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Arkansas' best high school softball players: Meet the state's top shortstops

Some of the top shortstops in Arkansas prep softball

By Kyle Sutherland  

With the high school softball season in full swing, SBLive is looking at the best players in Arkansas. Today, we feature some of the top shortstops across all classifications. This position is usually reserved for some of the best and most athletic players, and this year is no different. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not meant to be a comprehensive list as there are numerous great shortstops statewide. These are players we have seen along with recommendations from coaches. Also, for the purpose of balancing the lists, some players might be mentioned with their secondary positions. 

Abbi Baker | Wonderview | JR

Baker is the best player on the team according to Wonderview head coach Bradley Goodin and can play pretty much anywhere the Lady Devils need her on the field. She has alternated between third base and shortstop, though her natural position is holding down short. Through April 20 she is batting .389 with an on base percentage of .532 and has only struck out twice in 47 at-bats. Defensively she has maintained a .900 fielding percentage.

“Abbi has been a defensive rock for us,” Goodin said. “She has amazing leadership in the role she plays on our team.”

McKayla Betts | Greenbrier | SR

The University of Alabama-Birmingham signee moved over to short from third for her senior year and has adjusted very nicely which just shows her defensive ability in the infield no matter the position. Through mid-April she batted .379 with an on base percentage of .500

“McKayla is the spark of our offense and I can basically put her anywhere on defense” Greenbrier head coach Brian Butler said.

Audrey Blair | Marshall | FR

Even as an underclassman, Blair is one of the primary reasons Marshall has had its best season in quite some time. Pitchers have a tough time fooling her, and she “has power to all fields” per assistant coach Trey Pruitt. She has been incredible at the plate batting .772 with 10 doubles and five triples along with 14 stolen bases through April 20th. She also pitches and has earned two wins to go with two saves.

“I’ve coached with or against almost all top-level players in the state in travel ball,” Pruitt said. “Although there are a lot of good ones, I would not trade her for any of them and she is only a freshman.”

Taylor Bornds | Baptist Prep | SR

Bornds is trying to help Baptist Prep add to its already crowded trophy case before she closes the curtain on her high school career as she has been a huge part of the success as a starter since her freshman year. She possesses great power at the plate and also has what you look for in a shortstop defensively. In a 9-1 victory over Hoxie to win the 3A state title last season, Bornds took part in a massive fifth inning for the Lady Eagles smacking a two-run homer.

Mady Cartwright | Greenwood | JR

Cartwright is one of the state’s top basketball players who recently committed to Tulsa, but also does her job on the diamond currently batting .453 and brings great speed along with power to the Lady Bulldogs’ lineup. Cartwright moved from third to short this season and still holds down third in certain situations, but Greenwood head coach Ronnie Sockey mentioned that she is the primary shortstop.

“She makes things happen for us on offense and has also adjusted well to her new position,” Sockey said. “She is the best at going to get any fly balls and line drives on the left side.”

Melanie Castillo | Fordyce | JR

Castillo has locked down the middle of the infield all season with a .912 fielding percentage but has a big bat in the Lady Bugs’ lineup batting third. She has hit over .450 for the year with an on base percentage of .522 with over a handful of doubles and five homeruns through mid-April. She recently hit for the cycle in a 14-5 victory over Junction City.

“Every time we have batting practice on the field, the other girls take bets on how many balls Mel will hit over that day,” Fordyce coach Rebecca Cash said.

Maci Carver | Glen Rose | JR

Carver also shines on the basketball court as well as in the classroom with a 4.05 GPA, but in current time has had a solid junior season for the Lady Beavers. Through April 20, she has batted .438 with 15 runs batted in, 20 runs scored a home run, and has also walked 20 times. Defensively she has around a .900 fielding percentage.

“Maci is a very hard worker and is determined to be the best that she can be,” Glen Rose head coach Brett Haley said. “Great leader and teammate.”

