Cherish Burks and Sam Owen gave the East Union High School softball team a vaunted 1-2 punch.
The Oregon-bound Burks was the table setter for the Lancers and was named The Modesto Bee’s All-District Player of the Year. She led the Stanislaus District with 52 runs and hit .550.
Owen provided the pop, clubbing nine home runs and 13 doubles. The Pacific commit hit a whopping .643 and drove in 61 runs for East Union, which rode Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III titles to a mythical medium-schools state championship.
With those team awards have come a flood of individual accolades. Burks was named to Cal-Hi Sports’ all-state elite first team Saturday, while Owen was a second-team selection.
I’m just amazed by their pursuit of excellence. They carried us a long way. There is no arguing those statistics. They don’t lie. They were special players this year.
Brian Goulart, East Union coach, on all-state selections Cherish Burks and Sam Owen
Owen also landed on Cal-Hi Sports’ all-underclassmen and medium-schools first-team lists as an infielder. Burks was a medium-schools first-team honoree.
“Cherish is irreplaceable,” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “Everybody keeps saying how great our team will be next year because we’re losing only one player, but we’re losing a great player.
“Sam had one of the best unexpected seasons ever. I don’t think anyone expected her to bust out and become an all-state and All-American player.
“I’m just amazed by their pursuit of excellence. They carried us a long way. There is no arguing those statistics. They don’t lie. They were special players this year, that’s for sure.”
Nine others joined the Lancers’ twosome from the Stanislaus District on the all-state honor rolls, including former Pitman pitcher Alexis Mettler, the Central California Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
52 Runs scored by former East Union leadoff hitter Cherish Burks, tops in the Stanislaus District this spring.
Mettler, bound for Virginia, was named to the all-state third team as a multipurpose player. She hit .448 with team highs in runs (33), hits (39) and RBIs (27) for the Pride, which qualified for the Division I postseason. As a pitcher, the senior started 29 of the team’s 30 games, posting a 22-7 record and 25 complete games.
Ceres infielder Nicole Bates (.518, 59 hits, 24 extra-base hits, 51 runs) was a first-team all-underclassmen and medium-schools selection after leading the Bulldogs to a share of the Western Athletic Conference title.
Ceres split the crown with Pacheco, which was led by Baylor-bound pitcher Gia Rodoni (13-6, .058 ERA, 256 strikeouts in 1211/3 innings), also a first-team medium-schools selection as a multipurpose player.
Missing from the all-state first, second and third teams was Merced utility player Madilyn Nickles, one of the top high school players in the country. Nickles, a two-time CCC Player of the Year, is the youngest member of the U.S. Junior National Team, which will compete at the International Softball Federation Women’s World Championship next month in Oklahoma City.
She was also named to All-America teams by FloSoftball, USA Today and MaxPreps following a prolific junior season. She went 22-6 with 287 strikeouts and five no-hitters while hitting .526 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs.
‘Nickle’ for my thoughts Madilyn Nickles was named to the Cal-Hi Sports all-underclassmen team on Saturday, but the Merced junior deserved more. Nickles is the youngest member of the U.S. Junior National Team and a three-time All-American. With nearly 300 strikeouts, five no-hitters and a .526 batting average, Nickles should have joined East Union’s Cherish Burks (first team) and Sam Owen (second team), and Pitman’s Alexis Mettler (third team) on the all-state elite honor roll.
Nickles didn’t go completely unrecognized by Cal-Hi Sports. She was named to the all-underclassmen first team as a multipurpose player.
The small-schools team featured five area players, notably two first-team selections from five-time defending Division V champion Hughson: Mackenzie Babbitt (.571, 40 hits) and Jessica Garcia (.531, 43 runs).
Mariposa pitcher Leah Lafata (19-2, 0.93 ERA, eight shutouts) and Waterford utility player Kylie Ragsdale (.537, 17 doubles, 21-5 record, 27 complete games) also made the first team. Mariposa defeated Southern League rival Waterford 2-0 in the Division VI final.
Ripon pitcher Danielle Sperry (21-5, 0.92 ERA, 173 strikeouts) was a small-schools second-team pick. Sperry handed Hughson its only loss of the season, forcing a winner-take-all third game in the D-V final.
Cal-Hi Sports All-State Softball
Cherish Burks, East Union
Sam Owen, East Union
Alexis Mettler, Pitman
Infield: Nicole Bates, Ceres; Sam Owen, East Union. Multipurpose: Madilyn Nickles, Merced.
Infield: Cherish Burks, East Union; Sam Owen, East Union; Nicole Bates, Ceres. Multipurpose: Gia Rodoni, Pacheco.
Pitcher: Leah Lafata, Mariposa. Infield: Mackenzie Babbitt, Hughson; Jessica Garcia, Hughson. Multipurpose: Kylie Ragsdale, Waterford.
Pitcher: Danielle Sperry, Ripon