By Tyler Jackson
Kaylen Parks spent the early part of her career as the young standout on a veteran team.
The Independence star was surrounded by seniors during a sophomore campaign that saw her earn first-team all-state honors in 2019.
It was a different story in 2021.
She became the elder statesmen on a squad that featured one other player who had logged varsity playing time.
She shined even brighter than before.
Against a schedule that featured six of the other 11 teams that qualified for the state tournament, Parks rewrote the Independence record book by mashing 13 home runs to go along with a .589 batting average, 57 RBIs and 38 stolen bases.
For her efforts, Parks has been named captain of the Class AA first-team all-staters by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
The honor is a deserving one for a player who did whatever her team needed throughout her career, leading the Patriots to the state tournament in two of her three seasons.
After playing in the outfield as a freshman and at second base as a sophomore, the senior moved to her natural position at catcher and it paid dividends. She was able to guide the team’s sophomore pitcher and set the infield on any given pitch.
“It means a lot to me being a leader,” Parks said. “I just felt like being one was more of respect thing from my girls and it meant a lot knowing they looked up to me. It put me in a big spot and it helps me do better. It’s amazing to be the captain. It’s awesome! I don’t even know how to explain it. I honestly did not expect it at all and to be named captain is one of my biggest accomplishments ever.”
The 2021 first-team was littered with teammates – six sets of them to be precise.
Joining Parks is her battery mate, pitcher Delaney Buckland. In her first season of high school ball, the sophomore hurler struck out 336 batters, posting an ERA of 2.37 and logging 22 wins.
Other pitcher and catcher combos earning first-team honors are Winfield’s Kennedy Dean and Maci Boggess as well as Oak Glen’s Maddie McKay and Sarah Brown.
Dean, a junior, moved all over the infield on defense and ripped the cover off the ball on offense. She batted .398 with nine home runs, driving in 25 runs on the season. This is her second first-team selection as she made the 2019 team as an outfielder. Her teammate Boggess was stellar as well. The sophomore posted an 11-5 record with a 1.96 ERA and 115 strikeouts in the state’s toughest section.
Oak Glen’s McKay and Brown mowed down teams in the north and replicated that success in the state tournament. McKay, a second-teamer in 2019, batted .522 to go along with six home runs and 33 RBIs. Her most important contributions came in the circle though as she posted an 18-0 record through sectionals, striking out 203 batters. Brown, a sophomore, was also an integral part of the Golden Bears’ runner-up finish this season, leading the team in batting average at .540, driving in 34 runs and crushing 12 doubles.
The other sets of teammates to earn first team honors include Lincoln’s Hannah Ferris and Delaney Haller, Nitro’s Lena Elkins and Bella Savilla and four-time defending champion Herbert Hoover’s Cortney Fizer and Grayson Buckner.
Haller, a sophomore, was lethal as a pitcher posting 255 strikeouts with a 24-3 record and a 0.85 ERA. She delivered in the batter’s box as well with a .596 batting average and six home runs. Ferris, a senior outfielder, earns first-team honors for the first time. She closed out her career batting .427 this season with eight home runs and 31 RBIs.
Nitro’s Savilla and Elkins terrorized opponents in the circle and the box. Elkins, a first-teamer as a freshman in 2019, was dominant as a pitcher, posting a 10-3 record to go along with a miniscule 0.69 ERA and 136 strikeouts. As a hitter she batted .557, smashing six home runs and driving in 23 runs. Savilla, also a first-teamer in 2019 as a sophomore, was 9-4 with a 2.25 ERA but wielded the big bat. She hit .380, mashing 10 home runs to complement her 34 RBIs.
Last but not least in the teammates category, Hoover’s Buckner and Fizer were the main catalysts in the Huskies’ run to their fourth straight title. Buckner was 16-3 with a 1.44 ERA, batting .474 with five home runs and 38 RBIs. She earned second-team honors as a freshman in 2019. Fizer capped a historic career with her second first-team selection. The senior, who drove in the winning run and caught the final out in the title game, batted .557 with nine doubles and 25 RBIs.
Joining those 12 players players are Madison Legg (Sissonville), Alexa Shoemaker (Keyser), Olivia Barnett (Shady Spring), Sara Simon (Philip Barbour), Madison Angus (Weir) and Emma Kyle (Liberty Harrison).
Legg gave the Indians everything they could’ve asked for. The junior pitched all but one inning for them this season, posting a 15-4 record and striking out 156 batters. She also helped her cause at the plate, hitting .436 with three home runs.
