Lady Panthers push through rough pre-season, ready for district

02/17/2014 3:39 PM

02/17/2014 3:40 PM

The Colleyville Heritage softball team is two weeks away from the start of district play, but they are ready to get to work. After losing practice time to winter weather and the new UIL rules restricting teams to two pre-season tournaments, the Lady Panthers are taking advantage of the nicer weather to get some playing time under their belts.

“We haven’t had any routine practice schedule so far this season,” said head coach Allison Conaway. “Even our indoor hitting facility has no walls and it can be very cold. We’re looking forward to getting out and getting on the dirt routinely in the better weather.”

Heritage is returning nine to varsity this year but has only one returning starter in the outfield.

“Our infield is pretty much intact, but we are trying to replace three senior outfielders who graduated last year,” Conaway said. “Our biggest challenge is figuring out who our starters are going to be in the outfield and get them comfortable.”

Conaway is capitalizing on the experience of her five seniors.

“We really have some good seniors, several who have signed with scholarships. It is a really strong class,” she said. “I don’t have team captains. Certain people will emerge as leaders in certain ways, by the way they act or if they are vocal and lead in that way.”

Third-baseman Tess Eby and shortstop Victoria Bratcher are two that have done just that.

“Tess is our leader vocally as well as by the way she plays, and Victoria is the same way,” Conaway said. “They are like two peas in a pod. They set the tone by the way they play as well as how vocal they are.”

Pitchers Rebecca Parks and Fallon Dean are both juniors with varsity experience.

“Our pitchers have both improved from where they were last year at this time,” Conaway said. “We are leaps and bounds ahead of last year with both girls. “

Parks and Dean each bring something different to the mound.

“Rebecca has really good movement and Fallon throws hard,” Conaway said. “They both did a lot of throwing on varsity last year and they really compliment each other well.”

Conaway has seen that kind of chemistry throughout her team this year.

“Even though we haven’t had everyone together yet with injuries and getting some girls finished with basketball, we are a more cohesive unit this year than we were last year,” she said.

Hitting is another bright spot, despite losing some big bats last year.

“Hailie (Henson) is our catcher and she is hitting really well,” Conaway said. “All of our seniors were good hitters last year and we will miss their bats, but just in scrimmages so far we’ve hit four or five home runs.”

Finishing second in district last year has left Conaway and her team wanting more.

“Our goal this year is definitely to win our district, but we’ve also really got a lot to prove to L.D. Bell this year,” she said. “They went through last year undefeated and we gave them a run for their money. We went into extra innings and lost so we want to beat them this year.”

The Lady Panthers kick off district play on March 4 at Euless Trinity.

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