SPRING CREEK — Don’t count eggs before they hatch, but the Spring Creek softball team appears poised for a postseason push.
In 2019, the Lady Spartans finished with a 9-13 overall record and went 8-11 in league play — earning the sixth and final position to the 3A North regional tournament — and they bring back the vast majority of their contributing players for the 2020 campaign.
Making the postseason under first-year head coach Sandi Moon was a good step in a positive direction and, now, Spring Creek will attempt to improve and climb.
The Lady Spartans graduated just three girls, and brought back eight members of last year’s team as they enter the season with a healthy portion of experience.
Spring Creek should reap the rewards of the return of sophomore Janeigha Stutesman, who earned a 2nd-Team All-League selection in just her freshman season.
Playing primarily at first base, she is also well-equipped to become an elite pitcher — just needing some polishing.
She tied for the team high and split seventh in the league with two triples.
Stutesman posted the third-best batting average on the team, ranking 15th in the 3A North at .424.
She tied for the team best with 22 RBIs, rounding out the top-20 in the league.
Stutesman drove in four runs in two games, finishing 3-for-4 with a triple and three runs scored on April 6, 2019, versus Truckee and adding another 3-for-4 effort with a double and a run on May 3, 2019, at North Valleys.
Her most memorable performance of the season marked a rare feat, Stutesman accomplishing something most players only dream of achieving — taking care of the occurrence in her first season of high school ball.
On March 30, 2019, at South Tahoe, she tallied a season-high four hits, one going for a double, adding a triple and capping the extra-base parade with her first and only homer of her career — sprinkling in a single for the cycle.
She drove in three runs and scored a season-high four times in a 30-16 victory over the Lady Vikings.
Stutesman ranked third on the roster with 25 hits, and scored 20 runs — closing the year with four doubles, two triples and a yard job.
At first and in the circle, she finished 16th in the league with a .935 fielding percentage — far and away the best clip on the roster — leading the second-best total on the team by .113.
She made six errors in 92 total chances, compiling 74 assists and 12 putouts — completing two double plays.
Now-junior Jaycee Freyensee definitely strikes fear into opposing pitchers and defenses with her mighty bat.
With a team-best .492 batting average, she ranked fourth in the league as a sophomore.
Want pop? She has plenty.
Her .954 slugging percentage led the team by country a mile — despite Thompson’s .776 clip serving as the team’s second-best and the eighth-best in the league – Freyensee placing third in the 3A North.
As the season progressed, she showed better patience and a better eye – ranking fifth in the league and second on the roster with a .554 on-base percentage.
Albeit outside the strike zone — totally against common methodology — she can climb the ladder.
Generally, pitchers want hitters to chase upstairs — Freyensee often turning shoulder-high and above pitches into shots over the outfield fences.
She led the Lady Spartans with six home runs, splitting sixth in the league in balls that left yard.
Freyensee tied for the team high and seventh in the league, legging out two triples.
She ranked second in Spring Creek’s lineup and tied for 16th in the league with eight doubles.
Of Freyensee’s 32 hits — tying Thompson for the team high and splitting 19th in the league — nearly half went for more than a single, finishing with 14 knocks for extra bases.
She tied Stutesman for the team high with 22 RBIs, rounding out the top-20 in the 3A North.
Her 26 runs scored ranked second for the Lady Spartans.
With two more years of time to improve, her bat doesn’t need major changes — only minor tweaks — and now, Freyensee needs to work on her defense.
Likely the only things that kept her from an all-league selection were overall team success compared to a Fernley or a Fallon, combined with a .550 fielding percentage.
Entering her senior season, Shawnee Walters-Haas should be a leader in the circle and with her bat for the Lady Spartans.
Walters-Haas has already signed to play at the next level for Utah State University Eastern, in Price.
As a junior, she won eight ballgames — finishing fifth in the league — against 10 losses.
She tossed nine complete games and tallied a shutout, closing with a 7.98 ERA.
With 81 strikeouts, she placed third in the 3A North and gave up 28 free passes.
At the plate, Walters-Haas was fourth on the team with a .375 batting average and finished 11th in the league at a .531 on-base percentage.
She was third on the roster with 23 runs scored and tied for third on the team with 16 RBIs.
Walters-Haas has the power to go for extra bases and over the fence, smashing six doubles and two home runs.
“Shawnee has gotten a lot stronger. I think she will hit a lot of home runs this year,” Moon said. “She put five over the fence in one practice already.”
Now-senior second baseman Ashton Moon — behind Stutesman — was Spring Creek’s second-best glove during her junior season.
She fielded the ball at .822 and notched 24 assists with 13 putouts, leading both by example and verbally with her communication.
Offensively, she was fifth for the Lady Spartans with a .339 batting average, scored 13 runs, drove in eight and hit a pair of doubles.
On the bases, she led the Lady Spartans’ aggressive attack with 12 steals — ranking fifth in the league.
As a freshman, lefty Nyha Harris served as Spring Creek’s last .300-plus hitter with a .310 average at the dish and posted a .408 on-base clip.
She tattooed four doubles and stole eight bases, tying for 11th in the league for swipes.
