SOFTBALL ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Gracie Walters, Ridgevue

Gracie Walters is quite the artist.

From drawings of landscapes to paintings of sunrises, the Ridgevue softball player crafts exquisite works of art in her down time. The freshman created another piece of artwork in the circle this season.

She went 18-6 with a 1.63 ERA and 258 strikeouts to earn first-team All 4A Southern Idaho Conference honors. Walters also led the Warhawks to an unprecedented season. With her at the helm, Ridgevue placed second at state in its first year of existence.

For these accomplishments, Walters is the 2016-17 Idaho Press-Tribune’s Sports Stars Softball Athlete of the Year.

“What she did for this team this season is indescribable,” senior teammate Veronica Soto said. “The amount of heart, dedication and concentration she gave to this team was unmatched.”

The surprising season that was for Walters almost ended before it even began. During a practice before the season opener, the 14-year-old was struck in the head by a ball when a junior varsity pitcher threw a wild pitch while Walters was behind home plate talking to head coach Dave Kemper.

Walters was taken to the hospital where she underwent CT, MRI and X-Ray scans. The multiple tests revealed she had suffered a concussion.

The concussion put Walters on the shelf for approximately two weeks. During that span, she wasn’t even allowed to touch a ball or do much of anything else.

“Basically all I did was sit in my room in the dark,” Walters said. “The first couple days, the slightest thing, a sound or a color made me sick.

“My eyes were dilated, my head hurt and I just couldn’t see very well. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced.”

She finished her concussion protocol program on March 14 and made her season debut later that evening against Capital. Walter’s first career start in the circle for the Warhawks didn’t go exactly as planned. She gave up seven runs and nine hits in a 7-5 loss.

But that game was an anomaly for Walters. She recorded a two-hit, 19-strikeout outing against Fruitland three short days later, and then proceeded to win her next six games. It was the sixth straight win, a 9-4 victory over Vallivue on April 11 when Kemper realized just what he had.

“I was worried about them hitting because their stats were just phenomenal going into our game,” Kemper said. “We actually started Brooklyn (Oswald), but brought Gracie in during the second inning and she dominated them. I told our coaches that day, ‘We have something special right here.’”

Eleven days later, Walters handed the defending 4A state champion, Middleton, one of its worst losses of the season. She sat down 16 batters to end the Vikings’ then eight-game winning streak in a 9-3 win.

As good as Walters was in the regular season, she was even better when it mattered the most — the postseason.

With her team trailing Vallivue 4-0 in the third inning of a winner-to-state game, Walters showed poise beyond her years. In the final four innings, she silenced the Falcons’ bats to help get Ridgevue back into the game.

Walters allowed just three hits and struck out seven, including the final batter with runners on first and second base as the first-year program rallied back with 5-4 win, punching its ticket to the state tournament.

Once at state, Walters pitched shutouts in Ridgevue’s first two games, which included throwing a one-hitter in a 5-0 win over Twin Falls in the second round. She then allowed just three hits in an 8-2 victory over Sandpoint to get the Warhawks to the title game.

However, in the 4A State Softball Championship game at Post Falls High, against a very familiar foe in Middleton, Ridgevue came up short by the closest of margins. Walters had the Warhawks within one strike of a state title, but the Vikings’ Tayler Guerra ended the dream with a two-run walk-off single to center field.

“I threw two screws and she missed both of them and I had always struck her out with my rise ball every time. But since she missed two screw balls, Kemper wanted me to throw another one,” Walters said. “I threw it, jammed her up, but she got a hit.

“It hurt a lot. I just couldn’t help thinking, ‘If I would’ve called him off and threw my rise ball, things would’ve ended differently.’”

But with still three years of eligibility left at Ridgevue, Walters is hoping to paint a much different picture in the years to come.

“People keep asking me ‘What’s next?,’” Walters said. “This season was awesome, but my goal next year is to get first. This isn’t the furthest we’re going to go. We had seven freshmen on the team this year and look how far we got.