Shoemaker, a junior, crushed the ball for Keyser. She batted .581 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs while adding a 9-1 record in the circle.
Barnett played solid defense at shortstop but helped her team most with the bat in her hands. The junior, who earned second-team honors as a freshman in 2019, batted .610 with nine home runs and 53 RBIs.
Simon, a junior, earned her first all-state berth by doing a little bit of everything. She posted an 8-2 record as a pitcher in 13 appearances, striking out 149 batters. As a hitter she posted a .603 batting average, hitting six home runs.
Angus, also a junior, pulled double duty as well. She was 10-5 with a 2.37 ERA as a pitcher but batted .531 to go along with 30 RBIs.
Last but not least is Liberty’s (Harrison) Emma Kyle. The junior catcher earns first-team honors for the second time in her career after a season that saw her mash 15 home runs.
Captaining the second-team is Hoover infielder Brooklyn Huffman. She’s joined by Paige Maynard (Shady Spring), Tatum Halley (Scott), Fran Alvaro (Robert C. Byrd), Charity Wolfe (Keyser), Tayah Fetty (Point Pleasant), Aly Soblit (Sissonville), Mallory Rosnick (Weir), Mikayla Shepherd (Fairmont Senior), Katie Gaughan (Roane County), Taylor Noe (Logan), Destiny Blankenship (Independence), Lilly Grady (Poca), Aubrey Collins (Grafton), Allie Mace (Roane), Olivia Hylton (Wyoming East), Lizzie Kell (Oak Glen) and Frederique Maloley (Grafton).
P – Madison Legg, Sissonville, jr.
P – Delaney Haller, Lincoln, so.
P – Delaney Buckland, Independence, so.
P – Maci Boggess, Winfield, so.
IF – Alexa Shoemaker, Keyser, jr.
IF – Kennedy Dean, Winfield, jr.
IF – Olivia Barnett, Shady Spring, jr.
IF – Sara Simon, Philip Barbour, jr.
IF – Madison Angus, Weir, jr.
OF – Cortney Fizer, Herbert Hoover, sr.
OF – Hannah Ferris, Lincoln, sr.
C – Sarah Brown, Oak Glen, so.
C – Kaylen Parks, Independence, sr. (captain)
C – Emma Kyle, Liberty Harrison, jr.
UTIL – Lena Elkins, Nitro, jr.
UTIL – Maddie McKay, Oak Glen, jr.
UTIL – Grayson Buckner, Herbert Hoover, jr.
UTIL – Bella Savilla, Nitro, sr.
P – Paige Maynard, Shady Spring, jr.
P – Tatum Halley, Scott, so.
P – Fran Alvaro, Robert C. Byrd, jr.
P – Charity Wolfe, Keyser, so.
IF – Brooklyn Huffman, Herbert Hoover, so. (captain)
IF – Tayah Fetty, Point Pleasant, jr.
IF – Aly Soblit, Sissonville, sr.
IF – Mallory Rosnick, Weir, jr.
IF – Mikayla Shepherd, Fairmont Senior, jr.
OF – Katie Gaughan, Roane County, sr.
OF – Taylor Noe, Logan, fr.
OF – Destiny Blankenship, Independence, sr.
C – Lilly Grady, Poca, fr.
C – Aubrey Collins, Grafton, sr.
UTIL – Allie Mace, Roane County, sr.
UTIL – Olivia Hylton, Wyoming East, jr.
UTIL – Lizzie Kell, Oak Glen, so.
UTIL – Frederique Maloley, Grafton, jr.
Class AA Honorable Mentions
Liz Murphy, Fairmont Senior; Carlie DelSignore, Keyser; Kerigan Moore, Nitro; Alyssa Lilly, Shady Spring; Gabby Smith, Nicholas County; Sydney Brown, Oak Glen; Makayla Zoellers, Oak Glen; Lilley Criss, Oak Glen; Hayley Keefer, Point Pleasant; Sierra Cook, Chapmanville; Oliva Munoz, Oak Glen; Jayden Elkins, Scott; Kenzie Hale, Winfield; Ashleigh Mahon, Chapmanville; Blair Nazum, East Fairmont; Kendall Martin, Independence; Paige Laxton, Wyoming East; Marie Perdew; Frankfort; Kaitlynn Stone, Elkins; Sophia Aperfine, Weir; Faith Gaylor, Winfield; Sydney Bright, Herbert Hoover; Emma Meade, Sissonville; Grace Richardson, Bluefield.