Dripping Springs Tiger senior Lexi Poehl couldn’t help but crack a smile with teammates during a post-game ceremony following Friday’s state semifinal loss to the Willis Wildkats.
Yes, Poehl and the Tigers shed bittersweet tears as they received medals that signified the end of a season that finished two wins short of the school’s first-ever softball state championship.
Amid the disappointment, Poehl and the Tigers still kept smiling, kept cracking jokes, and kept the bond they had during one of the most successful runs in Dripping Springs softball history.
“We are a great team and we work so well together,” Poehl said. “I couldn’t be more proud of every single girl on this field. They’re amazing and they have the best hearts and attitudes.”
Wade Womack, Dripping Springs head softball coach, said he wanted to help his team feel the exhilaration he experienced when he helmed the 2007 Medina Panthers to a state championship game.
For the first time since 2011, Dripping Springs came awfully close to making that a reality.
During the course of the 2017 campaign, Dripping Springs etched a program record 35-win season. The Tigers also secured the 26-5A district crown in dominant fashion, dropping only one game in district play.
The Tigers then navigated a challenging path through the playoffs, which included three games against state ranked Austin High and Richmond Foster.
Womack, who has reached the state tournament three times in his career, also understands that sometimes, it just isn’t meant to be.
For the Tigers, running into a Willis team that had just a little bit more was the way the cookie crumbled.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose, especially on this stage,” Womack said. “But if we’re going to lose, you’d rather lose in the state tournament and not in the regional finals.”
Haley Odell, Dripping Springs senior first baseman, said she was proud of her teammates and added that they “mean so much to me.” She said the team’s ability to stick together led to success on the field.
“We had the closest team I’ve ever been on. It’s the best team I’ve been on,” Odell said. “If I could start the season over again, I would.”
Tiger senior pitcher Kiele Miller, who has been the backbone of the Tiger defense, said she was heartbroken following Friday’s defeat. It was the last game she was going to play with her teammates and her best friends.
But Miller, who will continue her softball career at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., never lost sight of the accomplishments she and her teammates achieved. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways are memories she forged with her teammates, who helped her grow during her four years in high school.
“We left our mark and that’s what we wanted. The whole idea is we wanted to be remembered …. We wanted our community to remember us. We wanted to leave it all on the field, and I think we did.” Kiele Miller, Lady Tiger pitcher
Poehl, who will attend Texas A&M on an academic basis only next year, said she was going to miss the atmosphere of the dugout the most.
“I’ve never met girls better than these girls. A team that’s clicked more, I’ve never seen one,” Poehl said. “We got along so well. There are no cliques on the team. We could all hang out with each other.”
Womack said he would miss his senior class, who were only freshman when he took over the program from the late Keith Tuck four years ago. Womack said the seniors are a “special group” that welcomed him in.
“We had a lot of great memories together. We had a great run last year,” Womack said. “I’m glad they got to experience what the state program is all about.”
Poehl lauded the support from many in the community based on their run to state.
“It’s amazing coming from a small town and looking up into the stands and being able to see people from our past state semifinal team come to see us, as well as friends and family,” Poehl said. “They traveled to come and support us, because it’s such an achievement.”
Lady Tigers’ Season by the Numbers
- 35 – Number of wins in 2017 – breaks the previous record of 33, which was set in 2008
- .795 – Tigers’ season win percentage
- 15-0 – Tigers’ record at home in 2017
- 13-1 – Tigers’ 2017 26-5A record
- 1,299 – Total plate appearances by Tiger batters in 2017
- 219 – Total RBIs accrued by Tiger hitters
- 277 – Total runs scored by Tigers
- .324 – Team season batting average
- 17 – Homeruns hit by the Tigers
- 8 – Homeruns hit by Kiele Miller
- 170 – Bases stolen by Tiger baserunners, a school record
- 57 – Bases stolen by Camille Corona
- .961 – Team year fielding percentage
- 818 – Put-outs by the Tiger defense
- 10 – Double plays turned by Tigers
- 1.25 – Combined team ERA by three Tiger pitchers
- 274 – Total innings pitched by Tiger pitchers this season
- 374 – Total strikeouts by Tiger pitchers
- 278 – Strikeouts by Kiele Miller