Models of consistency. Peak performers. Coming through in the clutch.
Most Valuable Players hold all three of these characteristics and more, and four athletes put them on display in leading their respective teams to successful region seasons and state championships.In reward of their outstanding performances on the softball diamond, Alta's Nikki Hill, Box Elder's Marcie Neff, Lyndi Frei of Snow Canyon and Kelli Adams of Millard have been selected as Deseret News Most Valuable Players for 1999.
The MVP quartet headlines this year's All-State softball teams, which were chosen by a ballot of the state's coaches.
5A -- NIKKI HILL, ALTA: On a team full of top-notch players, this catcher was crucial in helping the Alta Hawks put "state champion" in front of their name.
A second-team all-state selection last season as a designated hitter, Hill moved in behind the plate to catch Alta's three different pitchers and was absolutely perfect. She committed no errors while catching every game the Hawks played.
Hill's prowess at the plate was just as good. The junior compiled a .485 batting average, a .667 slugging percentage and led her team's offensive attack with 10 RBIs.
"Offensively, she carried us the last three weeks of the season," said Alta coach Vaughn Alvey. "She got every big hit."
Hill's numbers were just as strong in the state tournament as they were during the regular season. She drove in the game's only run in a tough, second-round victory against Taylorsville, then batted .400 and had a slugging percentage of .600 in Alta's final three games.
"For a catcher to be back there everyday to receive, and then to carry us offensively, it was huge," added Alvey.
4A -- MARCIE NEFF, BOX ELDER: Nothing was going to stop this tough competitor from guiding her team back to state supremacy. And nothing is what the opposition had to show after facing her on the final day of the state tournament.
With her team in a win-or-go home situation, Neff hurled 20-consecutive shutout innings as Box Elder defeated Weber once and Fremont twice on the tournament's final day to claim its fourth state title in the last five years. The senior finished the tournament with a paltry 0.44 earned run average, while leading the team offensively with a .389 batting average.
Even when Box Elder coach Jim Fuller wanted to have a pinch runner enter the championship game for her, she refused the request, stating she was quite capable of running for herself.
"She's a competitor and a half and she puts it all on the line," said Fuller of his four-year starter. "It's going to be a big void for us. She's a tremendous athlete and a great person."
Neff's abilities weren't just apparent on the final day of the season, though. For the year, the future Ricks College player had an earned run average of 1.12, with 10 shutouts along the way. A three-time first team all-state selection, Neff also helped herself out at the plate, leading the Bees in hitting with a .396 clip and also in scoring runs, crossing the plate 28 times.
3A -- LYNDI FREI, SNOW CANYON: With the memories of last year's painful loss in the state title game still lingering, Frei was ready to strike out everything in sight to give her team another chance at a championship this season.
In posting a 25-2 record for the year, the junior averaged nine strikeouts per game (246 total), pitched a perfect game and tallied 14 shutout victories.
Once the Warriors got to the state tournament, Frei was at her best. In her team's final four games, she struck out 37 opposing batters, allowed just 10 hits and one run and hurled three straight shutouts.
In the championship game against Union, Frei struck out 11 Cougar batters and allowed just two hits.
A first-team all-state selection last year, Frei typifies the true student-athlete, carrying a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
2A -- KELLI ADAMS, MILLARD: Entering this season, Adams was a bit of an unknown, playing behind all-state pitcher Brenda Barnhurst last year.
However, it didn't take long before teams quickly remembered her name.
The senior tossed three no-hitters and 12 shutouts and whiffed 227 opposing batters en route to a 20-4 record. In leading Millard to its first softball title, Adams had 22 strikeouts in the first two games of the state tournament.
After South Sevier had handed Adams and the Eagles their first loss of the tournament in the championship round, she bounced back to lead Millard to a 9-2 win. In that final game, Adams reached base safely three times and scored twice.
"She was definitely the leader. As the team goes, she goes," said Millard coach Frank Bramall. "At crucial times, she just always made the big plays when we needed them."
Adams was also a force at the plate this season, batting .612 with six doubles, four triples and two homers.