It's tempting to think of the BVarsity Softball Co-Players of the Year award as honoring both the best offensive and defensive players in the county.
On one hand, you have Centennial slugger Madison Aurin, who absolutely raked from the plate during her squad's run to a Central Section Division I title. Aurin, a junior, led the Golden Hawks in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.533), runs (42), hits (56) and RBIs (44).
She had more than half (9) of her team's 17 homers, three of which came in playoff games.
Conversely, there's Taft pitching ace Arizona Pilgrim, who was as dominant in the pitcher's circle as Aurin was in the batter's box.
Also a junior, Pilgrim pitched 165 1/3 of the Wildcats' 208 innings in 2014, compiling a 30-2 record with a 0.76 ERA while also fanning 243 batters. The two-time All-Area first-teamer recorded 26 complete games in 32 starts with 13 shutouts. Pilgrim was the centerpiece of the Wildcats' second straight D-IV Valley championship squad.
Co-Players of the Year: one offensive, one defensive. Seems pretty simple, right?
Wrong -- it's not quite as cut-and-dry as one might think.
That's because for both Aurin and Pligrim, specialty did not mean exclusivity. Indeed, though both players excelled in one facet of softball, they contributed to their team on the other end as well.
For Aurin, this meant alternating starts all season long with classmate Trish McNew. Aurin would then exchange one glove for a pair and headed to the batter's box, intent on igniting the Golden Hawks' offense in whatever way she could.
"That kid is just a phenomenal athlete," Centennial coach Samantha Walker said. "You ask her to do something, she'll do it."
"She was the spark," Walker added. "If our first two batters didn't get on, if (Aurin) got on, we were scoring a run one way or the other."
And Aurin simply wouldn't let her phenomenal batting get in the way of her pitching, going 10-0 in 14 appearances with a strikeout-walk ratio of better than 4:1. At the end of the day, however, the team title was her biggest satisfaction.
"I was very impressed by the season, I was very happy," Aurin said. "I was just happy that we could accomplish winning league undefeated and Valley for our seniors."
Like Aurin, Pilgrim ventured somewhat outside her comfort zone this season and took a larger role in the offensive lineup--doing it with remarkable numerical success. She raised her batting average over 100 points from a year ago and had 22 RBIs on 23 hits.
"She really worked on staying back," said Taft coach Russell Emberson. "Her biggest thing is sometimes she gets out in front of pitches too early. And she's worked on staying back and seeing the ball."
Pilgrim also made big strides with the ball in her hand, especially with her control and pitch location: She walked nine fewer batters than in 2013 despite pitching 25 more innings.
"(I was) hitting my spots more and just had a lot more control," Pilgrim said.
Emberson said Pilgrim has become a complete pitcher.
"She's improved her location, she's added pitches," he said. "We've been able to throw any pitch (with) any count. She's just taken charge and is in control all the time."
And the journey -- the development, the progression -- doesn't end here for Aurin or Pilgrim, who both have another season to prove just how in charge and in control they are.