Incoming freshmen Alicia Armstrong and Emily Lockman were each named their respective state's Gatorade Player of the Year for softball on Wednesday. Armstrong was the player of the year in Nebraska, while Lockman earned the top honor for talent-rich California.
The state winners were selected by ESPNHS. Each winner was chosen based on the Gatorade program's three pillars: athletic production and impact in the 2011-12 season, high academic achievement and exemplary personal character.
A Beatrice, Neb., native, Armstrong helped lead Beatrice to a Class B state runner-up finish as a senior in 2011. She hit .690 as a senior - a state record by .095 - with six home runs, 46 runs scored, 27 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. For her efforts, Armstrong was named honorary captain of the Lincoln Journal Star Super-State team. She was also an all-state selection in each of her four seasons. Armstrong finished her career with a .514 batting average - a Nebraska record - while setting Class B state records for runs scored (153) and home runs (20). Armstrong established a total of six state records and 16 school records in her illustrious prep career.
Shawn Carr, head softball coach at Crete High School, told ESPNHS that Armstrong "is the kind of special athlete who doesn't come around very often. If she doesn't hit the ball to the wall for extra bases, she can just steal second base every time. Defensively, she played shortstop as well as anyone I've ever seen."
An all-state selection in softball, basketball and soccer in her senior season, Armstrong also excelled in the classroom, maintaining a 3.94 grade-point average. She also served as president of her senior class and volunteered locally on behalf of youth sports programs and blood-donation drive.
A native of Norco, Calif., Lockman took home the prestigious honor as the top player in the state of California. She completed her high school career last weekend by leading Norco High School to a CIF Southern Section championship, which clinched a final No. 1 national ranking for the Cougars. She posted a 31-2 record as a senior with a 0.35 ERA. Lockman struck out 145 in 220.0 innings and walked only 11 batters all season, posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 13-to-1. She keyed Norco's run to the second section championship of her career by posting a 5-0 record in the state playoffs, throwing three shutouts and allowing only one run and just 16 hits. Lockman also fared well at the plate as a senior, batting .389 with four home runs, nine doubles and 33 RBIs.
In praising Lockman to ESPNHS, coach Bryan Stephens of rival Centennial High School called Lockman a "very dominant pitcher. She believes every time she takes the mound she is going to win. Her stuff is by far some of the best I have ever seen; very difficult to hit with lots of speed and movement."
Off the field, Lockman volunteered her time at a retirement home and as a youth softball coach. She also maintained a 3.95 weighted GPA in the classroom.
From the state winners, a national Gatorade Softball Player of the Year will be selected this summer. Last season, Husker sophomore Mattie Fowler was a finalist for the national award after being named the top player in the state of Arizona.