Playoff plan begins early for Lady Lobo softball

Building upon last season’s historic playoff run didn’t start on the diamond this offseason for the Lehman Lobos softball team.

Instead, Lobo head coach Robert Young understood gains had to be made in the weight room if Lehman seeks similar success it had in 2019.

It’s all part of a plan to prepare his Lobo squad for a 2020 campaign where Lehman won’t be seen as the underdog any longer. While there are questions to be answered, Young hopes returning experience can allow Lehman to “hold the line” and make a return to the postseason.

For Young, that mentality is predicated on a simple question – “Why not us?”

“With the girls we have coming back and experience they have and what we learned from last year, hopefully it rolls over and they understand where they need to be,” said Young.

A critical cog for the Lobos will be returning senior pitcher Lexi Bechtel whose experience in the circle could give Lehman a leg up in district play, Young said. He added Bechtel has also continued to grow as a team leader.

“The people we’ve played in scrimmages have noticed the leadership role that she’s now learning to put on her shoulders,” Young said. “She’s doing stuff that’s been tough for her to do last year.”

Equally returning to the fold will be Ariana Ybarra, Isabell Harrington and Aliyah Tanguma.

“The girls rally to them when the going gets tough,” Young said. “That’s what we’re looking for in our players.

However, Lehman must also fill several sizable gaps, primarily in the outfield. That includes bridging the absence of America Cienega who will miss the season due to a recent back surgery.

Freshman Ariana Rodriguez, who Young said is “heck on wheels,” is expected to pick up the slack while junior Alyssa Ysla will fill the void left by all district catcher Audrey Dienhart.

“I’m going to put the best athlete we have at catcher,” said Young. “She’s (Ysla) working up to that role as best as she can and she’s going to do the best she can.”

Amid his team’s relative inexperience at certain positions, Young felt the field is mostly wide open in 25-6A this season. Last year’s front-runners Hays and Austin High are finding new pitchers while Lake Travis and Westlake continue to rebound and rebuild. In between are Bowie, which also returns most of its roster, as well as Akins and Anderson who both struggled.

At the same time, Young told his team Lehman will not be an afterthought following last season’s success.

“When you put it all out there, everyone is equal (in 25-6A),” Young said. “The only thing holding us back will be us. They’ve taken it upon themselves to fight every possible inning they can.”

Lehman opens the season Monday when they host Austin High at 6 p.m. at Lobo Field.

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