Like Moon, she also closed the year with eight RBIs — scoring 17 runs of her own.
Senior Hailey Watson — like Walters-Haas — has already chosen her landing spot at the collegiate level, signing to catch for the Lady Colonels of Central College, in Danville, Kentucky.
During her junior season, Watson hit .218 with three doubles and a triple, scored 22 runs (fourth on the team) and drove in seven.
With 11 steals, she split second on the team and tied for sixth in the league.
Coach Moon expects senior Patience Swafford to take a step up in her role during the 2020 season, primarily from within circle.
“I think we can keep teams off balance with Patience being a lefty and the movement she gets on the ball,” she said. “She will be a nice complement too Shawnee and Janeigha.”
As a junior, Swafford posted the best ERA on the staff at 5.83 and went 1-0 with a complete-game victory in her only start.
Over six innings, she struck out six batters and walked seven.
Offensively, she hit .263 with a double, scored four runs and drove in three in just 24 at-bats.
As a sophomore, Anessa Chiquete also used her wheels to create runs and total bases.
She hit .268 and scored 21 times, tying for second on the team and sixth in the league with Watson on 11 stolen bags.
Chiquete drove in three runs, thumped two doubles and legged out an inside-the-park homer.
Coach Moon believes the strengths of her team will rely around Spring Creek’s pitching and what she believes to be an improved middle infield.
She also thinks long balls could factor into the Lady Spartans’ success in 2020, noting that her team has more power than last year after hitting the weights in the offseason.
Areas of Focus
When it comes to areas of focus, coach Moon thinks her team needs to focus on exactly that — focusing.
“We need to cut down on out errors. Last year, we committed the most errors in the league. We had 130 errors,” she said. “Our numbers were pretty comparable in other areas, but the errors really hurt us. We need to put ourselves in a better position by making the routine plays.”
In the circle, Moon wants to keep opposing offenses guessing by combining the efforts of Walters-Haas, Stutesman and Swafford.
When not pitching, Walters-Haas will play on the corner at first base.
Moon will remain at second base, freshman Kylie Harris will assume the hearty task of fielding at shortstop and freshman Abagail McDermott will complete the infield at third base — a pair of ninth-graders thrown into the fire early on during the Desert Winds Tournament, in Mesquite.
Behind the plate, Watson will be the main signal caller — Freyensee and Nyha Harris both with experience at catcher.
Chiquete will play left field, Freyensee and Keonua Morales can play in center and Nyha Harris — if not catching — will likely be in right field.
While the Lady Spartans only graduated three girls, one sendoff was a critical loss.
As a senior, outfielder Allie Thompson earned a 1st-Team All-League and 2nd-Team All-State selection.
Thompson’s game grew by leaps and bounds in her last season with the Lady Spartans, her senior season serving as a remarkable finish in the purple and black.
Her name was everywhere in the league standings in virtually every statistical category.
She was not only talented but smart as well, showing the combination of aggressiveness and patience.
Her .561 on-base percentage served as a team high and was the third-best total in the 3A North.
While she showed the propensity for drawing walks, she also demonstrated the ability to rake balls within the strike zone.
She posted the second-best batting average on the team and ranked fifth in the league with a .478 average.
Thompson drilled two triples— tying for the team lead and splitting seventh in the league — her .776 slugging percentage placing second for the Lady Spartans and finishing eighth in the 3A North.
She was also a weapon once she was on base, stealing 10 bases and splitting eighth in the league.
Half of her steals came in one contest, swiping five bases in a 30-16 victory on March 30, 2019, versus South Tahoe.
With a team-high 10 doubles, she split ninth in the league for two-base rips.
On May 3, 2019, Thompson capped a season-best five hits in a perfect 5-for-5 effort with three doubles.
She also legged out scores, her 34 runs scored leading Spring Creek and tying for 12th in the league, tallying a season-high five runs scored in the 30-16, defense-optional marathon at South Tahoe.
With 32 hits, she tied for the team high and ranked 19th in the 3A North.
Thompson added another component to her repertoire, the deep ball.
She smashed the first home runs of her career, finishing the season with two jacks — tying for second on the roster and finishing just outside the top-20 in the league — splitting 21st in the 3A North.
Her first bomb came in the 30-16 win against the Lady Vikings, her last coming in a 15-5 home victory against Sparks on April 27, 2019, fittingly, during Spring Creek’s senior day.
In two years of varsity ball, Thompson hit .425 with a .511 on-base percentage and notched 62 hits, drove in 34 runs and scored 55 runs of her own.
The Lady Spartans were scheduled to open the season against host the Desert Winds Tournament host, Virgin Valley, at noon Thursday, in Mesquite.
Spring Creek will take on Moapa Valley at noon Friday, the Lady Pirates dropping an 11-8 ballgame to Elko on Thursday in the season opener for both teams.
Spring Creek will open Division 3A North play on the road with a doubleheader against Lowry at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 14, in Winnemucca.
The Lady Spartans’ home opener will take place with a twin ball versus South Tahoe at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 21.
Rae Ann Chavez
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