The Houston softball team enters postseason play as the top seed in its district. But bringing home the program’s second-ever title is anything but a guarantee.
The Lady Tigers have had their ups and downs throughout the season, especially lately. They won three games in a row to capture the top seed in Class 2 District 1 and then ended the season with three straight losses.
“We’ve been at all ends of the spectrum this year,” HHS coach Brent Hall said. “We know what’s possible.”
Houston (8-11) received a first-round bye and will play for the first time at 4:30 p.m. today (Thursday) against the Hartville-Gainesville winner. Second-seeded Ava also received a bye and will play the Mansfield-Seymour winner at 6 p.m.
The championship game is 4:30 p.m. Friday. All games will be played at Ava High School.
Houston has played both of its potential semifinal opponents. HHS lost to Hartville 10-0 on Sept. 20 and beat Gainesville 13-3 on Sept. 27.
“We want to live to play another day. That’s our motto going into Thursday,” Hall said. “Anyone who has seen us play this year would say the same thing. If I knew the magic thing to say or the trick, I’d be doing it. We’re trying everything we can.”
Houston ended its regular season Monday with a 15-12 loss to Bakersfield on Carter Field. The Lady Tigers lost the slugfest despite home runs from Taylor Chipps — her fourth of the season — and Madison Lawson.
The game was the final home contest for seniors Tori McCloud, Stephani Crewse and Ellie Bradshaw. The trio were recognized alongside their family members afterwards.
“It’s kind of emotional for me. They’ve been a big part of this program,” Hall said. “I feel very fortunate that they were put in my life and I had the opportunity to coach them. They’ve made me better just being around them every day.”
McCloud, a four-year starter, is the team’s starting center fielder.
“For her whole high school career, there’s probably not a better outfielder on any team we played,” Hall said. “She has patrolled out there for four years and pretty much owned it since she walked on the field as a freshman.”
Crewse, the starting catcher, is also a four-year starter for Houston.
“She improved so much,” Hall said. “She and the others are great leaders and examples for our younger kids. They are the kind of softball players and individuals that we want to produce.”
Bradshaw, an outfielder, hasn’t been with the program her entire high school career like her counterparts. But she plays just as important of a role this season.
“Ellie came along and solidified us in a lot of ways,” Hall said. “When she started, she needed softball more than softball needed her. Now, we wouldn’t be successful without her.”
All three will be pivotal players as Houston enters postseason play. The Lady Tigers will attempt to join the 2012 team as the only district champions in program history.
CLASS 2 DISTRICT 1 SOFTBALL
Ava High School
No. 4 Hartville (9-12) vs. No. 5 Gainesville (4-17), 4:30
No. 3 Mansfield (10-7) vs. (6) Seymour (2-19), 6
No. 1 Houston (8-11) vs. Hartville-Gainesville winner, 4:30
No. 2 Ava (8-10) vs. Mansfield-Seymour winner, 6
WATCH ONLINE: Every postseason game for the Lady Tigers will be streamed at www.houstonherald.com/live