NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Lorain County proved that it sported one of the strongest senior softball classes in years Monday night when a pair of players split the Miss Softball award — given annually to the county’s top senior player — and a third received the coaches association’s Player of the Year award.
Before the Lorain County Senior All-Star Game began, Midview’s Gabby Shackelford and Keystone’s Madi Nunez were announced as the co-Miss Softball award winners, and Elyria’s April Howser was named the Player of the Year.
“Lorain County has a high level of talent,” Nunez said. “I don’t mind sharing (Miss Softball) with (Shackelford), she’s an excellent athlete all around.”
Shackelford, who will play for Cleveland State next year, was a four-year starter for the Middies, batting .537 with seven doubles, six home runs and 37 RBIs this season. She finished as a .476 career hitter, with 28 doubles, eight triples, 21 home runs, 114 runs scored and 26 stolen bases.
“I know Madi, I’ve played against her in the past. She’s a great player as well and I think it’s amazing how much talent we have in our county,” said Shackelford, repaying the compliment. “I was honestly really surprised (that I won Miss Softball) because we have an impeccable amount of great players in our county this year and for years to come, so just having other people recognize my abilities has been great and I would not have guessed that I would have gotten the award.”
Nunez finished with a Lorain County-record 66 RBIs this season — the third best performance in Ohio history — while batting .531 with seven doubles and 11 home runs. She had four home runs in the Wildcats’ sectional championship game against Rocky River, tying a state record and setting a county record.
Nunez was a career .406 hitter with 26 doubles, six triples, 24 home runs, 138 RBIs and 101 runs scored.
“This year was definitely a very peak year for me. It was just an all-around good season,” Nunez said. “I had people telling me that I might get (Miss Softball), that I was a nominee, but it was just really good to know that I actually did get it and it’s just an honor to have it.”
The RBIs and homer records were great, winning Miss Softball on Monday night was surely fantastic, but Nunez said nothing tops being a part of Keystone’s Division II state championship in Akron on Saturday.
“I broke down in immediate tears. That was awesome,” she said. “Just trying to stay focused on the main goal, which was winning state, really helped us. I didn’t really focus on my individual stats as a player, but I ended up doing all right.”
Howser surely knows the feeling. She was one of the catalysts during the Pioneers’ run to the Division I state championship last season.
Howser batted .491 this season, finishing with 12 doubles, two home runs and 45 RBIs. For her career, she hit .460 with 39 doubles, 10 triples, nine home runs, 122 RBIs and 133 runs scored.
“I had an amazing four years of high school. I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I loved playing with my teammates, I pushed myself really hard and practiced all the time to get better, and I think that paid off.
“(Winning the Player of the Year award) meant a lot to me. I wasn’t expecting it and to get it, it’s just an honor.”
The awards were just part of a fun, final sendoff for the seniors of Lorain County, as over 40 girls participated in the event. Each of the top three seniors had multiple teammates take the field with them for their final high school game.
“It’s great because I’m playing with the two other seniors from Midview that are my best friends,” Shackelford said, “and it’s just great to play with them one more time before we all go our separate ways.”