By Moses Leos III.
Much like his roster of Lady Lobos, head softball coach Bill Holmes has never taken part in a playoff game.
That wait will come to an end on Friday. After a seven-year hiatus, the Lehman Lady Lobos – along with Holmes – will make their first-ever playoff appearance.
They’ll bring their inaugural playoff run against 28-4A champions San Antonio Brennan. Lehman and Brennan square off in a three game series, with game one at Lehman on Friday at 6 p.m. Games two and three (if necessary) will be played at the Northside Softball Field #2 in the Hardin Athletic Complex in San Antonio on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m.
“I feel happy for the program and the community,” Holmes said. “I’m happy to come through for them and get the program in the right direction. I hope to lay the foundation for the future.”
Lehman’s success is guided by the “missing piece” from last year – senior pitcher Sam Villegas.
Over the course of the season, Villegas has accrued a 2.02 ERA over 138.2 innings pitched; so far, she struck out 130 batters.
Holmes was impressed by Villegas’ progression during district. Over 88.2 innings, Villegas notched 84 strikeouts, while keeping her ERA to 2.56 ERA.
Several factors contribute to this success. The biggest occurred when Holmes allowed Villegas to use her entire arsenal of pitches. From there, he began to instruct his senior on expanding the plate and taking advantage of batters.
“I’ve told her to paint the corners and get ahead in count,” Holmes said. “Once that happens, she can open up her toolbox and work the batter.”
Helping Villegas has been sophomore catcher Kynslee Noriega. Since the start of district, Holmes has trusted Noriega with calling Villegas’ pitches at the plate.
“[Noriega] is going to develop into an outstanding catcher,” Holmes said. “She is smart and catching on to strategy.”
Behind the battery is a defense that’s tenacious and trustworthy, led by sophomore Clarissa Rayos, junior Erin Mendoza and senior Alexis Trotter.
Offense is where Lehman has steadily improved during the year. The top of the lineup, led by speedy leadoff batter Rayos, spearheads it. Helping is junior Angel Cruz, who has batted .300 during district, along with Trotter, who Holmes said is a multi-faceted hitter.
The key for Lehman is bringing across runners in scoring position.
Lehman accomplished it against Schertz Clemens to earn its playoff berth. However, they struggled against Boerne Champion in a 3-2 loss on Friday – Lehman had runners in scoring position in five of seven innings.
“The top of (our) order gets on base a lot. It’s up to middle of the lineup to get them in,” Holmes said. “That’s what we’ll work on this week.”
The team now focuses on San Antonio Brennan – a team that “carries a big roster,” according to Holmes. He said they’d approach Brennan much the same way they took on Hays and Lockhart.
Despite the challenge, being able to make history leaves an electric feeling across the team.
“It’s something that is going to be with (the players) forever,” Holmes said. “With our supporting cast, it feels good to put it all together.”