There has been a stigma surrounding the Little Elm softball team known as the second-round curse.
The Lady Lobos have had stellar squads in each of the previous two campaigns but simply could not advance beyond the area round of the postseason either time.
After outlasting Azle on Saturday, Little Elm’s historic season continued into the regional semifinals this week – furthering a process that began last summer.
Back in August, the captains gathered the team together for a meeting to discuss not only their potential going into 2019 but also to get everyone simply on the same page.
Little Elm was coming off of a season where it had its third head coach in as many years and was entering year No. 2 under Jill Miller.
Seasoned players like junior pitcher Lauren Lucas and seniors Izzi Fielder and Tatum Mowry handled the majority of the speaking at the meeting, which greatly impressed Miller and her staff.
“We looked at these girls in August and thought this is a special group and better than they were last year,” Miller said. “We knew that our core group of girls had more experience and knew what it was like in the playoffs. We wanted to go further this time.”
The Lady Lobos brought back a plethora of key returners in Fielder, Mowry, sophomore Mikayla Roy, and juniors Alyssa and Madison Adams and, of course, Lucas. The standout ace has been the Lady Lobos’ go-to pitcher in the circle all season long as well as being one of the team’s marquee hitters in the heart of the lineup.
The Wichita State commit is one of the top two-way players in the state and her play on the field and leadership capabilities in the dugout have aided tremendously in the success of the ballclub.
“Obviously,[Lucas is] a huge contributor offensively and defensively, but her wanting everyone to be included and pushing us is awesome,” said Avery Glover, sophomore catcher. “She really motivates me and has helped me want to be better and win.”
Lucas’ contributions go unmatched, but it’s the addition of a young, fresh face to this year’s crew that has ultimately made the biggest difference from last season.
Freshman catcher Georgia Heathcock has stepped in and not only made an immediate impact, but she has also filled two major voids that Little Elm faced last offseason.
The Lady Lobos desperately needed someone to fill in the shoes left behind at the catcher position, a spot that Miller believed would have to be played by a committee going into last summer.
Heathcock, who is naturally a third baseman, took over as the everyday catcher and even as the No. 4 hitter in the order and has thrived. The freshman has even had marvelous moments this postseason, including a grand slam to help secure the series sweep in round two over Mansfield Legacy that uplifted the second-round curse.
“Georgia is a beast, period,” Glover said. “She has been like the glue and final step it took to push this team. Her heart is there and has the soul for softball.”
After sweeping Legacy, Little Elm wasn’t done there, as the Lady Lobos then faced a stout Azle opponent that gave them all they could handle.
In fact, Miller’s unit lost Game 1, something they had also done in their first-round series against Grapevine before coming back to take Games 2 and 3. Then in Game 2 against Azle, Little Elm’s stellar season hung in the balance and faced elimination after falling behind by four runs in the second inning.
But the Lady Lobos’ resiliency went on full display soon after, as they continued to chip away at the lead.Thanks to some midgame advice from Mowry, they escaped with a come-from-behind victory after notching at least one run in each inning.
“I kept telling them if we could score one run each inning we’re going to win,” she said. “I always come up with that stuff mathematically speaking. I’m the nerd of the team, and well, we ended up on top.”
The late rally propelled Little Elm to a convincing Game 3 triumph, which not only sent the Lady Lobos to the regional tournament for the first time ever, but also marked the first time any Little Elm sport has reached the fourth round of the postseason.
“Regardless of what happens this week, this season has been a very teachable moment and this team has made history,” Miller said. “They will forever be in the history books at Little Elm.”