Softball player Jewel Lara of Nichols State University and Dulles High School was voted Freshman of the Year in the Southland Conference, and Cayla Jones of Northwestern State University and Elkins High School was voted to the All-Conference first team which was announced last week by the Southland Conference.
Lara, a third baseman, finished second in conference games with a .404 batting average, and tied for first with 36 hits. She was also sixth in doubles with eight and sixth in on-base percentage at .448. For the entire season, Lara hit .344 with 52 hits, 24 runs-batted-in and a slugging percentage of .541.
Lara used her travel team experience to quickly adjust to college play.
“In college everything is more disciplined. There are more rules, and you are representing a university, but on the field the talent is better on an overall basis,” Lara said. “In the off-season, we would meet at 6 a.m. five days a week. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we would stretch and lift weights. On Tuesday and Thursday, we would meet on the football field and do conditioning drills. You really don’t have much free time, especially during the season. You do a lot of studying on the bus trips.”
In her high school and club team play, Lara pitched and played the middle infield positions. “My pitching days are long over,” Lara said. “I like third base. I am really close to the batter, so I just have to react. Compared to shortstop and second base, the angles are really different. At third, everything is just reaction.”
Lara is studying social and behavioral science.
Nichols State won the regular season championship but lost in the conference tournament championship game. Their regular season record was 40-15 and their conference record was 21-6.
Cayla Jones of Northwestern State was voted to the All-Conference first team as a second baseman. Jones ended the 2018 season as one of the top freshmen to have played softball at Northwestern State. Jones’ slugging percentage of .714 was the best ever for a freshman at Northwestern State, and the sixth best overall. Her batting average of .372, 10 home runs and 29 walks rank as the second best for a freshman, and her 41 runs scored rank as third best for a freshman.
“Playing travel softball helped me adjust to the level of play at the college level. Travel ball is a step up from high school ball because every player is really good, and college ball is a step up from travel ball,” Jones said.
Jones tied for fourth in the league with 10 homeruns, and she believes her power comes from her batting style.
“I take a small step toward the pitcher as the pitch is coming, and that momentum really helps me make solid contact,” Jones said.
Jones credits her ability to stay poised and calm during to her time at Elkins.
“I learned how to handle most situations through my time at Elkins,” Jones said.
Jones is studying business administration.
Northwestern State ended the season with a 28-25 record.