The last time Mansfield Legacy was on the softball field, its returning nucleus was instrumental in a late-season playoff run.
But the unusually warm day in Game 3 of the area-round playoff turned into a frustrating one for ace pitcher Kendall Potts, and twin sisters Briana and Brittany Walker.
Teams to watch
Mansfield Legacy (27-5): Drops to 4A this season with a dominating pitcher
Birdville (31-7): MVP Welborn has strong defense behind her
Trophy Club Nelson (25-8): Strong run last season to area round fueled by strong pitching
Burleson Centennial (22-10): Strong pitching means Spartans can challenge
Players to watch
Susan Welborn, Birdville, left: Player of the Year dominated in the circle and at the plate
Kendall Potts, Mansfield Legacy: Dominating pitcher in 2012, will likely see more starts
Nyka Wood, Richland: Hit .563 for the Rebels last season
Ashley Doumoulin, TC Nelson: Defeated Welborn and Birdville during the regular season last year.
Madison Thompson, Burleson Centennial: The freshman won MVP honors in District 7-3A
Elizabeth Konig, Weatherford: Hit .400 last season for the Kangaroos
Samantha Montes, Burleson: Dominating performer with 1.10 ERA last season
Potts couldn't get the strike calls at the corners, Brittany couldn't rally her team at the plate, and sister Briana had to be helped off the field entirely.
It was a bizarre end to what looked like an overwhelmingly powerful team.
"I think we left a lot out there," Legacy coach Michelle Mayfield said. "Maybe a lack of focus or a lack of want. We needed to be a team and stop worrying about individual accolades."
And so Potts and the Walker twins, along with six other seniors will try to reignite Legacy's state title hopes as UIL softball begins this week.
But to say the prospects are better as Legacy dropped from Class 5A to 4A, might be stretching things just a bit.
Two teams that will face the Broncos in district play are already ranked higher in the Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason state poll.
"In many ways, it's going to be more difficult," Mayfield said. "Having the Walkers and Kendall sure makes it easier for us to adjust because of their experience, but there are at least three teams in our district that can have great success."
There are several strong teams throughout Tarrant County this season.
Pitcher Susan Welborn, the Star-Telegram's Player of the Year last season, returns to the circle for a Birdville team more experienced and hungry to go further in the postseason.
The Hawks lost to Waco Midway in the Region I final last season and enter 2013 as the state's No. 1 ranked team by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
Welborn had a 1.37 ERA and won 20 games for the Hawks. She also batted .437 and led the team in hits.
Burleson Centennial and Burleson are stacked with talent as well.
Sophomore catcher Madison Thompson returns for Centennial after hitting .538 last season with nine home runs and earning District 7-3A MVP.
Samantha Montes will return to Burleson after producing 17 wins and a 1.10 ERA.
Trophy Club Nelson and senior pitcher Ashley Dumoulin will be a force as well.
She won 21 games last season with a 1.15 ERA. She bested Welborn and Birdville in a regular-season matchup.
For Legacy though, it's about staying healthy. Briana Walker played just 16 games through the knee injury she suffered during basketball season.
Walker left her hoops gear in the closet this year and is focused on softball. She and sister Brittany signed letters of intent with Tulsa to play softball next season.
Potts, who split outings with graduated player Baylee Gray last year, was close to Birdville's Welborn in all statistical categories last season and will be part of a three-player pitching staff.
But Mayfield said Potts could be making more starts this season. Potts' ability to sustain last season's success will be key in a district that features the state's second-ranked TGCA Class 4A team in Ennis, along with No. 8 Waxahachie.
"She's just really consistent with her location and it's rare when she has an off night," Mayfield said. "There were a few games last season that we went back to look on film and she just didn't get the calls that she'd been getting consistently."
Statistically Potts was dominant with an 0.96 ERA and 139 strikeouts.
While Legacy has the tools on defense, the biggest question mark will center around what the offense can do with the bats.
The unproven offense, coupled with graduating seven seniors are likely the main reasons Legacy received only an honorable mention in the TGCA preseason poll.
The Broncos collectively hit .377 with 57 extra base hits in 2012.
"You don't really know until you get into the season, but I feel like we have the experience from our junior varsity last season that will give us what we need," Mayfield said.
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