With four of the five softball teams in Southern Denton County making the post-season in 2011, the 2012 campaign is looking very promising, indeed.
A number of the state’s top players hail from the region and look to make their programs proud again as the diamond sports are set to get underway.
Argyle, the one program that did not make the playoffs in 2012, is in much better shape heading into this season than last, and coach Natalie Coonrod said the Lady Eagles are looking to improve on their 3-7 mark in district from last year.
“Our struggles last year were mainly in regard to lack of confidence,” Coonrod said. “We were a young team with a very tough schedule. The girls have spent the summer and fall refocusing and redefining who they are as young ladies and as softball players.
“I strongly believe this will be a very different year for our program.”
Look for senior catcher Kate Walker and junior short stop, Blair O’Brien, both of whom were District 9-3A 1st team All-District selections last season, to anchor the Argyle lineup.
Coonrod said the team has had a taste of competition this season, and she has been impressed with what she has seen.
“Our first scrimmage went very well,” Coonrod said. “A few highlights included our pitching (Alyssa Bruton had 12 strikeouts in just 5 innings of work), base running (3 for 3 on steals), and our short game. Putting the ball in play consistently will be our area of focus for the remaining scrimmage.”
Coonrod said she anticipates Pilot Point, Sanger and Aubrey to be the teams to beat this year in district.
Down the road at Liberty Christian, coach Stephanie Ritter is feeling extremely confident about her teams’ chances heading into the season following a 23-8 mark in 2011 and second place finish in district competition.
“We have strong leadership from our senior and junior classes,” Ritter said. “Although our team is young, we have experience, and I look forward to a winning season.”
Liberty had a 9-3 district record last season and lost in the opening round of the playoffs to Holy Cross.
Ritter said the Lady Warriors have a couple of objectives for the coming season.
“We want to bring home a first place trophy in the tournament we are co-hosting with Argyle High School on February 16-18,” Ritter said. “We also want to have a successful pre-season and take first place in district.”
When it comes to the teams to watch for in her district, Ritter did not mince words.
“We, Liberty Christian, are one of the top teams to beat in district this year,” Ritter said. “We hope to beat all the teams in our district, but we have a few competitors that will have us holding our breath. The teams to beat are Nolan Catholic, Bishop Lynch and Ursaline Academy.”
Look for Kelsie Finch, Mckenzie Middle, Anna Payne and Rachel Rainwater to lead the way for Liberty Christian this season.
Heading north to Guyer High School, the Lady Wildcats finished 11-3 and were district runner-ups in 2011, and look to make a push for a district championship in 2012.
Last year’s Pitcher of the Year in district 7-5A, Suzette Palmer, is back and along with Kennedy Been, Kaitlyn Thomas, and Megan Washam, should make Guyer a force once again.
For Flower Mound, a fourth place finish in district last season was not something coach Mark Larriba’s squad was expecting and he said his team is more mature in 2012.
“Things are shaping up pretty good,” Larriba said. “We are excited to get on the field and see what we can do. We pretty much have everybody coming back except our pitcher and catcher, and we have good replacements for them.”
Larriba said some of his stronger returners include short stop Brooke Holloway, Christy Lisenbee, who will be catching this season, Ashley Fultz at second base and outfielder Katie St. Pierre.
Flower Mound was in second place heading into the last game of the season last year, and lost a tie breaker to finish fourth.
“We were in the playoffs, but we were expecting second place,” Larriba said. “We had a young team last season, and this year we have a lot of juniors and seniors. We are looking to get better every time we play. We want to make the playoffs and make a deep run.”
Over at Marcus, the Lady Marauders wrapped up last season with a three-round run in the post season, and coach Christy Tumilty said things are looking good again this year.
“We’ve had two great weeks of practice, which we don’t normally have at the beginning of the season,” Tumilty said. “We’ve been working hard. We’ve got a lot of new people on varsity this year, and they’ve getting better and better.”
Pitcher Hannah Null, shortstop Dani Warne, Ashley Hardin at second base and center fielder Jessica Webb should be among the team leaders this season for Marcus.
The Lady Marauders finished second in district with a 22-11 overall record last year and advanced to the regional quarterfinals.
Tumilty said the expectations for this season are pretty much the same as they always are.
“I approach the season in three parts,” Tumilty said. “In the non-district, we are hoping to get in a lot of games and gain experience. When district rolls around, we want a set line up, and being so tough, our goal is to make the playoffs. I feel we have the kids that can do that, and then in the playoffs, we want to have a good run.”
Tumilty said she expects Plano, Hebron and Flower Mound are among the teams to beat in district.