The Martin softball team cannot trust the weather. But it can rely on something more consistent: Lacy Mann’s smile.
The sophomore ace pitched the Lady Warriors past Weatherford on Thursday to improve the back-to-back defending district champions’ record to 3-0 in District 4-6A play. Martin opened district two days earlier with a twinbill against Sam Houston and Lamar. A string of winter storms and rainy days had postponed the start of district play and forced the cancellation of several nondistrict games, making it difficult for Martin to get into a rhythm on the field.
“It’s trying to remember the feeling of getting back out there,” coach Cathy Rudy said.
The weather played havoc on the Lady Warriors’ schedule, but it might have proved beneficial for Mann, whose health may have benefited from the extra time off.
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“It may have helped having the snow and everything,” Rudy said.
Two seasons ago, Martin and Weatherford shared a district title. But Martin last year went 14-0 in district play, and Mann was a big reason why. She tossed two perfect games, had another that was a no-hitter, and she swung a big bat. She gave her teammates a lot of reasons to smile last season, and she joined them in her jubilation.
“She’s actually always smiling,” said senior first baseman Anna O’Connor. “For her to be unfazed on the mound, it really makes us play with more confidence.”
As talented as Mann seemed a season ago, her best performances might be ahead of her. “She’s improved with her speed and location,” said senior third baseman Sabrina Pecina. “She’s a long way from where she was a freshman.”
Mann’s calm demeanor on the mound might owe something to her steady progression as a pitcher, but perhaps the senior-laden lineup — Martin has seven seniors on the roster — also helps Mann keep her cool during the heat of competition.
“With this team backing her up, she feels more confident,” senior center fielder Krista Rude said.
The team’s immense talent makes it seem like a third consecutive district title — and perhaps another undefeated run — are easily attainable.
But that’s not necessarily the case. Martin struggled in the early innings of its recent victory against Lamar. “We have a huge target on our backs,” Rude said. “All the teams in our district have gotten better.”
Needing to rally past Lamar might not be ideal, but it did show the Lady Warriors that they have what it takes to overcome adversity. “We fight our hardest when we’re down,” O’Connor said. “We get a rally going. We always find a way to come back. The hits will start coming.”
Martin’s philosophy on offense is deceptively simple. “Our goal is to knock in the runners on base,” Pecina said.
Hitting with runners in scoring position isn’t as simple as it sounds. It requires multiple players to work in concert to achieve a result. “Everybody brings something to this team,” Rudy said. “They’re a team where everybody — it’s their goal to get better. They’re never satisfied.”
The team won’t be satisfied with anything short of a district title. Mann and company face that challenge with a smile. About the only thing that can make the Lady Warriors frown these days is another rainout.
“We had to practice in the gym; we had to practice on a turf field,” Rude said a few hours after beating Weatherford. “This is the first time we’ve played on dirt in a while.”