Lady Hawks Softball Players Continue to Break New Ground
The Pleasant Grove Lady Hawks softball team continues to go where no Hawk team has ever gone before.
A year after making the team's first ever state semifinal down in Austin, this year's squad won the district title for what was again the first time ever.
Coach Blake Worley's girls went 22-2 overall and 9-1 in district play. I asked the coach if there was added pressure on the team after last year's successes.
"There is a little extra pressure there because people expect us to make it back to Austin and we know that we are going to get every team's best game in and game out. However, this team thrives under pressure, it always has. I feel that we play better under pressure," he said.
The team is striving for so much more than just the district title they won, Worley noted.
"The overall importance of winning the district title doesn't mean much to us. We are proud of it because we like doing things in the program that has never been done before. A district title is a first for us and that is it. Last year proved that. We finished third in district last year and were the only district team to make it to state. Just because you win district doesn't guarantee you anything in the playoffs. This is a whole new season and our goals are much bigger than a district title."
There have been a lot of players who have had a great season for the Lady Hawks.
"Madison Haltom has done a great job for us this season. She has great command of her pitches and is a big part of what makes us successful. Any time she is in the circle, we know we are going to have the chance to come away with the win.
"Faith Lipham, Khadijah Oritola, Kimmie Atienza, and Brette Wacha are the power hitters in our lineup and are capable of driving in runs at any point in the game. They have such good plate-presence and the beauty of it all, is that three of them follow each other in the lineup. So you really can't pitch around anybody. Top to bottom, this is one of the strongest batting lineups we have ever had."
We just need to step out on the field like we own it and play within ourselves. If we do that, I like our chances.
And the coach's list continues.
"Brette Wacha makes her biggest impact behind the plate. She is the leader of our defense and one of the best, if not the best, catcher in the state. Carley Barrett has been a huge impact at the plate with timely hits and situational softball, as well as being a lock-down centerfielder. I feel she is the best centerfielder in our district and has stepped up to replace a senior that we lost last year in Aubrey Ashby.
"Going into the season, I wanted to give her the first opportunity, but wasn't sure how it would go. She has exceeded my expectations. Emily Hilton is a freshman who has taken over at first base this year and had never played the position before. We knew that first base was a question mark going into the season due to the graduation of Mary Kathryn Kyle and that it was going to be a work in progress early on. She took the position with an open mind and competitive spirit and has become the best first baseman I have had in my nine years with Pleasant Grove softball.
"Having said all of that, nothing they do surprises me. I know what they are capable of. I have seen it for years."
If the Lady Hawks are going to make it back to Austin for the state tournament and maybe win it all this year there are some things they will have to do, according to Worley.
"The biggest thing is play within ourselves, play our game, and take it one game at a time. Don't look ahead and don't look back. We are going to have to play clean softball and by that I mean error free. Drive in runs when given the opportunity and give Haltom run support to help her out. If we can do that, I feel good about our chances. This team definitely has the competitiveness and skill set to do it."
No matter what lies ahead, Coach Worley is proud of his team and excited about the fan support they have seen this year.
"I think the fan support has been unbelievable. There have been more fans at our games the last two weeks than there have ever been. It is important to the players because they want to showcase what they can do and they feed off the energy of the crowd. In the last two games, fans have been lined down both fence lines and even started to wrap around the outfield fence. I have never seen that many people at a Lady Hawk Softball game. It means the world to our team and coaching staff to have the community support that we have. It definitely doesn't get overlooked. My hope is that it continues to build as we make our journey through the playoffs," he said.
The Lady Hawks have already advanced to the second round of the state playoffs and will be taking on Ferris in the Area Round this weekend. The best of three series will be played at LeTourneau University in Longview. Game One start time is 4PM, with game Two slated for a 6PM start time. If necessary Game Three will be Saturday beginning at 11AM.
These Lady Hawks have been breaking new ground for the past two seasons. Here's hoping they continue that trend and make it to and win the State Championship. Don't bet against them because this group is something special at Pleasant Grove.
"The overall theme this year has been 'Embrace the Target.' Teams are going to be gunning for us and want to be the one that knocks us off. We just need to step out on the field like we own it and play within ourselves. If we do that, I like our chances."