BENTON, Ark. — Weeks removed from going back-to-back as class 5A state champions, Benton Softball picked up a significant honor on Thursday. Junior pitcher and third baseman Alyssa Houston was named the Arkansas Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, marking the first time a Lady Panther has ever earned the recognition.
“It was shocking for me to get it as a junior,” Houston told FOX16’s Nick Walters. “I always see seniors get it and there’s a lot of good ball players around Arkansas… To be noticed in our state is amazing.”
Houston helped lead Benton to an undefeated season with a 34-0 record. The Lady Panthers haven’t lost since Houston’s freshman year in 2020, rattling off 64 straight wins to date. In Benton’s recent 3-2 state final win over Greene County Tech, Houston threw four innings of hitless relief with 10 strikeouts. The 36th-ranked recruit in the class of 2023, she’s proud to have given her senior teammates a proper sendoff while defending their home turf.
“I got to do it on the place I love most, our home field.”
A multi-sport athlete also playing basketball, Houston’s path to this honor hasn’t been without its adversity. She says that coming up as a Black pitcher was difficult, as it was considered uncommon. From a young age, Houston’s mother offered motivation that has since translated into talent garnering national attention at Benton.
“I remember crying one day in the car because we had lost, and I was like ‘it’s on me,’ Houston said. “My mom told me ‘you are going to work hard and prove that you belong to be out here.’”
“I feel like I’ve done that this year.”
Houston is now a nominee for Gatorade’s national player of the year award, selected amongst the 50 winners by state. Read more about Houston and her honor here.