As players huddled around him near first base Friday, Lehman Lobo head softball coach Robert Young passionately reminded them of the steep uphill climb they had just surmounted.
Such a viewpoint might have been difficult to grasp after the Lobos’ 2019 campaign came to an abrupt close in a 11-0 bi-district run-rule playoff loss to the state-ranked New Braunfels Canyon Cougarettes.
Getting to that point, however, spoke volumes about the long and winding journey Lehman’s softball program successfully trekked. It culminated in the Lobos accumulating a program-record 24 wins and their first playoff appearance in six seasons.
Amid the doubters, naysayers and constant tumult, Lehman accomplished the one goal it sought all season long – proving them all wrong.
“We want people to change what they think of Lehman softball and how we can make the playoffs at the 6A level, instead of just being at the bottom,” Lobo senior infielder Seryna Avalos said.
Lehman’s path toward its first postseason berth since 2014 centered on adjustments beyond the field, Young said. Challenging players to “punch in” and put in the work, believing that it will lead to bigger and better things was part of the process.
Such a premise was easier said than done, however, for a Lobo softball program that’s gone through four coaching changes in as many years. Young lauded his senior class, which has been impacted by the constant coaching changes, as “building blocks” for the team’s overall success.
Both Avalos and Lobo senior catcher Audrey Dienhart felt team cohesion was a critical component.
“I knew what they were capable of doing, so long as they changed their attitudes on certain things and for everyone to get behind each other,” Young said. “People are going to doubt you all the time. We can’t fall into it and doubt ourselves.”
That belief manifested in the Lobos keeping Canyon’s explosive offense in check early on. Leading the effort was Lobo pitcher Lexi Bechtel, who gave up only two runs over the first three frames.
“We just played. We had nothing to lose, so we had to just play,” Dienhart said.
Canyon, however, flexed its muscle and scored nine combined runs in the fourth and fifth frames to speed away from the Lobos.
On the opposite end, Lehman’s offense couldn’t catch up to Canyon pitcher Aliya Pritchett, who limited Lehman to no runs on two hits in a complete game effort. Young said while the Lobos were able to draw contact off of Pritchett, his batters couldn’t capitalize when they had their chances.
“We held them for as long as we could,” Young said. “I knew they were going to bust something open. I knew we had to counter and we didn’t. We didn’t have enough.”
That success is something Avalos and Dienhart hope can translate to the next crop of Lobo softball players.
While they’ve had coaches come and go, Dienhart said making the postseason showed it doesn’t always “take a coach to change us playing.”
Instead, getting players to believe and to buy in to the prospect of success helped to raise the bar. Avalos hopes their efforts sets a trend that will continue once they step off of the playing field.
“There’re so many people who doubted us and our program since we did have four different coaches,” Avalos said. “We say it’s going to be a good year and we just give it our all.”