After graduating nine seniors last season, the El Campo Ladybirds catcher Raven Contreras knew this year was going to be different.
Contreras along with pitcher Mackenzie Leach are the team’s two lone seniors. With a team full of underclassmen leaning heavily on freshman, it took some time for the seniors to shake off the awkwardness of now leading the team after being juniors last season.
“(We) had to grow up. We went from being the underclassmen to being the seniors who have to teach everybody,” Contreras said. “We didn’t have a lot of returners to start with. We have a lot of freshmen, so you’re having to teach them Coach (Roxanne) Cavazos’ ways while trying to help them out and get them used to being around each other.”
After making the playoffs every year since Cavazos has been in El Campo, the Ladybirds now have the task of trying to rebuild on the fly with a varsity roster this season that includes five freshmen.
The Ladybirds have played with different lineups and defensive positioning while they look for the right mix of girls. Juniors Mackenzie Matlock and Allyson Rioux are the only Ladybirds who started in El Campo’s final playoff game last season and returned this year.
Even with all the influx of youth and uncertainty, El Campo hasn’t fallen off the cliff missing so many key players from last season’s team. El Campo has a 7-7 record and the Ladybirds held their own in the College Station tournament playing 5A and 6A schools. This past weekend in the Fort Bend Christian Academy tournament playing against private schools, they went 3-2.
“In the past two weeks we’ve played 14 games and I was able to see a lot,” Cavazos said. “We’re going to have a roller coaster, but we’re going to get over those bumps and bruises and keep trucking. They’re very coachable and they want to win. It’s just a matter of putting off those pieces together.”
“We stepped off the bus in College Station scared and afraid because we were young,” Contreras said. “In this past tournament, we just stepped into it and said, ‘We’re going to get it and we’re going to win.’ We’ve practiced for this, it’s our moment.”
Matlock scored 11 runs in the Fort Bend Christian Academy tournament, while her twin sister, Madisyn drove in 10 runs. The Ladybirds throughout the season have been able to hit the ball. Of their 14 games, only three times were they held to one run or less. During the tournament, they averaged 8.3 runs a game. In the six games, the Ladybirds put the ball in play a lot only striking out 14 times.
Cavazos noted the Ladybirds have improved and have become better situational hitters since the start of the season.
Leach who pitched about have of the Ladybirds district last year, will be looked to again with Mackenzie Matlock and first-year varsity player Bridget Dorotik also being counted on in the circle.
With the Ladybirds heading towards district with one final game left to play, Monday they added three more players to the team who came over after the end of the basketball season.
District with Fulshear, Sealy, Needville and an improved Wharton, along with Stafford and Royal will be tough. With a gaggle of Ladybird seniors last year they finished in second place.
If the Ladybirds can continue improving throughout district play and they can avoid the growing pains of a brand new team, they should have a chance at making the playoffs once again.