They call themselves a “Band of Sisters.”
But as the 2017 season has developed, it’s truly felt like that for the Colleyville Heritage softball program. Head coach Allison Conaway has fielded a team that really isn’t led by anyone. To find a star would be a challenge.
That’s OK. The Lady Panthers (21-5-2, 10-2 District 8-5A) are in the playoffs for the fifth time in as many seasons under Conaway.
“It’s really a blue collar group,” Conaway said. “It’s been just a great group that works together defensively and offensively. It’s a smaller roster I’m carrying than I’ve had in previous years. But this is just a group that’s been doing its job.”
In this final week of the regular season, the Lady Panthers are in a position to play for second place. Reigning Class 5A state champion Birdville was about to wrap the district championship.
Colleyville Heritage began the week tied with Richland for second place. The Lady Panthers defeated Birdville 2-1 on Tuesday and are at Grapevine on Friday. Richland played host to Grapevine Tuesday and is at Birdville Friday.
In the event of a tie, nothing formally has been discussed. The teams split their regular season meetings, so no one owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. So it’s unclear who the Lady Panthers would see in the bi-district round from the District 7-5A.
Conaway has had to be a little creative with her team. With the 2016 team graduating six seniors, she integrated five sophomores. But she’s also had to assess her corner infielders around her pitching staff because one impacts the other.
Sophomore Hannah Hasle covers third base when she is not pitching. Junior Sydney Kaai, who was the 2016 district pitcher of the year, has also been playing first base when she is not on the mound. Brie Clark has been roving between the corners on the day when one of the two is pitching. It’s nothing that Conaway hasn’t seen before. Still, everybody has to be ready to adjust.
The major move was placing sophomore Caroline O’Donnell at catcher. O’Donnell was in the outfield her freshman season.
“We’ve had a couple of setbacks but we still have been consistently getting better,” Conaway said. “Hannah is really good with the glove. It’s tough because she’s our best third baseman. The girls have just done their job.”
Because she knew that her team was going to be facing the Fort Worth ISD teams in the first half of district play, Conaway kept her schedule the same from 2016. Colleyville Heritage played Haltom, Aledo, Mansfield. She also added The Colony.
The vast differences between that style of ball and how the Lady Panthers are closing is drastic. For instance, pitches coming from 50-60 miles per hour from the other teams, Colleyville Heritage hitter were seeing velocity half of that from the Fort Worth ISD teams. It does challenge the timing.
Still, this team transitioned back to the rest of the district and was 2-2 before this final week ensued.
“They’re selfless and care about each other,” Conaway said. “What I like about them is that they don’t mind not taking the credit. We’re also a drama free team. So that makes a difference.”