The Houston softball program accomplished a few firsts in 2011.
By beating Seymour 17-6 in early October, the Lady Tigers earned the first-ever district victory in team history.
It was historic. And exciting.
Under the direction of third-year coach Willy Walker, the Lady Tigers scored 12 times in the fourth inning to erase what had been an early five-run deficit.
Although Houston lost its semifinal game to Willow Springs, the win was a milestone moment for a team competing in districts for just the third time.
“It’s great for the program, great for the school,” Walker said following the victory. “I feel like softball is taking a step in the right direction.”
Sophomore Taylor Franklin homered to spark the come-from-behind victory. It was fitting she led the charge. Franklin hit a team-best .574 and led the Lady Tigers in home runs (three), RBIs (28), doubles (eight) and on-base percentage (.672) en route to all-state honors. Her second team selection by the Missouri Softball Coaches Association was the first in program history.
Team success brought individual accolades for the Lady Tigers. Franklin was joined on the all-district team by teammates Maddie Vandiver and Kayla Kelley. Freshman Olivia Woosley was named honorable mention all-district.
All four earned all-conference honors. Also named all-SCA were Lizzy Swindell, Belle Knarr and Kaylea Preheim.
The girls’ track team was the lone HHS program to qualify for state in 2011.
Vandiver ran a 27.42 in the 200 meters to place 15th at the state meet in May. She was one of two freshmen in the field.
The 4×100 relay team of Lauren Hoover, Vandiver, Franklin and Kayla Herndon finished 15th with a time of 53.12. The 4×200 relay –consisting of the same team members — finished 16th.
Both relay times were season-bests for Houston, which is eligible to return all of its girls’ track members in 2012 under coach David Williams.
A pair of HHS programs were under new leadership in 2011. Skye Carrasquillo was hired as the volleyball coach and Tom Brown inherited the boys’ basketball program just weeks before the season began.
Carrasquillo, a Licking native, earned her first win as head coach Aug. 30 against her alma mater. The Lady Tigers beat their rivals in straight sets to open the season. Houston completed the year with a district semifinal loss to Cabool and 13-17-2 record.
Brown, who had retired at the end of the previous school year from Meadow Heights High School, took the opportunity to get back into coaching when Dustin Kirkman resigned just days before the start of practice.
Brown got his first victory at HHS when the Tigers beat Fordland 72-71 on Dec. 9 at the Mansfield Invitational. That was the team’s lone victory in its first eight games under their new head coach.
Houston had gone 3-22 under Kirkman, a 1999 HHS graduate, when the season ended in March with a district-opening loss to Alton.
The girls’ basketball program earned a district victory by thumping Alton 60-37 in early March. The Lady Tigers, who were coached by veteran Brent Kell, lost their next game to top-seeded Seymour and finished with a 9-17 record.
The Houston seventh-grade girls’ basketball team won their final 11 games to finish with a 13-2 record. The eighth-grade girls went 12-3 and were a combined 24-6 during their middle school careers.
The eighth-grade boys’ basketball team won seven of their final eight games and finished 9-6.
The HHS baseball team was the only team to beat top-seeded Salem during the 2011 season. But the Tigers lost seven of their last eight games and were defeated 9-4 by Cuba in the opening round of the district tournament. Houston finished with a 9-13 mark under coach Brent Hall.
The football team, under the direction of Williams, had a couple of close calls in 2011 but again failed to win a game. The Tigers had a pair of three-point losses, including a 16-13 defeat to Cuba in the season finale. Houston, which had 7-0 and 13-8 leads in the game, had its second straight winless season.
During the summer, the Houston swim team established a new record by scoring 998 points in a single meet. It was a high mark under coach Toni McKinney.
Several Houston High School graduates earned individual sports accolades in 2011:
–Dustin Blackburn, a member of the Missouri State University-West Plains golf team, shot a 76 May 1 in the Region 16 championship to finish second — his best-ever finish.
–David Arthur was one of 16 officials selected to work the MSHSAA state volleyball championships at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
— Jim Flora guided the Pleasant Hope softball team to a runner-up finish in Class 2.
–Britany Cheek’s volleyball team at Billings won the district championship.
–Gus Durst homered five times in the Lincoln University baseball team’s first 10 games.
— Kyle Poynter homered in his first junior college baseball game Feb. 28 for Mineral Area College.