to Keystone Heights in the District 3-3A championship game. Unfortunately, Santa Fe finished ninth in Region 1-3A, just missing out on the state playoffs.
The Raiders were led by their senior pitcher Madison Hewett, who will be moving on but pitching nearby for Santa Fe College. But in her final season for Santa Fe High, she went 10-6 with a 2.67 ERA with 160 strikeouts in 118 innings.
Hewett was also successful at the plate for the Raiders, leading them with 23 RBI as well as 24 hits and a .338 average.
“[Hewett] was our other captain this year,” said Santa Fe coach Gene Findley “She was our go to pitcher and with her work at the plate she helped the team put runs on the scoreboard. She is a leader and a team player.”
Another senior, first baseman Maddie Martin, was selected from the Raiders as she batted .373 with 25 hits and 18 RBI.
Findley said Martin was another one of the Raiders’ captains who, like Hewitt, generated offense at the plate and was a team player and leader.
The final two Santa Fe players named to the All Area team are both freshmen – third baseman Gracie Mattson and outfielder J’lyn Guyden.
Mattson, who was second on the team with 20 RBI, led her team in batting average (.421), runs (28), and on base percentage (.580). She also had an .885 fielding percentage.
Guyden led the Raiders with 28 hits and four triples while leading the way in the outfield. Guyden was second on the Raiders’ team behind Mattson with a .389 batting average.
“[Guyden] came through with some clutch plays in the outfield and worked her way into the top of our line up as she created challenges for the other team,” Findley said.
Joining Guyden in the outfield are two seniors from the Gainesville Hurricanes—Parris Wiggs and Jayla Clark.
Wiggs, who signed with Division I Mercer University, led the Hurricanes in all major offensive categories, batting a red-hot .466 with 41 hits, 29 RBI, 36 runs, nine doubles, seven triples, two home runs and 13 stolen bases.
“Parris is a special athlete,” said Gainesville coach Chris Chronister. “She has been a major contributor to our offense for four years. We are really going to miss her next year, but I’m sure we will be watching her succeed at Mercer.”
Clark, who will stay local to play at Santa Fe College, was right behind Wiggs as she hit .405 with 29 runs, 34 hits, six doubles and two triples.
“Jayla is such a joy to coach,” Chronister said. “She is a hard worker and a great teammate. She has really come a long way and will do great things at Santa Fe College.”
Even though Gainesville sported a mediocre 13-14 record, Chronister’s Hurricanes won another district title, capturing the 4-5A championship with wins over Belleview and Vanguard (Ocala). After blasting Milton 12-2 in the Region 1-5A quarterfinal, Gainesville was eliminated 5-1 in the regional semifinal round by eventual 5A state champion Middleburg.
The final two players selected are Buchholz junior Kayla Hooper and Suwannee (Live Oak) senior Karis Smith, who were chosen as utility players.
Despite Buchholz only winning six games in 2022, Hooper led the Bobcats with a .343 average, adding 23 hits, 14 RBI, 11 runs, 3 doubles, 1 triple and two home runs.
“Kayla is a valuable asset to the team not only from a statistical standpoint but as a true team player,” Buchholz coach Will Hooper. “She is very coachable and cares about her teammates. She was top three on her team in almost every offensive statistical category leading the team with home runs and over .500 slugging percentage, but her defense is what helps set her apart leading the team in assists and the ability to play multiple positions.
“Her commitment and determination to get better is on another level as she always stays late and practices on her own. We are excited she is returning for another year.”
Smith hit a team-high .472 for the 9-13 Bulldogs, and also led Suwannee with 26 runs, 34 hits, and 11 doubles. Smith was Suwannee’s best pitcher as well, going 9-12 with a 2.74 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 127 innings.
“Karis is a player that I could play anywhere on the diamond,” said Suwannee coach Terry Mixon. “She has been the starting pitcher for Suwannee for the last three years and, when not pitching, was either playing shortstop or centerfield. She has led our team in batting average for the past three seasons. She puts the ball in play and struck out only five times this year in 89 plate appearances.”
Smith will be attending Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in Tifton, Georgia, where she will play middle infielder/outfielder, Mixon said, adding he was told she will be working with the pitchers before practice each day.
“This season, our team depended largely on her on the mound,” Mixon said. “Every time she took the mound, we were going to be in the game with a chance to win at the end.”
2022 MainStreet Daily News All Area Softball teams presented by Drummond Bank
Coverage area – Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy, Suwannee, Union County counties and Keystone Heights.
BIG SCHOOL (3A-7A)
C – Emma Rogel (Sr./Keystone Heights)
1B – Maddie Martin (Sr./Santa Fe)
2B – Alaina Kinsal (So./Keystone Heights)
SS – Kiley Channell (Jr./Keystone Heights)
3B – Grace Mattson (Fr./Santa Fe)
OF – Parris Wiggs (Sr., Gainesville), Jayla Clark (Sr., Gainesville), J’Lyn Guyden (Fr./Santa Fe)
UTIL – Kayla Hooper (Jr./Buchholz)
UTIL – Karis Smith (Sr./Suwannee)
P – Madison Hewitt (Sr./Santa Fe)
P – Madison Mitzel (Sr./Keystone Heights)
Buchholz – Peyton Wetherington (Fr.), Jenajah Collins (Sr.), Tione Atkins (Sr.), Bailey Quire (Sr.)
Columbia (Lake City) – McKenna O’Sullivan (Fr.), Sakiya Merriex (Fr.)
Gainesville – Kyra Hornsby (Sr.), Karter Thorp (Jr.), Braylin Cook (Fr.)
Keystone Heights – Abbie Roach (So.), Delia Johnson (So.) Jaiden Robinson (Sr.), Kinley Carlton (Sr.)
Santa Fe (Alachua) – Amy Crosby (So.), Annabelle Mattson (Jr.)
Suwannee (Live Oak) – Emma Rae Byers (Sr.), Braylyn Federico (So.), Zoie Hatch (Jr.), Haley Law (So.)