While polishing the State Class 4A Division II football trophy, put a softball title right on the same shelf.
The team, now ranked No. 19 in the state according the latest poll, is cutting a path through District 13-4A. After six games in the first round, they're 5-1 and alone in first place.
"We're taking it one game at a time," Sulphur Springs head softball coach David Carrillo said with a smile as he dusted off the cliche. "That's really our approach, everybody says it. But if we take care of our business in each game, we will be all right."
This week is another big one for the Lady Cats with three district games on the schedule. They already have two wins in two days with victories over Texas High and Mount Pleasant. With Marshall on the schedule for Friday, it leaves little time to celebrate cracking the state rankings of the first time since Carrillo has been at Sulphur Springs.
"I told the girls that we were ranked 19th and that you don't win district on paper," Carrillo said. "But it's great to get the recognition. It's good to know you are getting noticed. These girls have worked hard to get this recognition, I thought we might have been ranked earlier in the year. We've beaten teams like Rockwall Heath, Rowlett. Also some of the teams in 3A teams we’ve beat or played right with them. I think we are one of the top softball programs in the area."
Carrillo said his team’s offense is not as consistent and he would like, but other facets of the game have been carrying the softball team.
"I am really pleased with our pitching and defense," Carrillo said. "We have to stay focused and everything will fall into place for us."
Assistant softball coach Eric Buck said the notice has come due in part to the tough non-district schedule they played against some of the top Metroplex teams.
"We’ve had a tough tournament schedule," Buck said. "The competition was good for us and it was good exposure for the girls."
The Lady Cats during the year have scored more than 100 runs more than their opposition. They are putting up 7.05 runs a game, while allowing 3.04. Sulphur Springs is hitting .348 as a team, while opponents are hitting .233.
Third baseman Mac Morgan is the leading hitting with a .487 average and a slugging percentage of .705. She leads the team in RBIs with 22, runs with 34, triples with four. Kara Tomlinson has 21 RBIs with a .377 average. Katie Dodd leads the team with nine doubles, she has 19 RBIs and is hitting .354 for the year. Other top hitters are Kaci Kennedy, .400; Maurie Lewis, .395; T’Kea Johnson, .353; JaMonica Hall, .333 with 24 runs scored; Jalie Eppars, .315 with 17 hits; Brittani Crawford, .295 with 24 hits and 16 RBIs.
In district, Morgan has 10 RBIs in six games, hitting .476 with a slugging percentage of .810. Johnson also has been averaging one hit a game, in district.
Kennedy has an 11-2 pitching record with a 1.87 earned run average with 65 strikeouts in 52.1 innings. Taylor Clifton is 6-4 with a 2.22 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 82 innings.
The team is sparked by four seniors, each contributing in their own way. All four are members of the infield. Kennedy is a pitcher with Krista McMahan a steady force at second base; Crawford plays shortstop and Dodd is a returning all-state first baseman.
"Being ranked is pretty awesome," Kennedy said. "To be up there in the Top 20. We bonded together this year, pretty well. Our pitching has been consistent. I hope we go far, I think we will."
Kennedy continued, "Lately we have been ahead and I like pitching with the lead. It takes all the stress off me. Plus I know that if I am a little off or give us some hits, Taylor Clifton can come in pitch the rest of the game.I worked out in the off season, I got a little faster with my pitches."
Dodd said, "Us being ranked gives us a boost. A bunch of people know we are really good, but not that we're ranked. It's a shock to some people. We're good enough. Our hitting is good, we can manufacture runs pretty easily."
Dodd said she does feel pressure to produce at the plate, but has turned her thoughts to defense. A defense she calls "the wall."
"We have to be a wall and put up the wall," Dodd said."Our defense is strong and our pitching mows the other team down. Very rarely do we let the defense lose the game."
McMahan said, "It's pretty cool we haven't been ranked in a while. This is pretty much the same team as last year, so we have been playing together for a while. Our defense is really good and we're dominating all around."
McMahan moved from catcher to second base to get her bat in the lineup on a regular basis.
"Playing second is really fun. At first I missed being behind the plate, but now I like it out at second," McMahan said. "I love it now, it's very exciting."
Crawford interjected, "Yeah, it's pretty cool to say we're 19th in the state. We're in first place in district, we should have beaten Hallsville, but we're 5-1."
Crawford said another thing that makes the team play well together is the lack of drama or selfishness associated with the group.
"We're not selfish, we just like to play. I think we can go far, we can go to the playoffs and win state," Crawford said with a grin.
The football team winning state made the goal of a big trophy at the end of the rainbow of the softball playoffs an attainable goal for the team.
"If we take each game and stay focused, we can do it," Crawford said. "Taking it one game at a time."
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