AC Cox | DeWitt | FR

As the Dragonettes’ fastest player just as a ninth grader, Cox is ranked the 62nd-best freshman in the country per Extra Innings and is very polished particularly for an underclassman. She hits for power and her range in the field is “crazy good” per DeWitt head coach JD Gunnell. Through mid-April, she is second on the team with 11 runs batted in, 21 runs scored, and has hit .379. Above all her talents on the diamond, Cox maintains a 4.0 GPA in the classroom.

“AC is an extremely competitive player,” Gunnel said. “She has the drive to get better that is rare in high school athletes.”

Riley Drake | Quitman | SR

A big-time power hitter for the Lady Bulldogs, Drake has alternated from third base her freshman and sophomore seasons to shortstop the past two years. She bats both third and cleanup depending on the situation. Drake got off to a slow start at the plate this season after batting .476 and hitting 5 home runs in 2021, but defensively has continued to shine through mid-April committing no errors.

“Riley is super game smart and is an excellent leader,” Quitman head coach Stephanie Davis said.

Chloe Durnal | Maumelle | SR

The UA-Rich Mountain commit is the best overall player on the Lady Hornets’ roster according to Maumelle head coach Jared White. She checks all the boxes on primary tools coaches look for in a natural shortstop-arm strength, range, decision making, situational awareness hitting, and of course speed. She has done her job at the plate batting .541 with an on base percentage of .636 and a home run through mid-April.

AJ Fike | Malvern | SO

Fike is as intense of a competitor you will find and bats for power. She also possesses great speed and range at shortstop with a rocket arm. She is currently ranked in the Top 300 for the class of 2024 by Extra Innings and her stock is expected to continue to trend up. Through April 20 she has hit .383 with 15 doubles, 3 homeruns, and 25 runs batted in with a fielding percentage of .889 on defense.

Karielle Forbes | Ashdown | SO

Forbes began the season playing both corners of the infield but proved her worth in the middle and shown she is “right at home” playing shortstop per Ashdown head coach Ashlyn Pelotte. Forbes has hit .433, hit ten home runs, and stole 18 bases through April 20. Defensively she has also impressed with a .909 fielding percentage.

“Karielle is someone we want on the field,” Pelotte said. “She is going to produce at the plate and in the field.”

Shayla Foster | Hackett | SR

Foster has been a part of two state championship volleyball teams for Hackett and is hoping to add a softball trophy before her time as done. Lady Hornets head coach Jeff Oxford has raved about his trio of seniors that Foster is one-third of defining them as the “nucleus of our team.” She is one of the top batters on the team hitting .368 with 17 runs batted in and 29 runs scored through April 20.

Lilly Hood | White Hall | SR

The Texas-San Antonio signee is the spark of the Lady Bulldogs’ offense according to Lady Bulldogs head coach Mark Akins. She has had an impressive career both on and off the diamond boasting a 4.3 GPA and a 27 on the ACT. At the plate batting either third or cleanup, she has hit .640 with 22 runs batted in and 6 home runs through April 20. She also has a fielding percentage of .935 on defense.

“Lilly is a very special kid who loves the game, both the physical and mental sides,” Akins said. “Having her on the field is like having another coach. She has really developed leadership abilities and come out of her shell as far as being a more vocal leader for the whole team.”

Haley Howard | Bauxite | SR

Howard is one of the top batters in a Lady Miners lineup that is one of the state’s most powerful, regardless of classification. Her experience and knowledge of the game is constantly on display, and she also possesses solid speed. Through mid-April she hit .397 with an on base percentage of .453 and 2 home runs.

“On the base path, Haley is dangerous,” Bauxite head coach Maddie Rhodes said. “She knows how to make things happen for this team.”

Gabbi Kelly | Smackover | SR

The SouthArk signee has “been a staple in the heart of the [Lady Bucks] lineup since her freshman year,” per Smackover assistant coach David Preston and has been at, or near, the top of total offensive production throughout her entire career. She has hit just shy of .400 this season with an on base percentage of .467 along with seven doubles and a home run through April 20.

“Gabbi is an anchor at shortstop with her leadership and consistency,” Preston added.

