Softball’s All-Central Valley Conference First Team is feeling blue this season — McNary blue that is.
Lady Celts came away with eight of the 14 first team selections and two big honors, as voted on by the conference coaches. Ali Martinez was named CVC Player of the Year, and for the second year in a row Kelly Parsell is the conference Coach of the Year.
“At first, it took me a second to realize that they said my name because, I don’t know, it just came as a big shock,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know people looked at me that way, but being recognized as that, it was pretty cool.”
Last season Martinez was left out of the all-conference selections after coming on strong at the end of the season, going deep four times in the 2022 postseason.
But this season was undeniable for the junior, with eight home runs during the season. And there’s multiple factors, including coming in healthy from the start fresh off of a state championship in wrestling, as well as the staff in the dugout, that she attributes this season to.
“I think the coaches and just having a different mindset this year,” Martinez said. “Last year I came back with an injury, and so this year being more confident in myself. I would say, wrestling especially helped me. I knew I was a little faster and a little bit stronger this year, so I had a lot more confidence.”
That confidence was seen by Parsell and the coaching staff.
“We always knew how good Ali was from the moment that we saw her, but sometimes it takes seeing yourself hit 15 home runs or whatever, to know just how good you are,” Parsell said. “And she’s not a player who walks around like she’s all that. She comes and she knows she has to work.”
For Parsell, this season makes her 2-for-2 on Coach of the Year honors after receiving it last season in her first year.
Last season, Parsell humbly attributed the honor to the success of the team and talent of the girls. This season was no different.
“I think that game against South, the one where we clinched league, was the truest testament to who this team is,” Parsell said. “When it comes down to it, they are going to fight.”
And it would appear the coaches from North Salem, South Salem, West Salem and Sprague certainly saw that fight in them, as the coaches filled more than half of the first team with Lady Celts.
Joining Martinez are seniors Heather Ebner (catcher), Brookelynn Jackson (infield) and Lacey Vasas (pitcher); junior Aspynn Westby (outfield); sophomore Karah Miller (infield); and freshmen Natalie Macik (infield) and Violet Siegel (outfield).
“For all of those players to be recognized by people other than their coaches and their families, I think means a lot,” Parsell said. “And that’s exactly what happened. Us coaches don’t get any say on our own players. So that’s other people saying, ‘yeah, I would want that girl on my team.’ And I think that’s really special, especially for our younger players to think, oh my gosh, I’m good.”
For those young players, a pair of freshmen and a sophomore, one might think that there’s some added pressure in the coming seasons.
But neither Miller, Macik or Siegel feel that way.
“Just keep working, keep doing my thing,” Macik said.
Macik, while earning her spot in the infield, second base to be exact, has also contributed pitching for McNary.
“I’m very glad to be in the circle and I really like my defense behind me,” Macik said. “They back me up a lot. It says a lot. I love my defense so much.”
Siegel sees it as motivation to continue getting better.
“I’m very excited for the next few years and hopefully I can improve over those next few years too,” Siegel said.
For Miller, it actually is a sign of improvement from her freshman season where she earned second-team honors.
Last season, Miller was in the outfield. This year, she’s at first base, a position she’s more used to and comfortable at.
“I really feel like I made the improvements I needed to make hitting wise just because I faced once again, a lot of tough competition last year,” Miller said. So going into it this year, knowing what I was going to face and being prepared for that was really helpful for my success.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the seniors in Ebner, Jackson and Vasas, who’s recognition comes as their careers at McNary wind down.
But even with their next steps on the horizon, the seniors see the bright future of these Lady Celts.
“It just means that we just have that much more depth in our lineup, they’re just going to be successful for years to come, and I’m so excited to see what they do,” Jackson said.