“This team is going to grow into something special. We’re going to be winning state titles, I know it, I just feel it. I’m going to do everything in my power to help us get there.”

ALL-CONFERENCE LISTS

Note: All-League teams are chosen by coaches.

5A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Lexi Knauss, sr., SS, Meridian

Coach of the Year: Brian Barber, Boise

FIRST TEAM

Eden Cook, jr., P, Boise; Autumn Moffat, sr., P, Eagle; Rachel Menlove, sr., C, Eagle; Hailey Fisher, sr., 1B, Eagle; Kelly Kukla, sr., INF, Eagle; Ivy Hommel, sr., INF, Kuna; Devanie Ferguson, jr., INF, Capital; Kaylan Walker, so., INF, Rocky Mountain; Noelle Foster, so., OF, Eagle; Keana Reyes-Burke, sr., OF, Meridian; Lily Gregory, sr., OF, Borah; Emily Alandt, so., OF, Mountain View; Megan Briscoe, sr., OF, Rocky Mountain; Jaidyn Ahl, jr., DP, Rocky Mountain; Gabi Peters, so., UTIL, Eagle

SECOND TEAM

Katelyn Wilfert, jr., P, Rocky Mountain; Rylee Newman, sr., P, Kuna; Abby Gagnon, so., C, Meridian; Hope Shimatsu, fr., 1B, Boise; Tommy MacDonald, jr., 1B, Rocky Mountain; Macy Escobar, jr., INF, Boise; Grace Shimatsu, jr., INF, Boise; Mari Peralta, jr., INF, Mountain View; Kaci Marshall, sr., INF, Kuna; Karsyn Zaragoza, so., OF, Boise; Natalie Rose, sr., OF, Kuna; Madi Link, sr., OF, Capital; Devon Stapleton, sr., OF, Meridian; Alyssa Millemon, jr., DP, Mountain View; Sam DeSloover, so., UTIL, Meridian

HONORABLE MENTION

Mickey Kleffner, jr., P, Kuna; Alex Wilson-Jenkins, sr., P, Capital; Jordyn Miller, so., P, Meridian; Nicole Powers, jr., C, Capital; Amaya Bentley, sr., C, Borah; Bella Hernandez, sr., C, Kuna; Hanah Hazel, sr., 1B, Capital; Rylie Frei, jr., 1B, Mountain View; Sarah Williams, jr., INF, Capital; Deborah Overby, so., INF, Meridian; Lindsey Jones, so., INF, Kuna; Baylie Murray, jr., INF, Rocky Mountain; Shelby Ribordy, so., INF, Capital; Cassie Schmidt, jr., INF, Timberline; Demi Corta, jr., INF, Eagle; Madi Layman, so., INF, Mountain View; Taiana Round, so., OF, Boise; Kaylee Lamont, jr., OF, Rocky Mountain; Lexi Wilson, sr., OF, Borah; Kaitlyn Allen, jr., OF, Centennial; Kate Kukla, so., OF, Eagle; Riley Merithew, sr., OF, Kuna; Shea Anderson, sr., OF, Meridian; Aly Johnson, fr., OF, Timberline; Revi Brown, so., DP, Boise; Madison Anderson, fr., DP, Columbia; Sophia Diffin, fr., UTIL, Centennial; Kayleigh Hibbard, jr., UTIL, Nampa; Rachel Mehl, sr., UTIL, Mountain View; Britney Balderas, jr., UTIL, Boise; Amanda Miller, sr., UTIL, Columbia; Mackenzie Martin, sr., UTIL, Columbia; Sammi Black, so., UTIL, Borah; Maddi Taylor, jr., UTIL, Rocky Mountain

4A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Lainey Lyle, so., P, Middleton

