SOFTBALL ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Lainey Lyle, Middleton

Lainey Lyle wasn’t always the feared and dominating pitcher in the circle she is today.

Believe it or not, at one point, the Middleton softball junior ace was cut from not one, but two different teams. But that was then.

This is now.

Now, there arguably wasn’t a better pitcher in the state than Lyle this season.

She went 16-2, had an ERA of just 0.55, tallied 169 strikeouts, gave up 48 hits and allowed only nine earned runs. But that’s just the half of it.

On offense, Lyle hit .452 with 42 hits, 11 doubles, 35 RBIs and five home runs.

She was the 4A Southern Idaho Conference Player of the Year for the third straight season and the Gatorade Idaho Softball Player of the Year while leading the Vikings to their third state championship in a row.

For these achievements, Lyle is the 2017-18 Idaho Press’ Sports Stars Softball Athlete of the Year.

“I still think back to that and it’s just awesome to see how far I’ve come,” Lyle said. “Looking back on it, I think that’s what started it all. It just really motivated me to work harder and get better. I never wanted to experience that level of disappointment and feel like I wasn’t good enough ever again.”

Six years.

That’s the last time Lyle was well — ordinary.

Lyle was 10 when she was cut from both the Idaho Chargers and Sliders 12U club softball teams. At the time, she was uncoordinated and hadn’t quite grown into her body yet.

But that didn’t deter her from going out for one final team. Lyle answered an ad in the newspaper for the Idaho Heat 12U club softball team. After a private tryout, she finally received some good news.

Lyle had made the team.

But the coach went on to say: “You probably won’t see much playing time.”

She was the starting pitcher for Heat’s state-runner up team.

“I remember her trying out for the Sliders and honestly, she wasn’t that good. But then I remember seeing her again and she was like a completely different player,” Middleton catcher Eleonora Conley said. “And it all had to do with her work ethic. From that moment on, she has worked harder than anybody I’ve ever known in my whole life.

“You wouldn’t believe how much work she puts in. I drive by local softball fields and Lainey is out there pitching with her dad. I ask her to hang out, no she has hitting lessons. I ask again, no she has her ‘Off the Field’ program to do. We only hang out because she needs me to catch for a pitching lesson.”

A star was born.

A star that continued to shine this season. Nowhere was this more evident than at the 4A State Softball Tournament in Chubbuck. But it was far from being easy, particularly on the final day of the tournament.

Despite giving up just three hits and allowing no earned runs with eight strikeouts, Lyle still took a loss in a 1-0 defeat to Ridgevue for a spot in the 4A State Championship game. That meant the Vikings had to take the long way if they wanted to win their third title in as many years. But thanks to Lyle, that’s exactly what they did.

She pitched in both of the championship games against the Warhawks and was virtually flawless.

In the opener, she allowed just three hits and struck out nine in a 3-0 win to set up a winner-take-all game. And in spite of already throwing 197 pitches, Lyle still had enough in the tank for another standout championship performance.

She recorded her first ever three-pitch inning in the bottom of the third and had two other four-pitch innings. Lyle allowed just two hits with three strikeouts for her second straight shutout win in the circle to anchor Middleton to a 1-0 victory and its third consecutive 4A State Championship.

“It was exciting. Pitching in the championship games, my adrenaline was just going. I didn’t get to pitch in the championship game last year so it was kind of cool to get to do it this year,” Lyle said. “Every time we play Ridgevue it’s always like a 1-0 ball game so I knew it would honestly come down to me in the circle. But the one thing about me is, I don’t get nervous. I don’t let that stuff get to me. I was just ready to go for my team.”

Lyle only allowed eight hits, tallied 28 strikeouts and had a 0.00 ERA in five state tournament games. And to think, she was actually cut.

“It’s kind of that Michael Jordan story you hear about,” Middleton softball coach Rob Kiser said. “Michael Jordan was in high school and he got cut from basketball. Everyone laughs and says ‘who would cut Michael Jordan?’ It’s one of those things that’s absolutely fueled Lainey and you saw that at state.

