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WAGNER: Handing out area and county Player of the Year 'what-if' softball awards
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WAGNER: Handing out area and county Player of the Year 'what-if' softball awards

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The Herald & Review coverage area is loaded with softball talent, particularly in Macon County.

There are Division I players at seemingly every turn and teams would have had seemingly have no, or very few, weaknesses. It's a loaded talent pool, perhaps the best of any would-have-been sport this season. But, there won't be a state series that ends at the EastSide Centre in East Peoria. Instead, this year will be reduced to "what ifs" and seniors across the state won't have their final season as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic that has canceled IHSA spring sports state championships.

It's understandable, but leaves many questions. The Herald & Review won't issue Player of the Year or Coach of the Year awards for any spring sports. Our running list will instead be reduced to "season canceled" in every reference for the future.

But we can still wonder who would have walked away with those awards had the season been played. For the most part, we have a body of work to determine who could have won those awards had the season been played and they remained healthy.

It's a guessing game, but there are plenty of options to choose from. Of course, it doesn't account for the breakout player who took a leap from last season.

Macon County 'What-if' Player of the Year

Kynzie Wrigley, Sr., Mount Zion

Even with the graduation of some top players, Mount Zion appeared to have every bit the chance to return to the Class 3A state Final Four for the third straight season. Wrigley would have been right in the middle of that. She's the No. 3 hitter on the team and hit .483 with 10 homers, 44 RBI and 51 runs scored last season while providing a good glove at the shortstop position. She's signed to play at Division I Southeast Missouri State in college.

Wrigley stands at just 5-foot-2, but packs plenty of punch in her bat and with a talented Braves' lineup — which includes No. 2-hitter and ace pitcher Audrey Eades, another candidate — teams would have struggled to avoid giving Wrigley something to hit. 

For the last two years, Wrigley has flown relatively under the radar in a batting order that included two-time Player of the Year Dayna Kennedy and was filled out with a slew of college softball players. That wouldn't have been the case this year.

Other candidates:

Hallie Mitchell, Jr., Maroa-Forsyth

She's already committed to the University of Kentucky and will be a front-runner for the real award her senior season. Mitchell hit .427 with seven doubles, a school-record eight triples, seven homers, 30 RBI and 42 runs scored last season. She's probably the top catcher in the Sangamo Conference.

Daleny Chumbley, So., Tri-City/Sangamon Valley

She wasted no time in acclimating herself to high school softball last season and established herself as the top young pitcher to watch in Macon County. Chumbley went 15-2 with a 0.95 ERA in 104 innings, striking out 157 and only allowing 65 hits and issuing 10 walks. TCSV coach Brad Study said she has "huge upside" as a player.

Zoie Bowman, Sr., SS, Meridian

This was a tough call between Bowman, catcher Jesse Damery and pitcher Peyton Latham, and all of them were every bit possible in what should have been a magical season for Meridian.

Bowman has speed, a strong glove and a steady, yet powerful, bat. She hit .496 from the shortstop position with 10 doubles, eight triples and six homers for Meridian while driving in 35 runs last season. She's going to the University of Illinois-Springfield in college.

Jaycie Edwards, Sr., Warrensburg-Latham

As a junior, she had 62 RBI with a .554 batting average. She hit for contact and power, smashing six home runs and 16 doubles. She was also the catcher for the Cardinals. Edwards is committed to play at Millikin next season and could have been vital in the Cardinals' quest for their first regional championship since 2009.

Audrey Eades, Sr., Mount Zion

Eades grew into the ace of a deep, talented Mount Zion pitching staff while also hitting No. 2 in the batting order. She had a 2.23 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 94.1 innings pitched while hitting .403 with five home runs, eight doubles and four triples while driving in 41.

Area 'What-if' Player of the Year

Claire Maulding, Sr., Casey-Westfield

She blended masterful pitching with a potent bat for Casey-Westfield last season. Maulding established herself as one of the top pitchers in the area with 214 strikeouts in 103 innings in the circle with a 1.49 ERA.

At the plate, she hit .407 with 14 doubles and seven home runs and led the Warriors to a Class 1A regional championship win before losing in the sectional semifinals to Meridian in a game that was postponed one night and played the next because of inclement weather.

She would have been hugely important in another deep postseason run for Casey-Westfield in her final season before going to Lake Land.

Makenzie Brown, Jr., Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond

Brown is verbally committed to Division I Tulsa and really hit her stride in the postseason last year. She throws with plenty of heat and had 240 total strikeouts in 111 innings last season to go with a pair of no-hitters and a 1.20 ERA. ALAH has been a successful program over the years with more than enough individual talent, and Brown would have been another in a successful list of leaders.

Ramsey Armstrong, Sr., Charleston

Similar to Meridian and Mount Zion, Charleston is loaded with talent and Reagan McGahey is another candidate for a huge season. Armstrong led the Trojans, who were a powerful team in home runs last season with 12. She also had a .486 average, .565 on-base percentage, three triples, 11 doubles and 47 RBI for the Trojans while scoring 41 runs of her own.

The Trojans have two consecutive regional championships and had the talent to push further.

Kaitlyn Reifsteck, Jr., Tuscola

She was Tuscola's ace last season and finished with a 17-3 record to go with 205 strikeouts and a 0.96 ERA while hitting .318 with nine doubles and a pair of homers. Two of her three losses last season came to Meridian as she powered through some of the state's best teams.

Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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