When a coach is willing to take a gamble with the makeup of his roster, he’s probably playing a hunch.
He knows his better players are underclassmen and are just starting their careers. The seniors provide leadership. Yet there must be that steady hand.
Enter Grapevine junior softball player Abby Haugh. As veterans meet youth, a central figure in the program has to be in the place where everything can gel. That’s what head coach Steve Bottoms is counting on from Haugh as the Lady Mustangs (10-8-1, 3-0 District 8-5A) look to return to the postseason.
When we had our offseason in the fall, Coach Bottoms just wanted me to be more in charge and let me be an example. I feel like I have found myself. I can show it on the field and be vocal at the same time.
- Grapevine junior Abby Haugh
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“I’ve seen everything from Abby,” Bottom said. “From varsity when she started as a freshman to where she is now, she’s seen seasons go through good starts, bad periods and understands that experience matters. Her maturity and her wisdom are really important.”
Haugh, the younger sister of the graduated Cynthia Haugh, has been pulling double duty this year between pitching and playing first base. On the mound, Haugh is 5-4 with a 4.50 earned-run average. At the plate, her game has reached another level. She’s hitting .480 with two home runs and 15 RBIs. The home runs are the first of her career.
“I’m looking to be a role-model ballplayer,” Haugh said. “When we had our offseason in the fall, Coach Bottoms just wanted me to be more in charge and let me be an example. I feel like I have found myself. I can show it on the field and be vocal at the same time.”
Grapevine’s roster is the great divide. There are six seniors and four freshmen. Haugh is the only junior. Indeed, that’s like being in no-man’s land.
Yet, Bottoms would not have entrusted Haugh to these duties if he didn’t think she could handle it. That’s trust.
During her freshman year in 2015, Grapevine lost its starting third baseman to a broken ankle. Bottoms turned to Haugh and asked if she could try it. He knew she had never played the position in her life.
While this is considered a transition year, it is what Bottoms expected. During the early season tournaments, the Lady Mustangs experienced some frustrations. But they were teaching lessons as to what this new level of softball was going to be. Haugh’s influence was going to important to the program’s other starting pitcher, freshman Brooke Bingham.
“Abby’s done everything that I’ve asked,” Bottoms said. “I’ve always appealed to my players on their intellectual side as to why we do certain things. What Abby has done is translate that to our younger players.”
Confidence helps accelerate it. Haugh’s maturity in the game is with her offensive game. The home runs, which were hit in the Flower Mound and Mansfield Legacy tournaments, are witness to where a player’s dedication and repetition will show a payoff.
In the pitching circle, she said she believes she has more of a pitching plan on how to attack hitters. Her screw and rise balls are better pitches. Even in this game where the disappointments are plenty, a mask has to be worn.
“I just tell the other players that they have to work through the difficulty and keep their confidence,” she said. “What I’ve shared with Brooke and the other players is you can’t get down on the tough moments. You have to move past them quickly. If you do, you’ll be a better player for it.”