by MOSES LEOS III
To fully appreciate how much the Hays High Rebel softball team has done to be ranked the second best team in Class 4A in Texas, you just have to look back to the end of the 2012 season.
At that time, the Rebels were not the powerhouse club that has been terrorizing District 27-4A halfway through the 2013 campaign.
Back then, the Rebels were a work in progress. They were learning how to win, getting the feeling of how to succeed. Their record was 15-16 with a fourth place finish in district. But, the Hays Rebels were not discouraged. In fact, they were encouraged by the fruits of their labors.
“We felt that we played well last year,” said head coach Aaron Fuller, who navigated Hays in his first full year as head coach in 2012. “We were pleased with what we had done.”
It might have been the fact that no one expected anything from Hays. After all, going into the 2012 postseason, Hays had not won a playoff game since 2001. According to Fuller, the only people who believed Hays would perform well in the playoffs were the Rebel players and fans themselves.
Their confidence just might be the key to their success this year. Three rounds and a historic finish in the UIL playoffs last year have put the Rebels on everyone’s radar in 2013.
Hays continues to ride the momentum from their playoff run last season. The Lady Rebels currently hold a 21-1-1 record overall, with a 6-0 mark in district play – and they are ranked as the second best team in the State of Texas in Class 4A, according to the March 18 Texas Girls Coaches’ Association (TGCA) softball poll.
For Fuller, the run so far in this season is credited to the leadership of the team’s seniors – Clarissa Gonzalez, Brayden Pinckard and Hannah Ramsey. “We had a lot of returning starters from our playoff run last season,” Fuller said. “All of the girls that have returned this year know what it takes to win. They’ve tasted that success, and they want to go further this year.”
All three seniors understand how much work it takes for the team to get to this point, and how much more will be needed to achieve their goals.
“It is nice to be ranked number two in the state,” said Ramsey, who has a .477 batting average in 23 games, hitting five triples and driving in 19 runs. “However, we are not satisfied with that right now. The only thing that matters is where you stand at the end of the year. We are definitely going to work hard, no matter what. We want to finish at the top.”
Despite the success the ranking allows, both Pinckard and Ramsey were adamant that the team must maintain a sense of humility.
“We are a humble team, so we want to continue to stay that way,” said Pinckard, who has driven in 22 runs on 29 hits, holding a .618 batting average. Gonzalez , who has ten doubles, 30 RBIs and a batting average of .414, added, “We are going to stay focused; to take things one game at a time,”
Making sure they do not take district opponents lightly would allow the team to continue success, Ramsey said. “We know that every other team in our district is working hard towards (a district championship). We must respect all of our opponents.”
Still, the high ranking has put the proverbial “target on their backs.” While the team finds it fascinating – Ramsey said it was a “cool feeling” to be the team to beat – the Rebels are cognizant of the perils being ranked that high can cause.
“We try to use (the poll) as motivation. Last year, when no one realized how good we were, we took people by surprise. Now, they know that we are state ranked. I tell my kids, ‘We have a huge target on our back; we are the team everyone is gunning for. We need to go out and be focused every game, because our opponents will give us their ‘A’ game every day’,” Fuller said.
At this point, the Lady Rebels must shift their way of thinking as the season progresses. With half of the district schedule complete, the Rebels know a long road lies ahead before they can rest on their laurels.
“(Our goal) is to go as far as we can, to work as hard as we can as a team,” Gonzalez said. “We want to make this our best year, with the ultimate goal of winning a state title.”
For the three seniors, their duty not only lies with sustaining this season’s success, but with cultivating the younger players.
“We want to show that hard work will pay off, and to just stay humble,” Pinckard said.
Yet the sky is the limit for the Hays softball team, which is in the midst of a 15-game win streak. This is only the beginning for Fuller and the Lady Rebels. “Every game counts and it’s not over yet,” Gonzalez said.