Toast of the Coast

Toast of the Coast: Seaver leads Aynor softball back to the top

Hannah Seaver has spent approximately a third of her life as the starting catcher for Aynor.

She couldn’t have drawn up the ending in a better way.

The Sun News’ Toast of the Coast Softball Player of the Year led the Blue Jackets to the Class AA state championship, their first title in 25 years.

“This is something that everyone dreams of their entire life, winning a state championship,” Seaver said. “If at the beginning of this season you asked me if we would have been state champions, I would have told you it wouldn’t have happened.”

But it did, with Seaver’s offense and defense serving as the focal point from start to finish. The senior catcher batted .558 with 14 home runs, six doubles, 45 RBIs and 40 runs.

She had a slugging percentage of 1.140. And for good measure, she also threw out 12 runners attempting to steal, including two in the second game of the championship series against Andrew Jackson.

It was during that championship series that Seaver also proved she wasn’t just a regular-season standout. In three games against Andrew Jackson, she was a combined 6-of-11 with two home runs, a triple, five RBIs, three runs and a stolen base.

Having already been selected as an Class AA All-State selection and North-South All-Star and with a scholarship offer from Furman already finalized, Seaver looked every bit the one of the best players in South Carolina.

“Her performance was great,” coach Sandie Jones said. “It’s been great every year. But this year, she really stepped up. I believe she was saying ‘I’ve worked hard for this. I’m going to college for this. This is my dream, my destiny.’”

What Seaver also did was improve. A Toast of the Coast selection last season when she batted .400, she was significantly better as a senior, both in terms of numbers and what she meant to her team.

Following her lead, the Blue Jackets scored at least seven runs in five of their nine playoff games, including twice in the state finals series. In truth, though, Aynor had started to excel well in advance of the postseason.

There was the first region title since 1990 – also the last time the team won a state championship – and an all-around feel that Jones’ team wasn’t just another good team.

“We started off really concerned about those things,” Jones said about the team’s early prospects. “As the season progressed, we saw that we have a leader. That leader is helping us gel together. We do play as a team. It came to a point where, oh yeah, we can compete for the state title.”

Aynor swept its way through the district playoffs and Lower State tournament, getting a number of key performances from players all of the diamond and at the plate. Seaver’s part in the end result was undeniable.

So, too, was how she now views the end of her established career with Blue Jackets.

“We wanted to make a run that we had never done before,” Seaver said. “We wanted to really earn our respect. I think we did that. We wanted to make an impact and leave our mark.”

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

The team

Player of the Year

Hannah Seaver

▪ School | Aynor

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Catcher

▪ Notable | Class AA All-State and North-South All-Star selection hit .558 and had a slugging percentage of 1.140 while connecting on 14 home runs and knocking in 45 RBIs. Had 40 runs scored for Class AA state champion Blue Jackets.

Noel Cassidy

▪ School | St. James

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Catcher

▪ Notable | Region VII-AAA Player of the Year and All-State selection was named to the North-South All-Star game after batting .548 with 27 RBIs. Recorded season-long, 23-game hitting streak and did not commit an error.

Elissa Leach

▪ School | Myrtle Beach

▪ Class | Sophomore

▪ Position | First base/third base

▪ Notable | First-team All-Region VII-AAA honoree led the playoff-qualifying Seahawks with a .481 batting average, 38 hits, 15 doubles, 27 RBIs while adding 24 runs scored and a pair of home runs.

Shelby Cox

▪ School | Aynor

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Second base

▪ Notable | North-South All-Star selection batted .436 for state champion Blue Jackets while adding five doubles, 10 triples, four home runs, 25 RBIs and 43 runs scored from the leadoff spot.

Crystyn Neely

▪ School | Georgetown

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Second base

▪ Notable | The North-South All-Star and Class AAA All-State selection helped the Bulldogs to the Region VII-AAA title by batting .494 with 18 RBIs. Did not commit an error all season.

Natalie Hardwick

▪ School | Carolina Forest

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Shortstop

▪ Notable | Class AAAA All-State selection helped Panthers back to the playoffs by hitting .417 with 17 runs, seven RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Also had a fielding percentage of .931.

Makayla Gore

▪ School | North Myrtle Beach

▪ Class | Junior

▪ Position | Shortstop

▪ Notable | Helped Chiefs to Region VII-AAA runner-up finish and district playoff finals while hitting .483 with 24 RBIs and eight doubles while also recording a .946 fielding percentage.

Olivia Dunlap

▪ School | Waccamaw

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Shortstop/outfield

▪ Notable | Spartanburg Methodist signee batted .573 with 28 RBIs, 41 runs, six doubles, four triples and 28 stolen bases en route to North-South All-Star and Class AA All-State selection

Kelsi Bachmann

▪ School | St. James

▪ Class | Junior

▪ Position | Outfield

▪ Notable | Three-time first-team All-Region VII-AAA selection batted .638 on the season with 19 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Had a fielding percentage of .966.

Julia Cole

▪ School | North Myrtle Beach

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Outfield

▪ Notable | Defensive stalwart posted a .981 fielding percentage in center field while also batting .422 with four home runs and holding a .747 on-base percentage; North-South All-Star.

Anna James

▪ School | Georgetown

▪ Class | Junior

▪ Position | Pitcher

▪ Notable | Junior was 16-4 from the rubber with a 2.31 ERA while also hitting .408 with seven doubles, seven triples, a home run and 16 RBIs for region-champion Bulldogs.

Taylor Hansis

▪ School | North Myrtle Beach

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Pitcher

▪ Notable | Class AAA All-State and North-South All-Star selection went 17-5 for region runner-up Chiefs while piling up 178 strikeouts, an average of 8.8 per appearance, and recording a 1.04 ERA.

Coach of the Year

Sandie Jones

▪ School | Aynor

▪ Notable | Jones steered a talented Blue Jackets team to its first region and state title since the 1990 season. Aynor won its final four region games by a combined scored of 66-2 and then carried that momentum through the playoffs, including the state championship series against Andrew Jackson.

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