Alexis Hults, Ron Spranger earn The Daily Star's softball honors

CHERYL CLOUGH Alexis Hults catches a fly ball during an April 10, 2019, game. Hults, a 2019 Schenevus graduate, has been named The Daily Star's 2019 Player of the Year in softball. 

When it comes to favorite sports, there is little doubt Schenevus graduate Alexis Hults prefers soccer. But that doesn't mean she wasn't an award-winning softball player, too. 

Hults, a pitcher and center fielder, led the Dragons to their best season under Ron Spranger, going 16-3, and sweeping the Tri-Valley League in the regular season. 

For their accomplishments, Hults has been named The Daily Star's 2019 softball Player of the Year, and Spranger has been named the Star's 2019 softball Coach of the Year. 

"She's an all-around good kid," Spranger said. "To be honest, she could have played any position we asked her to play. She's a good pitcher and was a real good center fielder. She hit with power. She really hit the snot out of the ball. In the section semifinal against Marathon, she probably hit three of the hardest shots I saw all year."

In her senior season, Hults hit .478 with 32 RBIs, 46 runs, two home runs and 22 stolen bases. In the circle, she was 6-1 with a 1.88 ERA, going undefeated in the regular season. Her only loss came in the Section IV Class D semifinals, when No. 2 seed Marathon topped the third-seeded Dragons, 4-1. But in the loss, Hults went 3-for-3 at the plate.  

Hults made second team all-state in Class D girls soccer, and is beginning her freshman season in women's soccer at Buffalo State. However, her senior softball season was one to remember for Spranger, who has coached the Dragons in softball for most of the decade.

"It was the most wins we've had of any of my teams," Spranger said. "It was absolutely a great year. It was disappointing at the same time, in that we didn't get as far as we wanted. But it was a really good year."

The Dragons went 14-1 during the regular season, losing only to Bainbridge-Guilford, a Class C school. They were upset by No. 4 seed Laurens, 8-3, in the T-V semifinals, Monday, May 14. Schenevus then won two games in the section playoffs, before ending the season at Marathon. 

Spranger said a highlight of the season was winning tournaments. The Dragons won the Calhoun Classic in Davenport in mid-May and then the Unatego Tournament at the end of May. 

Another highlight for Spranger was his second stint coaching one of his daughters, he said. The Dragons were an upset winner of the Tri-Valley Tournament in 2012, when his older daughter, Taylor Spranger, played. The more recent teams, including the 2018 TVL Tournament winners, were led by Hults and Spranger's younger daughter, Erika Spranger. Taylor played college softball at Cazenovia College, where she graduated in 2017. In 2019, Erika was the team's top pitcher, played first base and was the Dragons' second-best hitter, behind Hults. She is beginning her freshman year at Oneonta State, but is not planning to play softball in college. 

"We're going to have to replace a lot of offense," Spranger said. "Between Alexis and my daughter, they had 32 and 31 (RBIs). You know, 63 was a good chunk of our runs."  

However, with only four seniors in 2019, Spranger said he is excited about the team's future. 

"We had three seniors who started, and one got hurt, so we have a good core coming back," he said. "We had a good mix of juniors, sophomores and freshmen, and I had an eighth-grader last year who will probably take over at catcher right away next year." 

Still, Spranger said he will remember the 2019 team fondly. 

"They're a great group of kids," he said. "They would go out there and play their hearts out for you." 

The Daily Star sports department selected the 2019 softball Player and Coach of the Year. Area players who earned all-state or first-team all-conference selections from their respective leagues received automatic All-Star honors from The Daily Star.

Player of the Year: Alexis Hults, senior, Schenevus.

Coach of the Year: Ron Spranger, Schenevus, 16-3.

All-State Class C: Alexus Roys, fifth team, Harpursville.

SOFTBALL ALL-STARS 2019

Center State Conference: Natalie Brotherton, Cooperstown; Hailey Seamon, Cooperstown; Piper Seamon, Cooperstown; Lauren Vibbard, Cooperstown.

Delaware League: Kayla Beers, Davenport/Stamford; Jenna Lubbers, Davenport/Stamford; Justine Lubbers, Davenport/Stamford; Lindsey Rau, Downsville; Elizabeth Cherry, Gilboa; Sierra Perry, Gilboa; Abigail Tompkins, Gilboa; Peyton Legg, Hunter-Tannersville; Maycie Reich, Hunter-Tannersville; Alyssa Gadoury, Jefferson; Cassidy Staroba, Jefferson; Brianna Cross, Roxbury; Erin Garza, Roxbury; Bryanna Meehan, Roxbury; Payton Pietrantoni, South Kortright.

Midstate Athletic Conference: Caleigh Stevens, Afton; Alexis Carr, Bainbridge-Guilford; Ashley Matthews, Bainbridge-Guilford; Aileen Nealis, Delhi; Bryn Martin, Deposit; Makenzie Stiles, Deposit; Mikayla Martin, Deposit; McKenna Sergi, Greene; Olivia Kennedy, Greene; Alex Brown, Greene; Laycee Drake, Hancock; Alexus Roys, Harpursville; M.J. Kappauf, Harpursville; Allison Beckwith, Oxford; Christina Worden, Sidney; Kristen White, Unadilla Valley; Hali Lucia, Unatego; Carissa Crandall, Walton.

Southern Tier Athletic Conference: None.

Tri-Valley League: Karly Barra, Laurens; Rhia Beers, Laurens; Leanna West, Milford; Samantha Harvey, Milford; Evonnna Mower, Richfield Springs; Kirsten Hess, Richfield Springs; Kennadi Butler, Richfield Springs; Erika Spranger, Schenevus; Alexis Hults, Schenevus; Hannah Osborne, Schenevus.

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