THE TIMES' ALL-AREA SOFTBALL TEAM: West Point's Wilkins named Player of the Year; Luker, Shannon and Harbison claim other top honors

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Jun. 23—Picking a Player of the Year can be taxing.

With opinions to be gathered and numbers to be crunched, it's a process that can and does get complicated.

Luckily for me, though, there were no stumbling blocks this time around.

And that's because Carlie Wilkins — The Times' 2022 All-Area Softball Player of the Year — made a usually tough task quite simple.

You see, labeling the recent West Point graduate's softball career — more specifically, her senior season — a success would be akin to calling Alabama summers warm.

Accurate, but not quite doing either proper justice.

So, let's take another — pardon the metaphor — swing at it.

In 41 games, Wilkins batted .483 with a .537 on-base percentage, .983 slugging percentage and 1.520 OPS to go along with 72 RBIs, 58 hits, 41 runs, 17 home runs, 11 walks, 11 stolen bases and nine doubles. Those eye-popping contributions helped her secure All-State honors as a Class 5A first-team outfielder.

Wilkins didn't disappoint in the circle, either.

The UAB signee won 23 decisions and struck out 197 batters in 147 innings, despite dealing with lingering back issues down the stretch. She also registered 10 shutouts, hurled five no-hitters and a pair of perfect games, and wrapped up her final campaign in Maroon and White with a 1.90 ERA and 1.034 WHIP.

Outrageous in every way, shape and form.

Those numbers, however, don't tell the full story for Wilkins, who set all sorts of school records during a not-soon-to-be-forgotten tenure with the varsity program.

Just ask Cullman coach Lawayne Morton, who saw past Wilkins' on-the-field talent.

"I told her after we played them that I loved her heart and how she plays the game," he said. "She plays the game with passion. She's certainly a presence in the circle and in the box. To me, though, what sets her apart is how much heart she has."

That passion certainly shines through if you've happened to watch Wilkins in action.

The giveaway? Her jovial nature and oft-smiling face.

It's something her father, Josh Wilkins — who assisted the Lady Warriors the past two seasons and has spent countless nights in the batting cages and on the field with Carlie — appreciates more than the accolades she has earned over the past six years.

"Those times when people come up to you and tell you that your daughter is an example for their kids with her attitude ... that means more to me than winning," he said.

That's not to say it's always been an easy road.

"A lot of people don't see all of the sacrifices," Wilkins continued. "There were times it was a grind, and all good players will tell you they go through their ups and downs. It hasn't always been smiling and rainbows and puppy dog tails. But if you're not having fun, you're not going to work hard. So to see all of it come together, especially the team's season they just had, is very rewarding."

So, too, is the time spent with his daughter along the way.

"You're just on top of the world," he said. "It's something I know I'll never get back, and we have really enjoyed it."

Cullman's Haley Shannon (Hitter of the Year), Addison's Anna Grace Luker (Pitcher of the Year) and West Point's Steven Harbison (Coach of the Year) took home the other top honors.

Shannon thrived during her junior season, batting .465 with a .507 on-base percentage, .535 slugging percentage and 1.042 OPS. She tallied 66 hits, 46 runs, 32 stolen bases, 17 RBIs, 10 walks, six doubles and two triples en route to garnering All-State honorable mention status (outfielder) in Class 6A.

Luker, meanwhile, struck out 225 batters and walked just 49 in 190 innings in the circle. The left-hander compiled a sub-1.00 ERA en route to winning 13 games during her senior campaign. Luker also notched All-State honors (Class 2A) as a second-team outfielder after slashing .419/.483/.589/1.072 at the plate.

Harbison guided the Lady Warriors to a 31-16 record and the program's first-ever state tournament.

See below for The Times' All-Area Softball Team, including honorable mentions.

Editor's Note: The All-Area Softball Team was handpicked myself after reviewing the 2022 season and consulting with our local softball coaches. However, with a limited number of spots available and plenty of talented players in which to choose from, it's possible some deserving candidates were left out.

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First Team

Emma Black, Cold Springs

Olivia Britton, Cullman

Carlie Burnham, Cullman

Savannah Davis, Cullman

Kaitlyn Benson, Fairview

Alexandria Steed, Good Hope

Maggie Nail, Holly Pond

Madyson Rickman, Holly Pond

Kaylee Stallings, Holly Pond

Sidney Burks, West Point

Bethany Minck, West Point

Macayla Wilkins, West Point

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Honorable Mention

Addison: Saige Carter

Cold Springs: Ciara Calvert

Cullman: Taylor Au, Brooklyn Morton

Fairview: Ayda Payne

Good Hope: Addyson Burgess, Campbell Koch

Hanceville: Jayda White

Holly Pond: Samantha Giles

Vinemont: Abby Cody, Katelyn Evans, Maci Smith

West Point: Macie Brown, Kylee Quinn