Cheyenne Kemp | Morrilton | JR

Kemp stars for the Lady Devil Dogs basketball team in the winter then sets the sneakers aside for cleats to continue the success at shortstop and at the plate during the spring. She has seen some of the top bats in the state and has still managed to field a .909% on 66 total chances. Offensively, she has batted .492 with six doubles, 31 runs batted in, 9 home runs, and 13 stolen bases through April 20.

Ryleigh Landrum | Lincoln | JR

When discussing Landrum, you certainly must mention her talent, but her consistency and fundamentals of the game stand out as she just simply does her job(s) for the Lady Wolves. Through April 20, Landrum has hit .463 with a .561 on base percentage, 37 hits (including 8 doubles), 16 runs batted in, 15 stolen bases, and a solid .919 fielding percentage on defense.

“Ryleigh is a leader on and off the field,” Lincoln head coach Brittany Engel said. “As our leadoff hitter that successfully gets on base and sets the tone for most of our games.”

Grace Lawellin | Southside Batesville | SR

A four-year starter for the Lady Southerners, Lawellin is nails in the middle infield and also deals in the circle as evidenced by her perfect game on April 5 in a 22-0 win over Blytheville in which she struck out seven batters before the sportsmanship rule was enforced after three innings. At the plate she has created fireworks through mid-April batting .549 with over 30 runs batted in and 5 home runs.

“Grace is a great player for us and her pitching has [also] been lights out this season,” Lady Southerners head coach Bo Gould said. “Really good defender at shortstop.”

Mary Lem | Sheridan | FR

It could be this year, but if not in 2022 Sheridan will be back to its state championship form sooner than later and Lem is one of the multiple young prospects who can get them there. Defensively, she has held her own at third with a .969 fielding percentage and at the plate has hit .478 with a double, three triples, and three home runs through the first couple weeks of April.

Ally Mendoza | Mt. Vernon-Enola | SO

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog” would be a good way to describe Mendoza as she combines her great effort with excellent abilities each time out on the diamond. She is a very smooth middle infielder with great hands and at the plate she hits for average and power. She has hit .538 with a .627 on base percentage with 15 runs batted in, 6 home runs, and 10 stolen bases through April 20.

Terrin Powell | East Poinsett County | SO

Powell came on strong in her freshman year for the Lady Warriors and is a natural at shortstop who possesses great range. At the plate, she is a slapper as the leadoff hitter and has a high contact rate along with good speed. She has been one of the top hitters on the team with over a .420 batting average and an on base percentage of around .470.

Carly Robinson | Rector | SR

Robinson had an excellent junior season earning all-state and was the runner-up for the 2A-3 conference Player of the Year second only to East Poinsett County ace pitcher Keegan McCorkle. She has been stellar at the plate batting .653 with a .691 on base percentage, 18 runs batted in, 27 runs scored and 17 stolen bases as of April 20 and has only struck out three times in three seasons. Defensively, she is just as, or possibly more, efficient with a .985 fielding percentage.

“Carly has continued her stellar season with fantastic all-around play at shortstop,” Rector head coach Chris Richardson said.

Shelby Samples | Benton | SR

It is a tall statement, but of all the talented names on this list, Samples may just be the best in terms of the entire picture. Defensively, she has been perfect through April 20 with a 1.000 fielding percentage on 31 total chances and once again leads the team with a .455 batting average to go with a .508 on base percentage. She has also batted in 14 runners and is a perfect five for five on stolen bases.

According to Benton head coach Heidi Cox, Samples has all the tools needed at short: “Great glove, quick transition, and has lots of speed.”

Kadence Stafford | Bentonville | JR

The Kansas commit is the 46th-ranked overall player, 37th middle infielder, for 2023 per Extra Innings. As it happens often in this game, she got off to a slow start at the plate but got her swag back in games against Bentonville West, Har-Ber, Fort Smith Southside, and Rogers Heritage, going a combined 9 for 15 including a home run against West. 

