Two of the biggest challenges in high school sports are replacing upperclassmen and finding younger players who can contribute going forward.
For the Lehman Lady Lobos softball team, future players came from the ranks and stepped up to the plate.
While Lehman finished 9-15 overall and missed out on the playoffs, several young players established themselves as future leaders of the program. One player who stood out was freshman third basemen Ariana Ybarra, who earned first-team honors in the 25-6A all district list.
Despite being a shortstop through most of her softball career leading up to high school, Ybarra excelled defensively at third base. Her high school coaches asked her to move to the position, and she made the transition without question.
Not only did she fill a void the Lady Lobos had, she also excelled at the position. Ybarra spent the majority of the season holding down the hot corner. She showed rare defensive consistency at the spot, recording 60 putouts and committing only five errors. But, it was offensively where she shined.
Ybarra was the Lobos’ main leadoff hitter, and a quick look at her statistics show why head Coach Jesse Bustamante trusted her there. Ybarra finished with a .350 batting average, and an On-Base percentage of .425. Her ability to put the ball in play and get on the base paths made her essential to the Lobo offensive attack.
“She is very coachable, and very competitive. She hates to lose,” Bustamante said, noting one play made by Ybarra this season that came to mind. That play came in a narrow 3-2 loss to Lake Travis, when Ybarra came through with an effort that kept the Lobos competitive in the contest.
“In a crucial part of the game, Ariana turned a double play on her own. She caught the ball (line drive), and tagged the runner on third that was potentially going to score. It was one of the best plays we had,” Bustamante said.
For Ybarra, earning all-district honors was a surprising experience. It wasn’t until her coach informed her of the accolade that she realized what it was.
“I didn’t even know it was a thing, and I was surprised because there are girls who have been working at this a lot longer than I have. It was a big honor,” Ybarra said.
Bustamante is ready to hand the keys over to Ybarra as she heads into her sophomore season. He laid out the big goals the two have set together.
“This year we took steps in the right direction, but next year we need to get even better,” Bustamante said. “Her mindset is to become a true leader of the team, so she can take over the team as a sophomore.”
Getting ready for the 2018 season is Ybarra’s goal.
“We need to try not to think about the mistakes we make on the field and let it go. I want to see us bond as a team,” Ybarra said.