The Lady Eagles know what it is like to enter the state tournament undefeated. They know what it is like to reach the championship game. As far as memories go, however, there is nothing more to like.
Despite a new head coach and replacing three starters, Texoma Christian finds itself back in the final four and without a loss on its ledger. The final outcome is what the Lady Eagles are hoping to change.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make it back,” sophomore shortstop Bri Yale said. “We really want to get first. Whether it’s going three times or twice or the first time, it’s a huge deal.”
A year ago TCS won its semifinal contest with a no-hit effort but then lost in the title contest against Bellville Faith, 16-0 in five innings, as it went hitless.
“To get no-hit in that game and have it be our first loss, that’s really rough,” said first-year head coach Ashley Chaffin, who was elevated from her assistant role to replace Mark Ellison during the off-season. “They pretty much said from that point — ‘Let’s get back there.’”
Making the most of another opportunity comes with this first step as Texoma Christian (13-0) faces Round Rock Concordia (18-2) in the TAPPS Division IV state semifinals at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday at Crosby High School.
“With the experience we have returning, you expect what’s going to happen, how it’s going to be,” Bri Yale said. “I think that will benefit us. It can make things easier when the other team is there for the first time, dealing with those jitters.”
Shiner St. Paul (17-1) and Hallettsville Sacred Heart (15-7) meet in the other semifinal and the winners will play for the championship at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
It is the third straight state tournament appearance and fifth overall — all in the past seven years — for the Lady Eagles, who were the runner-up for the first time last spring. The next step is to win it all.
“Softball right now is our best sport going,” said Chaffin, who won three basketball state championships to close out her TCS career as the starting point guard. “It’s kinda changed from 10 years ago. I’m the most competitive player and coach you’ll find and these girls know that.”
Texoma Christian, which is led by seniors Bailey Yale, Lexi Tan, Lauren Erbay and Jadynn Whitson, has been strong both at the plate and in the circle. Bailey Yale has thrown eight shutouts and allowed more than two runs just three times while the lineup has scored double digits in all but two games. Their lowest output was an 8-4 win against Ector, which made the UIL Class 1A region semifinals.
“I feel like we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on,” Bri Yale said. “Our hitting’s seriously better. We’ve been practicing in the cages really hard.”
In going 7-0, after one contest was rained out, to win the District 2 crown, Texoma Christian outscored its opponents by a 106-2 margin.
The Lady Eagles advanced to state with a 10-5 victory over Forth Worth Lake Country in the region final.
Cana Miller was 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI, two steals and scored, Bri Yale doubled, walked twice and scored three times, Tinsley Love was 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and scored twice, Tan singled, drove in a run and scored and Bailey Yale was 3-for-4 with two RBI and allowed three earned runs on seven hits with 12 strikeouts and a walk for the Lady Eagles, who led 8-2 after three innings.
“A lot of the first part of the year was putting the puzzle pieces together,” Chaffin said. “We didn’t figure out the lineup until the middle of district and they’ve really taken off since then.”
The two teams have a common opponent — Temple Central Texas Christian. TCS, which had a first-round bye, started the playoffs with a 17-2 victory over them while in district play, Concordia picked up 17-7 and 9-6 victories.
Round Rock Concordia earned its state tourney berth with a 6-0 victory against Amarillo San Jacinto. It started the playoffs with a 7-5 victory over Wichita Falls Notre Dame after also having a first-round bye as the District 4 champion.
In winning the district title with a 12-0 mark, the Lady Cardinals outscored their opponents 160-37.
Their two losses were 6-5 against Austin St. Dominic Savio, which lost its playoff opener in Division I and 6-2 in a playoff warmup against Waco Reicher Catholic, which advanced to the Division III state tournament.
“They’ve got a senior pitcher and a senior catcher and rely on them,” Chaffin said. “They were in Division III last year as a 4A team and made the playoffs, so they have a little experience.”