Softball faces heightened competition


Stu Mair

Junior Emily Weichel makes a catch in the infield during practice. Whittle has been playing softball since third grade.

Nick Smith, Staff Reporter

Despite injuries, players switching positions and increased competition, the softball team currently sits at third place in district standings with a 4-1 record as they prepare to face the Wylie Pirates home tonight at 7 p.m. Along with second place McKinney North, the Pirates are undefeated in district with a 5-0 record, posing a tough challenge for the Leopards.

“Wylie is a pretty good ball club and their two pitchers will be a challenge,” head coach Jeff Roberts said. “While their ace is out with an unfortunate injury, we will definitely have to come out with our A-game and be as successful as we can be at the plate with whoever happens to be pitching. I expected Wylie to be a tough opponent throughout district as they are one of the best coached teams and they have the most talent. I’m not saying we can’t beat them but they are a group of talented, young ladies.”

As the team is almost at the halfway point of district play, the competition for the four playoff spots is at a heightened level. With that said, Roberts has stressed the mantra, “it’s only a big game because it’s the next one,” to his players in order to ease the pressure of certain games’ playoff implications.

“No game means anymore than another, and as long as you get into the top four, anything can happen,” Roberts said. “Lewisville won the state title as the fourth place team in their respective district along with Alvin High School in 6A. Obviously our goal is not to be the fourth place team, but the goal is to get in the playoffs and then see what happens when we get there.”

With frequent absences due to injuries, there has not yet been a practice or a game where the team had all nine starters. As a result, some players have been forced to play out of position. Last Friday, freshman pitcher Mattie Boyd was unable to play against McKinney North, which placed junior Kallie Killingsworth on the mound.

“I used to pitch in select softball when I was younger, but I haven’t been at the mound since I was 10 or 12 years old,” Killingsworth said. “I know Coach Roberts wouldn’t put me in that position to carry our team unless he had confidence in me to execute and he believed I could be successful. Knowing that lessened the pressure a little bit, but there’s still always some anxiousness when I go in, especially depending on the situation of the game at that point. I have also played shortstop and second base this season, but being moved around isn’t a big deal for me as I’ve played everywhere throughout my time playing softball, it’s just a matter of getting used to them again.”

While everyone was soaking up the sun on the beach or hitting the slopes, the softball team played two games over spring break. McKinney North handed the girls a close 7-5 loss on March 15, but the team rallied against Wylie East in a high-scoring 21-12 win. As the team heads into tonight on a two-game win streak with a win against Prosper on Tuesday, junior captain Emily Weichel said the team is happy about its performances in district.

“We’ve been winning for the most part which is obviously the goal and each week are improving,” Weichel said. “We dropped one to McKinney North, which isn’t the result we wanted, but we have since played well and were able to bounce back from it. Injuries have been a big problem for us this season, but a lot of people have been stepping up for the people missing and we’re finding ways to win which is what’s important. Concerning Wylie tonight, the team is really excited and we know we are going to have to come out ready to play as they are such a good team.”