Coach of the Year: Rob Kiser, Middleton

FIRST TEAM

Gracie Walters, fr., P, Ridgevue; Reylene Cortes, jr., P, Middleton; Eleonora Conley, jr., C, Middleton; Annie Davidson, so., C, Bishop Kelly; Emily Fox, jr., 1B, Vallivue; Kona Bustos, jr., INF, Vallivue; Sage Huggins, sr., INF, Middleton; Aleah Mendiola, sr., INF, Middleton; Laura Lockard, so., INF, Bishop Kelly; Lauren Garman, so., OF, Vallivue; Lindsey Henderson, so., OF, Vallivue; Courtney Flaherty, sr., OF, Ridgevue; Andi Waters, sr., OF, Caldwell; Chelse Engle, fr., DH, Vallivue; Hattie Hruza, so., UTIL, Vallivue

SECOND TEAM

Alyssa Goff, jr., P, Vallivue; Riley Jones, fr., P, Bishop Kelly; Melice Rodriguez, jr., C, Vallivue; Kiley Kendall, jr., C, Ridgevue; Marisa Martinez, sr., 1B, Middleton; Emma Longoria, jr., INF, Vallivue; Veronica Soto, sr., INF, Ridgevue; Caiti Worwood, sr., INF, Caldwell; Ryan Floyd, jr., INF, Mountain Home; Kendall Pena, jr., OF, Ridgevue; Tayler Guerra, sr., OF, Middleton; Addison Ribordy, fr., OF, Bishop Kelly; Kayla VanFossen, sr., OF, Skyview; Karsyn Billings, jr., DH, Ridgevue; Skylar Morris, sr., UTIL, Ridgevue

HONORABLE MENTION

Jaden Lancaster, sr., P, Mountain Home; Jaylynn Stinson, so., P, Bishop Kelly; Zoie Himes, sr., P, Emmett; Madi Goslin, jr., C, Emmett; Brooke Torres, sr., C, Skyview; Jeslyn Kriebs, jr., C, Mountain Home; Brooklyn Oswald, so., 1B, Ridgevue; Ilse Mora, sr., 1B, Caldwell; Carly Pena, fr., INF, Ridgevue; Mckenzie Ozuna, sr., INF, Middleton; Darby Atkins, so., INF, Bishop Kelly; Katrina Vallejo, fr., INF, Caldwell; Jordan Luna, sr., INF, Skyview; Siolo Church, so., INF, Skyview; Halley Niemeyer, sr., OF, Middleton; Lysette Villegas, jr., OF, Bishop Kelly; Holly Goslin, fr., OF, Emmett; Ally Thomas, jr., UTIL, Skyview

3A SNAKE RIVER VALLEY CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Dakota Kelly, jr., P, Homedale

Rookies of the Year: Bella Carbajal, fr., Fruitland; Aeverie Burns, fr., Payette

FIRST TEAM

Katie Davis, sr., P, Weiser; Megan Maxwell, sr., C, Homedale; Westi Walker, so., 1B, Weiser; Kendall Nash, jr., 2B, Homedale; Madi Black, so., 3B, Parma; CJ Davis, sr., SS, Weiser; Mikayla Hubele, sr., OF, Weiser; Madison Exferd, sr., OF, Payette; Ashley Campos, sr., OF, Parma; Rian Beebe, sr., UTIL, Homedale

SECOND TEAM

Alyssa Kauffman, so., P, Payette; Phoebe McGrath, so., P, Fruitland; Emily Neill, sr., C, Payette; Josey Hall, so., 1B, Homedale; Carlie Rueth, sr., 2B, Parma; Sophie Nash, so., SS, Homedale; Brigitt Futter, so., 3B, Fruitland; Alicia Egner, jr., SS, Fruitland; Allison Shenk, jr., OF, Homedale; Monique Alarcon, jr., OF, Fruitland; Olivia Cardenas, so., OF, Homedale; Nicole DeHoog, jr., UTIL, Parma