“In all my years of coaching, I’ve never seen anybody produce a stat line like that on the biggest stage. It’s awe-inspiring really. I don’t know if that can be achieved ever again because the likelihood of it even being done in the first place is almost unheard of. She’s special. She truly is. She’s a once in a career kind of kid. No question.”

Lyle’s success over the last three years hasn’t gone unnoticed to those outside of Idaho. The 16-year-old committed to Division I North Dakota State in November. The Bison have won the past five Summit Conference Championships and have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in four of the past five years, including this season. North Dakota State finished 34-19 this year.

But before Lyle joins the Bison, she still has another year left with the Vikings. And there’s no telling what she could do.

After all, this is now and she’s not that uncoordinated girl anymore. Well at least not in the circle.

“It just goes to show how much hard work really does pay off,” Lyle said. “But I don’t take any of this for granted because I know firsthand what it’s like being told you’re not good enough. I know I need to keep working hard because there is always more I can accomplish.”

ALL CONFERENCE LISTS

Note: Lists are not chosen by the Idaho Press, but by the league’s coaches.

5A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Gabi Peters, jr., Eagle

Coach of the Year: Brian White, Rocky Mountain

FIRST TEAM

P: Eden Cook, sr., Boise; P: Siera Horton, jr., Eagle; P: Katelyn Wilfert, sr., Rocky Mountain; C: Nicole Powers, sr., Capital; 1B: Cass Schmidt, sr., Timberline; INF: Jaxie Klucewich, jr., Eagle; INF: Abigail Gagnon, jr., Meridian; INF: Kaylan Walker, jr., Rocky Mountain; INF: Lolo Walker, fr., Rocky Mountain; OF: Noelle Foster, jr., Eagle; OF: Kate Kukla, jr., Eagle; OF: Riley McGrath, fr., Mountain View; OF: Kaylee Lamont, sr., Rocky Mountain; DH: Sam Desloover, jr., Meridian; UTIL: Shelby Ribordy, jr., Capital; UTIL: Alex Pinkston, so., Mountain View

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SECOND TEAM

P: Alyssa Millemon, sr., Mountain View; P: Jordyn Miller, jr., Meridian; C: Jaidyn Ahl, sr., Rocky Mountain; 1B: Rylie Frei, sr., Mountain View; INF: Sarah Williams, sr., Capital; INF: Britney Balderas, sr., Boise; INF: Madeline Layman, jr., Mountain View; INF: Sophia Diffin, so., Centennial; OF: Emily Alandt, jr., Mountain View; OF: Kayleigh Hibbard, sr., Nampa; OF: Sierra Huffer, jr., Meridian; OF: Tina Zito, sr., Timberline; DH: Ashley O’Connor, jr., Eagle; UTIL: Brooklin Champion, fr., Centennial

HONORABLE MENTION

Grace Shimatsu, sr., Boise; Ambryn Fortier, sr., Boise; Hope Shimatsu, so., Boise; Revi Brown, jr., Boise; Karsyn Zaragoza, jr., Boise; Taiana Round, jr., Boise; Sammi Black, jr., Borah; Isabel Longoria, so., Borah; Devanie Ferguson, sr., Capital; Chloe Muir, sr., Capital; Kaitlyn Allen, sr., Centennial; Madison Anderson, so., Columbia; Claire Campbell, so., Columbia; Demi Corta, sr., Eagle; Delayna Waite, sr., Eagle; Lindsey Jones, jr., Kuna; Taryn Vanderwiel, so., Kuna; Graci Bender, jr., Kuna; Ashley Brink, sr., Meridian; Deberoh Overby, jr., Meridian; Sydney Godfrey, jr., Meridian; Karly Snooks, jr., Mountain View; Kylee Morgan, fr., Nampa; Camille Snead, jr., Nampa; Alondra Pina, fr., Nampa; Alexis Tovar, fr., Nampa; Emma Shiflet, jr., Rocky Mountain; Bailey Murray, sr., Rocky Mountain; Carly Kawamura, so., Timberline; Naomi Butterfield, so., Timberline; Malia Smith, so., Timberline

