Alison Baird can remember just how close her team got to a state championship last season.
The Flower Mound High School softball coach helped lead the Lady Jaguars to the state semifinals in 2020-21, before coming up just short against Deer Park, the eventual state champions.
The disappointment of coming so close to a state title still lingers for the Flower Mound players and coaches as softball season gets underway, and Baird said her team is looking to remedy that in 2022.
“We are determined to pick up where we left off and get better each day and each game,” Baird said. “We are focusing on doing all of the little things the right way in order for the bigger objectives to take care of themselves. We have an amazing pitching staff, and our offense is exponentially better this year.”
Among the offensive players to watch for the Lady Jags in 2022 include short stop and Iowa State commitment McKenna Andrews, Trinity University commitment Carsyn Lee and junior outfielder and Texas Tech commitment Logan Halleman.
On the bump, Flower Mound will be led by Abigail Jennings and Grand Canyon University commitment Landrie Harris.
In spite of finishing 36-4-1 overall and going undefeated in district for its sixth district championship in a row, Baird said her team is not resting on its laurels, and the focus for his year’s squad is twofold—be stubborn and not to take anything for granted.
“We have to work harder than we have ever worked to get back to Austin, so we are determined to play each game like there is something on the line,” Baird said. “This team is committed to the process and committed to each other. They remember what last year felt like and what it took to get there, so they are really excited to prove themselves and to make another long run in playoffs.”
Across town at Marcus High School, the Lady Marauders reached the bi-district round for the fourth straight season in 2020-21.
The Lady Marauders have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since the 2013-14 season, but may have the squad to break the pattern in 2022.
Coach Christy Tumilty said the major objective for her team this season is not simply to win a playoff game, but prove that Marcus is one of the best programs in Texas.
“We want to win district and make a playoff run that takes us to Austin and win state,” Tumilty said.
Marcus returns Alexa Hanish, Haidyn Sokoloski, Tori Edwards, Mackenzi Maxson, Faith Drissel, Raegan Sucher, Alea Deserrano, Avery Rich, Micky Olguin, and Dani Vu to a team that finished 20-8-1 last season, including an 11-3 mark in district 6-6A competition.
Tumilty said that advancing to the state tournament will require her team to focus on one step at a time.
“We have a challenging district, so each game will be a good test,” Tumilty said. “Our first goal is to win district, and that goal will help prepare us for the playoffs.”
Over in south Denton, the Guyer softball team had an outstanding 2020-21 campaign, finishing 24-5-1 overall and advancing to the regional quarterfinals.
Coach Keith Medford’s team tied for first place in district last season, and the Guyer coach said that what makes him most excited about his team’s chances in 2022 is the preparation it has put in.
“I feel like we’ve had the most productive offseason we’ve had in a while,” Medford said. “The kids have really bought in, and we are excited to see the results of our hard work.”
Cohesive teams are dangerous teams, and with top returners for the Lady Wildcats including Megan Ayala, Bre Jackson, Erin Peterson, Avery Jefferson, Teyha Pitts, Lilly Galaviz and Abby Holder, the sky may be the limit.
Medford said that if his team remains committed to doing a few things right, Guyer could make a good run in May.
“Our objectives are to give maximum effort and have a great attitude,” Medford said. “We want to have three things each game: stay focused, stay together, and stay determined.”
Down the road at Argyle, a trip to the regional finals last season has the Lady Eagles hungry for more in 2021-22, and coach Kevin Cook said his team is “getting ready to have a great season.”
Argyle finished 23-10 overall last year with an 8-2 mark in district competition, and return all but one player from last year’s team that went five rounds deep.
Players to watch for Argyle include Hailey Clark, Ava Edwards, Keira Inman, Regan Dillon, and Riley Owen.
Pitching and defense were the bulwark for the Lady Eagles in the 2021 postseason, as Argyle allowed a combined total of four runs through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Cook said to make another good run, the formula is pretty straightforward.
“We’ll need better hitting throughout the lineup,” Cook said. “We must have nine tough outs and continue with strong pitching and defense.”
Just up Hwy 377, the Liberty Christian softball team advanced to the playoffs last season as well, and coach Alex Whitby said while her team may not have a lot of returning varsity experience, the potential is there to make some noise come playoff time.
“We have a lot of young talent coming in, and we are looking forward to seeing a lot of development in the team,” Whitby said. “The girls are learning new positions and are beginning to see growth in our defensive rotations.”
Wentworth Institute of Technology commitment and pitcher Hayley Hines (61 strikeouts) will lead the way on the mound, along with young hurler Sydney Griffin, a freshman whom Whitby said “shows tremendous promise.”
The Liberty Christian coach said the key to making a run at the playoffs in 2022 is staying healthy and developing talent, but added that what makes this year’s team special is the camaraderie.
“They have a great rapport with one another and it’s rare to see a team that all loves each other as much as they do,” Whitby said. “They work hard and they are very coachable.”
Over in Justin is another team that is no stranger to deep playoff runs, the Northwest Lady Texans, which hammered their way to the doorstep of the state-tournament before coming up a little short.
Northwest appears to be picking up where it left off from its state semifinal run in 2021, competing in the NFCA Tournament in Bryan/College Station recently and scoring 58 runs in six games.
The Lady Texans return six starters this year, including seniors Josie Copeland, Courtney Candahl and Avery Morrisette, and the speedy Alexah Reyes is always a threat to run.
Northwest finished 30-7-2 overall last season.