Lady ’Devs earn recognition: Carter, Bryant, Williams earn AIA, 3A first-team accolades
MOHAVE VALLEY — While the Lady Dust Devils were turned away from a berth into the Arizona Interscholastic Association Softball 3A State Championships Final Four for the third straight season, the River Valley High School squad earned its fair share of recognition from its peers statewide.
Three Dust Devils earned AIA 3A First-Team honors following their 26-5 overall season, in which they held the No. 1 ranking from the middle of March until losing in the state semifinals on May 5.
River Valley finished the regular season 17-0 overall, 10-0 in the 3A conference and 10-0 in the 3 West Region.
Ashley Carter, Tianna Williams and Brianna Bryant earned first-team, all-conference honors, and Ryann Glenn earned second-team, all-conference accolades.
“I was really excited about that honor,” said Glenn about earning the second-team nod. “I was also excited about how many girls on our team got so many honors. All that hard work we put in as a team, and the team did really good in that category of awards.”
Carter graduated in May, and Williams, Bryant and Glenn are expected to return for their senior seasons in 2019.
River Valley’s lone senior signed her letter of intent May 11 to attend classes at Phoenix College and she started softball practice for the Bears a few weeks ago.
The River Valley High School four-year starter, who earned AIA 3A West Region Player of the Year honors and AIA 3A Conference First-Team accolades following the 2018 season, is playing softball for the No. 2-ranked junior college team in the country.
For more on Carter, see the Mohave Daily News article published on June 14, “Carter signs with powerhouse: Former Lady ’Devil will attend Phoenix College to play softball for No. 2 JUCO team in nation”.
Williams has verbally committed to attend Fresno State University and play softball for the Bulldogs of the Mountain West Conference, and Glenn has verballed to attend Creighton Univeristy and play softball for the Bluejays of the Big East — both Dust Devils will be entering their senior softball season this spring.
“For Tia and Ryann, when we went down to the all-region meeting, they didn’t even want to see the stats, they just said, ‘They’re automatically first team.’ And that was after Ashley got picked player of the year,” said RVHS head coach Mark Ruckle, who also earned 3A West Region Coach of Year honors.
“Tia did a great job for me,” Ruckle said. “I moved her from second base — where she played for two years — to shortstop and she did a great job defensively for us,” Ruckle said. “She worked hard in the offseason, worked hard in the weight room. She told me her goal was I think to hit eight home runs, so she accomplished her goal.”
The transition from second to shortstop was not difficult because she played shortstop while competing in offseason
“It was pretty smooth,” she added. “It wasn’t that different, just a longer throw.
That’s about it.”
Williams hit eight home runs, which tied her for the team lead with Carter.
When asked how she improved her power-hitting in 2017, Williams said, “It was just reps.
“I had weights with Ruckle.”
The Dust Devils’ shortstop also batted .564, knocked home 52 runs, hit 18 doubles, one triple and scored 56 runs.
“She did what she was supposed to do,” Ruckle said. “She hit for power, she knocked in runs and she hit for average,” Ruckle said. “She did a great job.”
Williams earned first-team, all-state accolades during her sophomore season and garnered second-team, all-state honors as a freshman.
“I was really excited,” said Williams about earning the honor two years in a row. “It’s a huge accomplishment.”
Bryant has been River Valley’s starting catcher since her sophomore season, and she earned second-team, all- conference honors during her first season as a Dust Devil starter.
“Her hitting has come on,” Ruckle said. “She’s a line-drive hitter.”
Bryant batted .354 with nine doubles, 23 RBI and six runs scored during her junior campaign.
In addition to earning first-team, all-state honors, Bryant garnered the 2018 AIA 3A West Region Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I found out about it at our banquet,” Bryant said. “I was all crying because it was Coach Ruckle’s last year.
“I felt proud of myself because I felt like I accomplished something.”
Bryant used her throwing arm as a weapon, which is one of the reasons why she was recognized by her peers in the 3A West Region.
“She has improved leaps and bounds,” Ruckle said. “I think she has made the greatest progress in the two years she’s been a starter — not only physically throwing the ball.
“How many times do you see passed balls? She’s very good at blocking and she’s learned to frame a pitch, but the thing that’s really stood out for her is her mental toughness, taking charge of the team.
“She used to be a meek, little mouse, and now she gets fiery.”
Bryant added: “I’m pretty proud of myself, but I probably wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for Coach Ruckle.”
Most coaches do not have the confidence to allow their catchers to try to pick off runners, but Ruckle has encouraged Bryant to do so.
“I told Bree to be aggressive because she’s got a very good arm, and she’s got a quick release,” Ruckle said. “And I said ‘I don’t have to call a pickoff; if you see that girl’s lazy going back to the bag or coming off too far, go for it’ ”
Ryann Glenn earned second-team, all-conference honors
Glenn started “coming on” as a power hitter during the midseason, Ruckle said. “Offensively, she batted leadoff for the third year in a row. She put pressure on teams right from the get-go. She’s a heck of a good hitter; she learned to take the ball more to the opposite field.”
Ruckle said Glenn hit a ball hard off Mohave High School pitcher Kalani Reehill during the first game, which helped set the tone for her season.
“You look at the ball she hit off Kalani’s leg,” Ruckle said. “That kind of set the stage for Ryann having a good year.”
Glenn batted .465, scored a team-leading 57 runs, hit five home runs, 18 doubles, four triples and knocked home 39 runs.
Right-hander Chloe Hibbard garnered an honorable mention nod following a fine freshman season in the circle.
“I wanted her to focus on her pitching,” Ruckle said. “I felt like she earned the No. 2 (spot in the rotation).”
Hibbard had a 7-3 record, with one no-hitter and six complete games. She gave up 17 runs, nine earned, on 40 hits, while striking out 68 and walking 20 in 572/3 innings.
She also was the winning pitcher against the Page High School Sand Devils in the quarterfinals at state.
“What I want to say about that little, skinny gal is that the sky’s the limit for her,” Ruckle said. “If she continues to progress like she did this year, she’s going to be throwing like (former Dust Devils right-hander) Regan (Glenn). She’ll be throwing at the next level.
“She’s got very good control of her pitches and her velocity is decent. She’s going to get — she weight what a buck, eight or something, she’s not very big — bigger, and through that maturity she will be a really good pitcher by her senior year.
“I really feel she’ll throw at the next level.”
DUST DEVILS’ FIRST-TEAM, ALL-REGION HONOREES: Hibbard, pitcher; Bryant, catcher; Glenn, third base; Williams, shortstop; and Korbyn Draper, outfield.
DUST DEVILS’ SECOND-TEAM, ALL-REGION HONOREES: Veronica Gonzales, second base; and Kortney Fletcher, first base.
OTHER AWARDS: Ruckle, Region Coach of the Year; Bryant, Region Defensive Player of the Year; and Carter, Region Player of the Year.
RVHS’ stats courtesy of MaxPreps.