For Juneau-Douglas High School senior Hannah Barril, softball isn't just a springtime activity.
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Her off-season workouts helped shape her into one of the state's premier middle infielders. After helping lead the Crimson Bears to a 19-0 record and a Railbelt Conference title, Barril was honored Thursday with the Gatorade State Player of the Year award.
"There's a lot of other talented softball players," Barril said. "It came as a big shock, and I was pretty excited."
Barril and her JDHS teammates are preparing for the state tournament by playing as part of Juneau's Midnight Suns club team in an Amateur Softball Association of America tournament outside of Portland, Ore.
The two-time defending state champions open state tournament play Friday in Anchorage against the Cook Inlet Conference's fourth-place team. Barril is no stranger to the state tourney after being a part of the last two title teams and earning All-Tournament honors in 2005.
"Down here, we're seeing a lot of better pitching, faster pitchers with more movement and a lot different pitchers," Barril said of the Oregon tournament. "We have teams hitting off our pitchers and putting a little pressure for us, but we're getting fielding experience as well as pitching and hitting."
Barril serves as one of the senior leaders to this season's version of the Crimson Bears.
After accepting an offer last year to play NCAA Division I softball next season with the University of Oregon, Barril intensified her workouts to prepare for her final high school year and Pac-10 competition.
"I worked in the off-season a lot more so I kind of dedicated most of my time to it since I found out I was going to play for Oregon," Barril said. "I really tried and worked harder this year and improved a little more. Being a senior, I had to step up and be a role model and leader."
In the off-season, Barril put herself through a barrage of exercises and drills to sharpen her skills.
"I did a lot of weightlifting and conditioning," Barril said. "I worked a lot. I would go to the batting cage with my coach and work on fundamentals and mechanics."
She also developed her defensive skills. She said she went to JRC/The Alaska Club with a friend and fielded tennis balls in the racquetball courts, developing her defensive instincts and soft hands.
Her off-season work paid off with an outstanding season. Defensively, Barril emerged into a premier second baseman and teamed up with senior Torie Powers to give JDHS a tremendous middle infield.
"One of the things she's doing so much better this year is she's totally going for it, completely," JDHS coach Dave Massey said of Barril's defense. "She's making diving plays and is chasing everything down all over the field."
In addition to her athletic talents, Barril totes a 4.0 grade point average at Juneau-Douglas and is a member of the National Honor Society.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program honors an athlete from each state and the District of Columbia based on academic and athletic achievement as well as overall character.
Barril is also eligible for the national player of the year, which will be awarded on June 6.
"The thing is she works hard on everything, not just softball," Massey said. "She's a well-rounded young lady. ... She plays volleyball as well as softball and works well with that. She works hard on her public service and works hard at school. She always seems to be doing something. It's very seldom she's sitting around doing nothing. She's not afraid to work."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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