Pahranagat Valley sophomore Christian Higbee was the No. 5 pitcher in the Panthers’ rotation a season ago.
Then came one of the hardest-working offseasons in recent memory, according to coach Brad Loveday.
Higbee transformed into a dominant two-way player in Division IV baseball this season, and for his efforts, he was recently named the Southern League Most Valuable Player by league coaches.
“He’s just the epitome of someone that works so hard,” Loveday said. “He threw all year long. He worked on his throwing ability, his arm strength and his control to become a great pitcher for us. He also was in the cage all the time. I’ve never had a kid who worked that hard in the offseason.”
Higbee, who went 8-1 with a 1.67 ERA, didn’t suffer his first loss until the state tournament and finished the season with 53 strikeouts in 42 innings.
He also batted .494 with 38 runs and 31 RBIs to help the Panthers to a 21-4 record.
“He’s by far the best all-around player in Division IV,” Loveday said. “(His) bat is just incredible. When he came to the plate, it was really good for us. And pitching, he didn’t give up his first earned run until the last game of the regular season. He just had a great season.”
Higbee led the All-Southern League first team as a pitcher. He was joined by Panther teammates Paden Higbee, Caleb Hansen, Tabor Maxwell, Wade Leavitt, Jordan Cryts, Anthony Unger, Shawn Wadsworth and Brandon Burris.
Indian Springs’ Nino Alvarez and Ryan Frank also were on the first team.
Round Mountain’s Jake Topholm was named Coach of the Year after leading the Knights to a 15-3 record and a first-place finish in the Central League.
In softball, Indian Springs’ Hannah Thormahlen and Pahranagat Valley’s Jamie Hansen were selected co-Most Valuable Players.
Thormahlen batted .473 with 11 home runs for the Thunderbirds.
Hansen led the Panthers to a third consecutive state title, while shifting between catcher and second base.
Ashlynn Wadsworth, Brook Higbee, Madison Harris, Jade Jewett and Allyse Frehner represented Pahranagat Valley on the All-Southern League first team.
Indian Springs’ Cheyanne Noyes, Britni Mitchell, Halle Jackson, Kayla Noyes and Caroline Stark also made the first team, along with Tonopah’s Megan Donham.
Pahranagat Valley’s Mike Sparrow took home Coach of the Year honors, as his Panthers went undefeated in league play and finished 19-6 overall.