4A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Lainey Lyle, jr., Middleton

Coaches of the Year: Rob Kiser, Middleton; Molly Mamer, Caldwell

FIRST TEAM

P: Gracie Walters, so., Ridgevue; P: Reylene Cortes, sr., Middleton; C: Annie Davidson, jr., Bishop Kelly; 1B: Emily Fox, sr., Vallivue; 1B: Mariah Jenkins, sr., Middleton; INF: Laura Lockard, jr., Bishop Kelly; INF: Darby Atkins, jr., Bishop Kelly; INF: Carly Pena, so., Ridgevue; INF: Lauren Garman, jr., Vallivue; OF: Chelsie Engle, so., Vallivue; OF: Kendall Pena, sr., Ridgevue; OF: Lysette Villegas, sr., Bishop Kelly; OF: Paris Mederios, sr., Mountain Home; DH: Leah Walborn, so., Bishop Kelly; DH: Makayla Killian, so., Ridgevue; UTIL: Ryan Floyd, sr., Mountain Home

SECOND TEAM

P: Jaylynn Stinson, jr., Bishop Kelly; P: Lexi Zucker, sr., Vallivue; C: Eleonora Conley, sr., Middleton; 1B: Aimee Solis, sr., Caldwell; INF: Paisley Mederios, so., Mountain Home; INF: Jazmin Ramirez, so., Ridgevue; INF: Hannah Mikel, so., Middleton; INF: Kona Bustos, sr., Vallivue; OF: Lindsey Henderson, jr., Vallivue; OF: Budda Blum, jr., Ridgevue; OF: Amaya Pelagio, sr., Middleton; OF: Auzia Mosley, sr., Middleton; DH: Megan Dugger, jr., Vallivue; UTIL: Alyssa Goff, sr., Vallivue

HONORABLE MENTION

P: Riley Jones, so., Bishop Kelly; P: Melicah Andersen, so., Caldwell; P: Reiss McIntyre, fr., Ridgevue; C: Hattie Hruza, jr., Vallivue; C: Jesslyn Kriebs, sr., Mountain Home; C: Kiley Kendall, sr., Ridgevue; 1B: Olivia Medina, jr., Skyview; INF: Madison Cowles, so., Middleton; INF: Aleysa Garcia, so., Caldwell; INF: Dakota Walls, so., Caldwell; INF: Kimora Hernandez, fr., Ridgevue; INF: Caira Jensen, fr., Skyview; INF: Abi Cotterell, jr., Middleton; OF: Addison Ribordy, so., Bishop Kelly; OF: Hana Naito, sr., Skyview; OF: Miranda Reaume, sr., Mountain Home; OF: Jennifer Aguilar, sr., Caldwell; OF: Hollie Cunningham, fr., Ridgevue; DH: Erin Rockwood, jr., Skyview; UTIL: Kendal Sullivan, so., Bishop Kelly; UTIL: Ally Thomas, sr., Skyview

3A SNAKE RIVER VALLEY CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Dakota Kelly, sr., Homedale

Rookie of the Year: Kierra Brandon, Payette

FIRST TEAM

P: Phoebe McGrath, jr., Fruitland; C: Sophie Nash, jr., Homedale; 1B: Josey Hall, jr., Homedale; 2B: Kendall Nash, sr., Homedale; 3B: Brigit Futter, jr., Fruitland; SS: Alex Grant, jr., Homedale; OF: Allison Shenk, sr., Homedale; OF: Monique Alacon, sr., Fruitland; OF: Malybu Gantz, jr., Payette; UTIL: Aeverie Burns, so., Payette

SECOND TEAM

P: Alyssa Kauffman, jr., Payette; C: Madi Black, jr., Parma; 1B: Megan Case, sr., Parma; 2B: Anika Burke, so., Payette; 3B: Amaya Carter, jr., Homedale; SS: Alicia Egner, sr., Fruitland; OF: Dazsha Gantz, jr., Homedale; OF: Nadine Herrera, so., Parma; OF: Ellie Tesnohlidek, so., Fruitland; UTIL: Nayalie Flores, so., Parma; UTIL: Macy Moore, so., Weiser

