Darren Riddle might be called a Triple Crown dad, thanks to his youngest daughter, Drew.
The junior in a razor-close vote became his third in as many daughters to win the Most Valuable Player on the All-Phoenix Fastpitch team. The three-time team selection joined Danielle (2011) and Destiny (2013, 2014) as recipients of the top honor, all selected by the Phoenix staff.
“Different girls and different teams,” Darren Riddle said, comparing the three. “With Danielle, we had to lean on her in the circle more. There were other good hitters then, but not as much as it was with Destiny, who we also leaned on to pitch. Drew has had two good pitchers on her teams and a solid offense, 1-9. She didn’t have to get the hit, but she was clutch.”
She was 2-for-3, homering twice with three RBIs, in capping a rally in the Class 4A regional tournament with a championship win over Broken Bow. In two games at the state tournament, she was 4-for-8 with two extra base hits, including 2-for-3 against Oklahoma State commit Katelynn Carwile of Purcell. She was .500 or better at the plate in four of five other games against state-tournament teams in 5A and 6A.
Overall, she hit .463 in 108 at-bats following a .452 clip her sophomore year. She had 18 more RBIs (45) and five more home runs (7) to go with 10 doubles and two triples. She was also 10-0 in the circle. In addition to this honor, she was selected district player of the year for the third consecutive year.
“I think I was successful because of the teammates who surrounded me,” Drew said. “Everybody has to be selective during pitches and that carried over to me. I was more selective and had a better average.”
She admits she benefitted from being the little sister, starting with tee-ball at age 4 and watching her siblings’ advanced development from that point.
“I grew up watching them and seeing the leadership on their teams,” Drew said, referring to theirselect summer ball teams and high school teams. “It was a good experience being around that and I learned from it. It helped me see the field and have a better awareness of what is going on around me.”
Dad sees a mix of the two in her.
“Danielle was always serious and wouldn’t smile. Destiny, nothing ever fazed her, she was happy go lucky. Drew is kind of a mix, a hard-nose kid who will also smile,” he said.
Danielle wound up initially at Arkansas then Oklahoma State, Destiny at Southeastern Oklahoma. Drew insists she’s locked in on a decision she made as an eighth-grader playing with the Tulsa Elite summer ball team — she’ll head to the University of Tulsa after her senior year, even through a coaching change since she was initially offered.
“I still love the coaches, the program there, the campus is beautiful, very secure, and it’s close enough to home so my dad can watch me play — and my mom too,” she said.
Amiah Galcatcher, last year’s winner Madi Joice and Lexy Keys all made Sequoyah 2-3-4 in the closest-ever race for the MVP honor.
The head of the Riddle clan also got an honor. He’s Coach of the Year for the second time, having previously won in 2015. Hilldale was 31-4 and made the state tournament for the eighth consecutive season, but fell in the semifinals.
The Hornets’ schedule included wins over 6A state entry Union and three 5A state participants — Pryor, Durant (twice) and state champion Piedmont. It’s taken a Big 12-bound pitcher to knock the Hornets the past two seasons — Carwile this year and Macy McAdoo of Tuttle a year ago. McAdoo is now at Oklahoma.
“The tough schedule made us a better team, but just maybe we won’t see a Big 12 pitcher in the semifinals next year,” Darren Riddle said. “I want to add you don’t get this done without good assistants and I’m grateful to mine (Levi Walker and Ashton Cook).”
Joice, Keys and Galcatcher were all repeat selections. Joice, who will play at Mercer University, was one of four starters named at pitcher. Keys at shortstop and Gass at second make up the starting middle infield. Keys will play basketball in college and Gass will go to Rogers State.
Hilldale added Makayla Williams, also among four pitchers, outfielder Kaylee Sanchez as a starter and shortstop Celeste Wood as a reserve. Williams is going to play at NCAA Division II national champion Augustana (S.D.).
Fort Gibson’s Courtney Hill and Oktaha’s Cayton Sloan were the other pitchers selected. Hill is headed for Rogers State and Sloan will play at Three Rivers (Mo.). Checotah’s Sabetha Sands, who is committed to Murray State College, is the catcher. Fort Gibson’s Jordan Hayes at first base and Tahlequah’s Makenna Wofford at third fill the corner spots on the infield and Fort Gibson’s Hannah Thouvenel is the third starter in the outfield. Vian’s Kacie Gibbins was tabbed as the designated hitter.
Other reserves included three shortstops — Taylor Short of Gore, Jordan Simmons of Muskogee and Sherri Mason of Haskell, Tahlequah second baseman Betty Danner and Oktaha catcher Karli Ashing.
Oktaha’s Brynn Surmont was selected Newcomer of the Year. Ashing will play at Southern Arkansas University.
It’s the fourth time for Hill to make the team, having been Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. Keys, Sands and Mason are three-time picks, and Joice, Thouvenel, Galcatcher, Gibbins and Williams are repeat selections.