Last season Mallory Smith, as an assistant softball coach, helped the Granbury Lady Pirates return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Now, in her first season as head coach, she has high hopes for improving on last season’s third-place finish in District 7-4A, 15-17 overall record, and bidistrict exit via Burleson Centennial.
Smith replaces Chad Kimberling, who left to take the head coaching job at New Caney.
“I am very excited about this upcoming season and what the girls can accomplish,” she said. “They are the most hardworking, dedicated group of girls I have coached thus far.”
Six returning starters have Smith and the Lady Pirates believing the best is ahead.
“Each one of these girls has come back with a more resilient attitude and have been working very hard in the offseason,” she said.
Topping the list is senior utility player Maci Samuelson, the 7-4A Offensive Player of the Year in 2013. She led the team in batting average (.475), doubles (14), triples (8) and was second in runs batted in (25).
Junior pitcher Destini Lopez was a first-team all-district selection. She was 13-13 with 147 strikeouts in 147 innings.
Junior first/third baseman whitley Tipton led the team in home runs (3), along with hitting eight doubles, two triples and driving in 27 runs. Junior catcher/outfielder Taelyn Beadle’s .350 average included 18 RBIs.
Also back as returning starters are senior utility player Ashley Edes and sophomore outfielder Avery Villa.
“Our pitching situation this year is going to be very strong,” said Smith. “Destini has come back even stronger than she was last year.
“We also have an incoming freshman, Kristen Money, who will be able to add to our competitiveness. Both of these ladies bring a solid sense of ball control to our team, and that is going to be an important factor for our season.
“Our hitting this will be stronger than in years past. The girls have been working on their batting technique and strength all through the fall, and we will be very powerful and disciplined at the platee.
“As far as fielding, we will be pretty defensively sound. All of the girls are very versatile on the field. Many of them play several positions, so it will be a matter of finding who works best.”
Impact players moving up from the junior varsity, whom Smith coached last season, include senior outfielder Rayla Helci and sophomore outfielder Lyly Thornton.
“Both of these young ladies bring a dilligent, competitive side to our team and are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team be successful,” said Smith.
The JV was 10-3-1 in district last season, losing only to perennial power Aledo twice, Western Hills once, and tying Trimble Tech.
Smith said she expects District 7-4A to once again be a battle between last season’s state semifinalist Aledo, district runner-up Western Hills, and her own team.
“Both of those teams (Aledo and Western Hills) are competitive, and we will need to be completely focused for each of those games,” she said. “As for the rest of the district, we will use those games to work on the various obstacles we need to work on as a team in order to improve game-by-game.”
Last season the Lady Pirates lost twice to Aledo and split in the regular season with Western Hills, losing a seeding contest and settling for third.
Smith has put together a challenging predistrict schedule, including hosting a 12-team tournament that includes tough teams such as Midland Greenwood, Arlington Seguin, Springtown and Joshua.
“I tried to raise the level of competition to help our girls prepare for district and playoffs,” she said.
“These girls now know what it takes to get to the playoffs, and what it is going to take to get past each round. They learned that it takes discipline and a complete team effort with everyone on the same page trying to achieve the same goal.”
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