Following three straight seasons of success, including a district championship in 2012, Sherman’s softball team went through a rebuilding phase and missed the postseason in a beefed-up District 13-4A that was created by realignment.

Following three straight seasons of success, including a district championship in 2012, Sherman’s softball team went through a rebuilding phase and missed the postseason in a beefed-up District 13-4A that was created by realignment.


But the young players who took their lumps last spring are back and ready to capitalize on the lessons learned. Last year, the Lady Bearcats (15-17, 5-9) stayed in the playoff race until the final week.


"We knew we had voids to fill," Sherman head coach Larry Zachary said. "We didn’t make the playoffs, but we tied for fifth and I thought that was an accomplishment. The kids fought and didn’t lay down. All in all, I wasn’t disappointed."


The Lady Cats are still a young team, with three promising freshmen set to start and only two seniors on the roster.


But Zachary would like to see some of that same fight in his girls starting tonight, when the Lady Cats open the new season at 7 p.m., weather permitting, against future district rival Prosper at Old Settlers Park.


Senior Sara Flores will return to the pitcher’s circle for the second season in a row. Flores, a four-year varsity starter, signed with Grayson College last month, where she will return to the infield role she played as a freshman and sophomore. Flores is a finesse pitcher who hits her spots well, Zachary said.


"Sara gives us some experience and leadership," he said. "She’s always been a leader on the field, and I think she’ll be fine. She got thrown in there last year with little experience, but she learned a lot, and she got better and better as the season went along."


The graduation of Taylor Van Kirk, last year’s 13-4A catcher of the year, and first-team all-district first baseman Ashley Crockett leaves two big vacancies for Zachary to fill. But that’s where the newcomers enter the picture.


Freshman Kaylee Walker will take over behind the plate, and classmate Natalie Corrasco will start the year at third base, which will allow third-year starting junior Taylor Bailiff to relocate to first.


Sophomore Olivia Fair moves to shortstop after being voted second-team all-district last spring in the outfield. Second base is a toss-up between Bethany Rodriguez and Miranda Lleverino, two reserve players on last year’s team.


Fair’s move to the infield created an opening in centerfield that will be filled by another freshman, Hayley Arndt. She’ll be joined by the returning Janette McCallister in left and Asia Pratt, a late-season junior varsity call-up last year, in right.


Following tonight’s game against Prosper, the Lady Cats will host McKinney — another future member of the new District 10-5A — on Feb. 18, and have one more non-district home game against Iowa Park on Feb. 25 before diving headlong into the 13-4A schedule on March 7 against Denison at home.


"I think it’s going to be a dogfight to be in the (district) race at the end," Zachary said. "But the kids know how to compete."


The Lady Cats will also play in tournaments at Burkburnett Feb. 20-22 and at Wylie Feb. 27-March 1. At Wylie, Sherman will also probably face some district rivals present and future, as they will when they host Prosper and McKinney.


"I’m looking forward to it," Zachary said. "We didn’t know it was going to fall that way when we set up the schedule."