“Kadence in one word - athlete,” Bentonville head coach Kent Early said. “She possesses a DI arm, fantastic hands, and can play anywhere on the field.”

Ally Snyder | Pottsville | SR

The SAU Tech signee possesses a very strong arm and reads the ball very well. Pottsville head coach Lyndsey Hill mentioned that with all of Snyder’s combined abilities that she is also able to effectively play in the outfield if need be. Batting third, Snyder has hit .436 through mid-April.

“My favorite thing about Ally is that she goes all out and is not afraid to get dirty,” Hill said. “She will lay out for a ball.”

Danessa Teague | FS Northside | SR

Teague has been really good in the middle boasting a .931 fielding percentage on 72 chances through April 20. She has been one of the tone-setters for Northside at the plate batting around .450 with an on base percentage of .516 and has had eight multi-hit games.

“Danessa is the clear leader of our team and has embraced that role,” Lady Bears head coach David Little said. “She has dramatically cut down on her strikeouts from last year.”

Dahana Tuomala | Rogers | FR

Rogers head coach Mike Harper knew in the preseason that Tuomala was one of the top newcomers on what would probably be a very successful Lady Mounties squad and all of that has come to light. Through mid-April, she was second on the team in runs batted in with 18 and has also come on strong in big moments including a home run during the Benton Tournament against top competition.

Ashlynne Vote | St. Joe | SO

As with many on this list, Vote has been seen at third base, but her natural position is at short. Around the mid-April mark, she has been putting up very solid numbers at the plate with a .579 batting average with an on base percentage of .636 and finally a slugging percentage of .842. Defensively she has been on it with a 1.000 fielding percentage with no errors and three double plays.

Jasmine Wakefield | Nashville | SR

Wakefield’s athleticism is impressive to the level that Nashville coach Boomer Brown believes she even possesses the ability of a Division I outfielder if she was not needed in the middle infield for the Scrapperettes. According to Brown, she has great speed/range, great arm, and tremendous accuracy throwing on the run. When up to bat, Wakefield has hit .379 with a .463 on base percentage with two doubles, 18 runs batted in, and 27 runs through April 20.

Jessa Wiles | Carlisle | FR 

Carlisle was hit hard by graduation last season, but Wiles is one of the young stars that has helped keep the Lady Bison afloat. According to Carlisle head coach Jason Golden, Wiles has several invites from teams to attend camps this summer and he fully expects offers to begin rolling in. Through mid-April she has batted .541 with a .594 on base percentage along with 19 stolen bases.

Emma Williams | Ouachita | JR

Williams is typically a mainstay at short but also does the grunt work behind the plate at catcher when the situation presents itself. At the plate she has hit .558 on the year scoring 20 runs and has batted 19 runners in.

Emma is our utility, do it all on defensive player,” Ouachita head coach Corey Brown said. “She has been hot with the bat.

Bailey Willis | Jonesboro Westside | SR

The Jefferson College signee went out with a bang in her final regular season home games on April 20 going a combined six for nine with three home runs and ten runs batted in as the Lady Warriors completed a doubleheader sweep over Highland. In nine games played through April 20, Willis has hit .490 with six home runs, and 21 runs batted in.

Janiah Wilson | North Little Rock | SR

The UCA signee has been doing big things for the Lady Charging Wildcats for a while now and her senior season has not been any different. As a versatile infielder who also lines up at third base in some instances, she has also continued to bat well hitting .551 with a .627 on base percentage with only two strikeouts through mid-April.

“One thing is always certain is that when Janiah is in the box you know she will hit the ball somewhere hard,” North Little Rock head coach Courtney Clark said.

Kaylee Wolfe | Harrison | SR

Opposing coaches around the area have raved about Wolfe’s ability in the middle and the Williams Baptist signee has certainly proven her worth throughout her career. Through April 21, she has batted .345 while scoring 18 runs, 6 doubles, and 2 home runs.

“Kaylee is an easy kid to coach-quiet and leads by example but speaks when needs to and her teammates listen,” Harrison head coach Robin Taylor said. “She hopes to someday be a coach herself.”