Arlington Martin senior catcher Olivia Reames has been pitcher Lacy Mann’s teammate in softball since they were five years old.
Reames didn’t need a doctor to tell her when her battery mate’s recovery from a 2016 knee injury was complete. Mann had surgery last March for a torn anterior cruciate ligament and was cleared to pitch again in early fall. And the signs of her recovery were quickly apparent.
“Her first couple games back [in fall ball], she struck out her first three batters in her first three innings,” Reames said. “I was like, ‘You’re back.’”
Last year was a lot of change. It was a big whirlwind of new. We’re really coming back together now.
- Martin senior catcher Olivia Reames
The longtime teammates are headed to Arkansas Tech next fall — after being recruited separately by the school. But before the duo heads to college, there’s business to attend to on the high school field.
“We’re having fun, but I know us and all of our teammates, we really want to go out with a bang this season,” Mann said. “We want to have a good year and just have fun with it.”
That Mann’s having fun is obvious. First, consider what she’s doing on the field. She collected three hits, including a home run, and pitched a four-inning perfect game in the Lady Warriors’ district opener. She also breezed through Fort Worth Paschal batters on March 7 in Martin’s 24-1 victory that improved the team’s district record to 2-0.
Second, consider that she always seems to be smiling before every pitch. “Her nickname was Smiley growing up,” Reames said. “It’s always been like that.”
Like Mann, Reames, who had already smacked six home runs on the season after the Paschal game, is also playing a big role in Martin’s district success. Reames and Mann are also quick to credit to the performances of sophomore pitcher Jenna Eaton and other young players.
Martin second-year coach Rachel Riley said those young players are able to play with poise thanks to the example set by Mann and Reames. Mann is particularly adept at shaking off rough moments that sometimes happen in a softball game.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a pitcher that’s as mentally strong,” Riley said. “Her presence on the field completely changes the demeanor of the rest of the team. She’s laid-back. If something happens, she’s like, ‘Whatever,’ and keeps going.”
Even during her junior season, which Mann missed with the injury, the pitcher stayed involved. She kept stats, mentored the young players and observed the nuances of the game from the dugout.
“That’s a role that obviously she wasn’t excited about but one that she stepped into well,” Riley said. “And I think was a big part of [Eaton’s] success last year.”
Mann’s back to playing the role she enjoys most — leading her talented team to victories. “Last year was a lot of change,” Reames said. “It was a big whirlwind of new. We’re really coming back together now.”
As might have been expected, Mansfield was able to push to the top of the standings in this, the Lady Tigers’ first season in District 4-6A. But Martin enters Friday’s season finale against Lamar tied with Mansfield at 11-2.
The Lady Warriors will need to knock off a tenacious Lady Vikings squad that has wrapped up fourth place. Mansfield has an easier challenge in fifth-place North Crowley on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Arlington girls are assured of a third-place finish regardless of what happens in their Friday finale against a struggling Sam Houston squad.
Bowie and Seguin will also miss the playoffs. See dfwvarsity.com for game results and playoff matchups.
Sam Houston has dominated 4-6A with a 10-2 record going into its Friday night finale against sixth-place Arlington and is assured of winning the district outright. Trailing the Texans in second place is Bowie, which would sew up the second seeding with a victory over last-place Mansfield on Friday.
The scenario gets more interesting for the third and fourth seeds. Before Friday’s games, Lamar was tied with Fort Worth Paschal for third, with Martin trailing both by half a game. The Warriors and Vikings face one another at Martin in their finale.
Arlington and Seguin will miss the playoffs.
Stephen English: email@example.com, @sbenglish74