HONORABLE MENTION

Dusti Futter, sr., C, Fruitland; Justina Barba, fr., 1B, Parma; Serene Hooper, sr., 2B, Weiser; Amaya Carter, so., 3B, Homedale; Adrienne Aburto, sr., 3B Weiser; McKenna Zanelli, so., OF, Weiser; Malybu Gantz, so., OF, Payette; Ellie Tesnohlidek, fr., OF, Fruitland; Madison MacDonald, sr., UTIL, Weiser

2A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Coach of the Year: Jodi Pittman, New Plymouth

FIRST TEAM

Makenna Dillion, Cole Valley Christian; Emma Heitz, so., Marsing; Georgia Berrett, jr., Melba; Michelle Riley, jr., Melba; Genni Needs, sr., Nampa Christian; Jessie Wood, fr., Nampa Christian; Elia Burgin, jr., New Plymouth; Kenzie White, jr., New Plymouth

SECOND TEAM

Bailee Ray, Cole Valley Christian; Ashley Cotner, Cole Valley Christian; Sheyanne Glorfield, sr., Marsing; Autumn Bennett, fr., Marsing; Jordan Rush, jr., Melba; Sierra Brookshire, jr., Nampa Christian; McKaylee Kuntz, jr., Nampa Christian; Sophie Daniels, fr., Nampa Christian; Misty Gardner, sr., New Plymouth; Tina Furtado, so., New Plymouth; Anna Loomis, jr., New Plymouth

HONORABLE MENTION

Emily Holtrob, Cole Valley Christian; Kaitlyn Baker, Cole Valley Christian; Allison Bingham, Cole Valley Christian; Hannah Buckles, Cole Valley Christian; Madison Sanders, Cole Valley Christian; Louisa Metcalf, so., Marsing; Carli Dauphanais, so., McCall-Donnelly; Natali Hutcheson, so., McCall-Donnelly; Naddy Sofaly, so., McCall-Donnelly; Shay West, sr., McCall-Donnelly; Brook Robinson, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Cassia Whipple, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Sammi Runkle, jr., Melba; Kendra Mullins, so., Nampa Christian; Lauren Allmaras, jr., New Plymouth

1A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Kate Renfro, sr., P/INF, Horseshoe Bend

Coach of the Year: Larry Taylor, Greenleaf

FIRST TEAM

Megan Hostetler, so., P, Notus; Reilly Renfro, sr., C , Horseshoe Bend; Aspin Quijas, sr., INF, Horseshoe Bend; Cheyanne Stewart, jr., INF, Notus; Emma Brock , so., INF, Notus; Brooke Osmus , so., INF, Notus; Ciara Drake, jr., OF, Horseshoe Bend; Megin Sterling, jr., OF, Glenns Ferry; Katie Heckathorn, sr., OF, Greenleaf

SECOND TEAM

Hannah Hedilius, so., P, Glenns Ferry; Valeria Lino, jr., C , Rimrock; Destiny Quebrado, so., INF, Notus; Taylor Christensen, sr., INF, Notus; Brooke Lane, fr., INF, Horseshoe Bend; Jentry Solosabal, sr., INF, Glenns Ferry; Julia Black, so., OF, Horseshoe Bend; Sarah Ralstin, fr., OF, Greenleaf; Liz Varela, jr., OF, Rimrock

HONORABLE MENTION

Lily Brown, jr., P, Greenleaf; Emma Paige, sr., C , Greenleaf; Sage Huston, so., INF, Horseshoe Bend; Lana Larson, fr., INF, Horseshoe Bend; Kylin Olsen, fr., INF, Greenleaf; Sarah Lewis, sr., INF, Greenleaf; Thalia Guajardo, so., INF, Wilder; Gabby Hernandez, sr., INF, Glenns Ferry; Leah Stewart , sr., OF, Notus; Jersey Hughes, fr., OF, Horseshoe Bend

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