There’s not an outcome in next week’s Class 2 District 3 softball tournament that will surprise Houston coach Brent Hall.

“Anyone in the district can beat us,” Hall said of his third-seeded Lady Tigers. “But I also believe we can beat anyone in the district. It just depends on which team shows up that day.”

The 2013 season has been a surprisingly bumpy ride for HHS. The defending district champions, who returned a core of six seniors from last year’s team, have struggled to a 8-8 mark following Tuesday’s 9-1 victory at Thayer.

There have been high points and low points –– leaving Hall to wonder if his team will be celebrating consecutive district crowns or wondering what might have been.

“Skill wise, I still stand behind the fact that it would be a disappointment if we didn’t win a district title with this group,” Hall said.

Houston begins defense of its title at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against sixth-seeded Plato. The game follows the other first-round game between No. 4 Mountain Grove and fifth-seeded Liberty at 4:30. Top-seeded Willow Springs and No. 2 Gainesville received byes and advanced to Thursday’s semifinals. The championship game is Friday.

Houston, which began playing fall softball in 2009, is hosting districts for the first time. All games will be on Carter Field. Admission is $4 for fans six years and older.

Hall said his team’s mental approach is key to postseason success. Houston has played well at times –– including a 12-6 victory at Mountain Grove, which has twice knocked off top-seeded Willow Springs –– and poor at others. The Lady Tigers trailed most of their Sept. 19 game with Plato, which has just two wins this season, before pulling away for a 9-5 victory.

“I think we have a good approach going into the game that we’re going to play well and compete,” Hall said. “It’s that first sign of adversity –– the first error, walk or run we give up because of a mistake. How are we going to play from there? Are we going to let it affect us? We’ve not done well in those situations this season.”

Houston, which is averaging just under nine runs per game, is led offensively by Lizzy Swindell. The junior first baseman is batting .436, and her 23 RBIs are more than double any other player. Freshman Tommi Franklin (.412) and senior Kaylea Preheim (.405) are second and third, respectively, in batting.

Seniors Emily Harrison and Dani Sears will likely share pitching duties throughout the tournament.

“I stand behind the players we have on the team,” Hall said. “I still feel that we have not played to our potential this year.”

Wednesday, Oct. 9

(4) Mtn. Grove vs. (5) Liberty, 4:30 p.m.

(3) Houston vs. (6) Plato, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 10

(1) Willow Springs vs. MG-LHS winner, 4:30 p.m.

(2) Gainesville vs. HHS-PHS winner, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 11

Championship, 5 p.m.

The Herald will broadcast every pitch of this year’s Class 2 District 3 softball tournament live over the Internet at www.houstonherald.com/live. The stream will be continuous beginning at 4:15 p.m. each day. Jeff and Jim McNiell will provide play-by-play when the games begin. Games will be archived at the same web address for later viewing.

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