There is a consistent nature to the way the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets have gone about their business.
They don't think any more of themselves after sweeping a higher seed in the first round. They don't think any less of their next opponent they crushed earlier in the season.
What matters is that Denison still gets to keep playing softball and in the process try to add to what has already been its most successful season in more than a decade.
“It's been a lot about staying locked in and focused. We have ourselves to take care of,” Denison head coach Jeremy Green said. “They've been battle-tested the whole year. They are a pretty resilient group.”
The Lady Jackets' youthful exuberance may be on display both at practice and games, but don't mistake that for something that belies a burgeoning killer instinct as Denison (19-11) faces Dallas Sunset in a Class 5A Region II area round series at Prosper. Game 1 is at 6:30 p.m. on Friday with Games 2 and 3 at noon on Saturday.
The winner will face Frisco Reedy in the region quarterfinals next week. If Denison advances it will the be the first trip to the third round since 2006 and the third overall, joining 1997. Dallas Sunset has never been past the area round, although they have played to get there the past three seasons.
A victory for Denison would also set the school record for wins in a season, surpassing the 19-11 mark from 2006.
“Take full advantage of this opportunity,” Green said. “You don't get a free pass next year. Nothing is promised. They're too young to know any different.”
The Lady Jackets opened the postseason with a sweep of District 9-5A runner-up Frisco Centennial. Denison held on for an 8-7 win in the series opener before coming away with a 6-5 victory in Game 2.
Game 1 saw the Lady Jackets score all of their runs in the second inning before the Lady Titans rallied with four runs in the seventh, only for Haley Earnhart to throw out a runner trying to tag up from second for the final out.
Then on its home field the following night, Centennial came back again, this time pulling even from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth before Elizabeth Linwood's two-run homer in the top of the seventh was the deciding blow.
Centennial had the tying run at first in the bottom of the inning before Ashlinn Hamilton secured the win and sent the Lady Jackets to the next round. They were the first playoff victories for the program in 13 years.
“It was fun. They had fun,” Green said. “We're not going to be nervous or scared. That's not how we play.”
The teams met in February at the Fort Worth Brewer Tournament and Denison came away with a 22-0 victory in three innings, powered by 17 runs in the final frame. Led by Madison Carter and Hannah Grinspan with three RBI apiece, five Lady Jackets drove in multiple runs, including Hamilton — who homered. Denison finished with 15 hits and seven walks.
“Can we do what we do? If we do what we're supposed to we can play with anyone in the state,” Green said. “We're just going to enjoy this ride, the road that is ahead.”
Sunset was the District 12-5A champion and opened the playoffs with a 12-2 victory in six innings against Carrollton Newman Smith. Yamilett Martinez was 2-for-3 with two RBI and scored and allowed four hits and three walks while striking out four to get the win, Alicia Gonzales was 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, two RBI and scored, Erin Ledesma doubled and drove in two runs and Nicole Lara doubled, walked and scored three times for Lady Bison, who led 8-1 after three innings.
“They haven't lost since they played us,” Green said. “Undefeated in district and won last week so that's at least 13 in a row. We've got to hit. We've got to pitch. We've got to play defense.”