by MOSES LEOS III
As the calendar turns to March, and the weather begins to warm, softball fans get ready to yell and players are looking for glory.
It will be a difficult road for the Hays Lady Rebels and the Lehman Lady Lobos, as both squads will have to navigate through a perilous District 27-4A, which houses some tough teams. Last year Seguin finished in the third round of the 5A playoffs and Lockhart finished in the third round of the 4A playoffs. This year Lockhart is ranked 15 in the first Texas Girls Coaching Association Softball poll of 2013.
Rebel head coach Aaron Fuller summed it up best, “In this district you better show up ready to play each and every night because any team is capable of knocking you off on any given night.”
Here is a preview of what fans can expect from both Lehman and Hays softball in 2012.
Last season was memorable for the Hays High softball team, as the club overcame mid-season struggles to earn a trip to the playoffs. From there, the Lady Rebels would go on a tear, upsetting two state powerhouses, including 2011 state finalist Dripping Springs, en route to a remarkable finish in the UIL 4A Regional Quarterfinal round.
For second year coach Aaron Fuller, the Rebels’ playoff run helped sketch a blueprint for success in 2013.
“This team now knows what we’re capable of and how much hard work needs to go into achieving those goals (of winning a district title and making the playoffs). All we can do to match or surpass last year’s success is continue to work hard every day, stay focused on the task at hand, stay healthy and take the season one game at a time,” Fuller said.
Hays’ gameplan will be predicated on the prowess of their pitching staff, as well as sound defense. Fuller explained, “This year’s team has a lot of potential. We’re strong where it matters most in softball – in the pitching circle, with (junior) Sarah Leal and (senior) Clarissa Gonzalez. We’ve also got a solid defense behind them who are going to make the routine plays.”
Offensively, Hays is equally prepared for the challenge ahead.
“Every girl on our team is capable of producing at the plate and on the base paths. We’ve got a good mixture of speed and power at the plate,” said Fuller.
Hays will have a tremendous amount of depth and experience in the dugout this year; that experience has led to the Rebels’ torrid 6-0-1 start to the 2013 campaign. Hays’ efforts are led by Leal, junior shortstop Maddy Shannon and sophomore Haleigh Madden
“Our pitcher, Sarah Leal, will be the girl leading our team defensively. We also have a third-year varsity starter in Maddy Shannon. Maddy is very solid defensively and produces a lot of offense at the top of our order. Haleigh is a sophomore who started at second base last year as a freshman, who will handle the catching duties and hit in the middle of our lineup this season,” Fuller said. “This year’s team has a lot of potential and I know the girls are hungry for a district championship, hungry to surpass last year’s playoff run, and hungry to play in the state tournament in June.”
This year signals a whirlwind of change for the Lehman Lobos softball team. The biggest being new head coach Bill Holmes, who takes over a program that has struggled to keep tabs with Hays and the rest of 27-4A.
Holmes, who coached previously at Banquete High School, a 2A school near Corpus Christi, brings with him a new attitude in coaching to the Lehman program. With a background in the military, Holmes’ style of coaching is one of discipline and adherence to detail.
“The players have been very receptive to my coaching methods and they understand that the key to our season is: players keeping up their grades, a commitment to hard work, developing solid fundamentals, and learning to come together as a team,” Holmes said.
Even with the change in coaches, the Lobos’ efforts have dwindled little, with the team compiling a respectable 4-3-1 record through eight games.
“The girls have worked hard in the off-season and during the first month of the year. I think we will be very competitive every time we step on the field. We have a good blend of veteran and younger players, most of which play travel ball during the off-season.”
The left side of the infield will be the strength of this Lehman team, which is anchored by senior third baseman Juliana Hernandez, a four-year starter. Along with senior center fielder Jessica Gonzalez, also a four-year stater, as well as junior second baseman Alexis Trotter and sophomore shortstop Aleza Ruiz, Lehman hopes to stay competitive in a very difficult district.
On the offensive side, Holmes said his team’s speed is an asset. “It allows us to put pressure on our opponents’ defense,” he said.
For the Lobos and Holmes, progressing as a group will be the ultimate prize.
“We always want to be competitive, to win every inning, focus on one game at a time and make it into the 2013 playoffs.”