As Keller entered the softball playoffs with Plano in the bi-district round, young players were going to quickly be immersed in the intensity of the postseason.
One such player for the Lady Indians was Kasey Simpson, a freshman who has been making solid contributions on the district champion Keller squad.
Although Simpson has been playing on organized softball teams since age 7, moving up to the varsity of one of the stronger teams in the region was a little scary at first.
“There have been times I get a little nervous, but my teammates have helped me out a little bit,” Simpson said. “They’ve encouraged me and told me not to worry about anything and push through. If I make a mistake, they tell me it will get better.”
Keller head coach Bryan Poehler said Simpson has stepped up this year and played well, already having an outstanding season.
Much of the ability the rookie has brought to the team is in the outfield, where Simpson said she’s had to get adjusted.
“I’m just getting used to playing the outfield,” Simpson said, as she spends most of her time on the club team, the Mizuno Impulse, in the infield. She normally is playing in left field for Keller.
Simpson doesn’t play like a freshman at the plate, either. One key moment which stands out in Simpson’s mind from this season is her first game playing in the College Station tournament. The game was tied late, and Simpson got her first walk-off hit to win the game for Keller.
Still, the hitting is coming along as Simpson said she’s been better able to see the ball while she’s in the box.
Hitting fifth in the lineup, Simpson said she’s “hit some out this season,” but feels her best trait is “doing whatever is needed, whether it’s bunting, hitting a gapper and scoring runs.”
Being able to see the ball better is also helping her overcome a recent tendency to hit under the ball, creating pop-ups.
“I’ve normally hit line drives, but lately I’ve been popping it up a little,” Simpson admitted. That’s where some of the team’s senior leadership has helped her not press, telling her “you’ll get another ball, another pitch.”
That’s the type of advice Simpson has taken to heart already. She said she hopes to pass along the same advice to other players who will come after her. That sort of family atmosphere is one of the elements the freshman wasn’t expecting this year.
“I’ve been surprised at how close we are,” she said, “really close. As a freshman, I worried I wouldn’t connect with the older girls, but that hasn’t been an issue.”
Having close teammates has also kept the youngster from feeling too much pressure, although Simpson said she’s always been able to manage that aspect fairly well.
“Pressure doesn’t usually affect me,” she said. “But I am really looking forward to the playoffs and I’m really excited.”
Some of the anxiety is lessened by the fact she is now playing with and against some of her long-time Impulse teammates. But being new to the squad after having attended Keller Middle School, Simpson said she realizes this year’s edition of the Lady Indians has a more competitive spirit in the seniors on the team.
“I’m glad they have stepped it up in terms of competitiveness,” she said. “They’ve been great in bringing me along and including me.”