Johnna Staggs knows the Wilson softball season was supposed to end in Montgomery, so the Warriors’ failure to advance out of the Class 4A North Regional makes assessing the 2019 season a little awkward.
“Everybody expects us to make it to state, so then when we didn’t it was kind of like a shock to everyone,” Staggs said. “Anybody can be beat. We’ve just got to work harder than we did this year.”
But that disappointment doesn’t change the good work the Warriors did this year, Staggs among them. As usual, she hit the ball hard and did so often.
Staggs batted .553 with nine doubles and 18 home runs, walking 45 times to just nine strikeouts, and she is a repeat winner of the TimesDaily’s Class 4A-7A softball hitter of the year honor.
She and the other TimesDaily players of the year will be honored at the annual Athlete of the Year banquet June 11 at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum where overall male and female athletes of the year and top athletic program will be named.
Staggs did not surpass her home run total of last season (23), but she played in fewer games and still walked more than last year because teams understood how dangerous she is.
“I just stand in there and if (the pitcher) does miss her spot then you have to try to hit it, but I know that Taylor (Brown) is behind me and she’ll come up big most of the time,” Staggs said. “I’ll just look at Taylor and be like ‘You got this.’”
Staggs also brought her average up almost 30 points. Her OPS (on-base plus slugging) was 2.013. Many of the area’s best hitters have an OPS around 1.000.
Staggs hit a mini-slump early in the season when she felt she wasn’t seeing the ball well, but she adjusted.
“Sometimes you think too much and you’re like ‘Ugh, I’m not hitting as well as I should. I’m not doing this right. I’m not doing that right,’” Staggs said. “But then you’ve just got to sit back and be like ‘Well, if I don’t do it somebody else will.’ The whole team picked us up. You’ve just got to have fun.”
With seven seniors graduating, there will be an initial leadership void in addition to the softball production Wilson loses.
Staggs is willing to be an encourager when needed, making sure she’s not critical when a younger teammate struggles but instead supportive.
“JV’s coming up and they were undefeated,” Staggs said. “So I think we’ll be OK.”
Coach of the Year: Haley Stutts, Rogers
Around Christmas, first-year head coach Haley Stutts had each of her players write down a team goal for the season ahead.
With an 8-16 season behind them, many of them wrote they wanted to get past the area tournament.
The Pirates went way past that, not only earning a spot in the North Regional but earning a spot in the Class 4A state tournament and advancing to the finals.
“Some things I can’t honestly still believe that we accomplished this year,” Stutts said.
For her work leading the Pirates to a surprising runner-up finish, Stutts is the TimesDaily’s Class 4A-7A softball coach of the year.
“Right when it was over they were pretty upset because they didn’t win it all,” Stutts said. “It bothers me, too, a little bit.”
But she had to give them perspective. Their wins this season (28) outnumbered games played last year (24). The mental and physical growth she sensed should help a Rogers team that returns most of its starters.
“It keeps them hungry for something, and they’re not going to get satisfied with what they’ve done,” she said.