HONORABLE MENTION

P: Quinae Leigh, sr., Parma; C: Hailey Hershey, so., Fruitland; 1B: Westi Walker, jr., Weiser; 2B: Madison Phillips, so., Weiser; 3B: Veronica Rodriguez, sr., Payette; SS: Brittany Hickey, sr., Weiser; OF: Olivia Cardenas, jr., Homedale; OF: Trinity Dimmitt, sr., Weiser; OF: Kiana Husfloen, jr., Fruitland

2A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Coach of the Year: Don Jamison, Melba

FIRST TEAM

Sammi Runkle, sr., Melba; Kenzie White, sr., New Plymouth; Elia Burgin, sr., New Plymouth; Makenna Dillon, sr., Cole Valley Christian; Cindy Read, so., Melba; Naddy Soflay, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Anna Loomis, sr., New Plymouth; Tina Furtado, jr., New Plymouth; Michelle Riley, sr., Melba; Kendra Mullins, jr., Nampa Christian

SECOND TEAM

Emma Heitz, jr., Marsing; Hailee Bennett, jr., Marsing; Georgia Berrett, sr., Melba; Jordyn Rush, sr., Melba; Carli Dauphanais, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Anna Botello, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Cassia Whipple, sr., McCall-Donnelly; Liz Adams, jr., Nampa Christian; Makaylee Kuntz, sr., Nampa Christian

HONORABLE MENTION

Ashley Cotner, jr., Cole Valley Christian; Sophia Silvester, jr., Cole Valley Christian; Taylor Gibbens, sr., Cole Valley Christian; Renee Van Ausdle, jr., Cole Valley Christian; Ashley Loucks, jr., Marsing; Autumn Bennett, so., Marsing; Aubrey Villa, so., Marsing; Natali Hutcheson, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Gracie Warren, so., McCall-Donnelly; Hailey Cowger, sr., Melba; Andrina Webster, so., Melba; Sophie Daniels, so., Nampa Christian; Sierra Brookshire, sr., Nampa Christian; Julia Joski, so., Nampa Christian; Kennedy Farden, fr., New Plymouth; Lauren Allmaras, sr., New Plymouth

1A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Megan Hostetler, jr., Notus

Coach of the Year: Mike Chandler, Garden Valley

FIRST TEAM

P: Lily Brown, sr., Greenleaf; C: Brooke Osmus, jr., Notus; IF: Kylin Olsen, so., Greenleaf; IF: Khy Morgan, sr., Garden Valley; IF: Emma Brock, jr., Notus; IF: Cassidy George, so., Notus; IF: Cheyanne Stewart, so., Notus; OF: Sarah Ralstin, so., Greenleaf; OF: Destiny Quebrado, jr., Notus; OF: Hannah Hedelius, sr., Glenns Ferry; UTIL: Megin Sterling, sr., Glenns Ferry

SECOND TEAM

P: Molly Thomas, jr., Greenleaf; C: Makenna Hedelius, sr., Glenns Ferry; IF: Olivia Fisk, fr., Greenleaf; IF: Sydney Morris, sr., Garden Valley; IF: Sydnee Charters, jr., Notus; IF: Valeria Lino, sr., Rimrock; OF: Hannah Brock, so., Notus; OF: Rylee Arellano, so., Glenns Ferry; OF: Keira O’Meara, fr., Greenleaf; UTIL: Brooke Lane, so., Horseshoe Bend

HONORABLE MENTION

Caitlin Harrold, sr., Garden Valley; Elizabeth Varela, sr., Rimrock; Karley Hodges, so., Garden Valley; LizBeth Duarte, sr., Glenns Ferry; Sage Huston, jr., Horseshoe Bend; Maggie Huston, fr., Horseshoe Bend; Dezaree Sandoval, sr., Wilder; Madisyn Birch, fr., Greenleaf; Madalyn Torres, fr., Greenleaf; Ashten Neary, sr., Notus; Katheryn Hostetler, fr., Notus

Brandon Walton covers Ada County and College of Idaho sports for the Idaho Press.

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