A new chapter of Weatherford Lady Roo softball is about to begin, as the team prepares to compete at the school’s new baseball/softball complex in regular season action for the first time in 2020.
Coupled with a new head coach in Jeff Lemons, who was an assistant coach with the team at the turn of the century, helping the Lady Roos finish as state finalists in 1999 before winning it all in 2000, Weatherford high school’s softball players have eagerly anticipated the start of the new season, and are ready to prove what they can do out on the diamond, senior pitcher Marlee Whitling said.
“We want to reach the playoffs,” Whitling said.
“I think that’s something we can accomplish, our team has worked really hard and I think that’s an attainable goal.”
While the squad missed the postseason in 2019, the Lady Roos must push forward and work to change that ending this year, Lemons said.
“I don’t ever go into a game or season thinking we can’t compete,” Lemons said.
“That’s not why we’re out here. We’re not out here just to go through the motions, we’re gonna give it everything we’ve got and see what happens in the end. I want to beat every team we play.
“A perfect schedule to me is when every team you play can beat you, but you can also beat every team. There’s no relaxing, it’s all 100 percent focus.”
While still getting familiar with the competition in District 3-6A, as well as his own squad, Lemons said the Lady Roos have the personnel to attain their goal of clinching a playoff berth with enough hard work and sacrifice, while adding that the overall youth of the team has him optimistic for the future.
“They’re all new to me, but both of our seniors, Marlee Whitling and Hayden Holcomb have both looked really good, we’ve gotten really good leadership out of them,” Lemons said.
“One of our juniors coming back is Addison Tidwell, and hopefully we can get Bella Garcia back, she’s been out with a torn ACL. She’s close, if we can get her back by mid March, we should have a pretty solid infield.
“We’ve got other girls who are gonna step up. Grace Thompson is a sophomore who played a lot on varsity last year. Morgan Skold is another sophomore who played varsity all year long, she’ll probably hit leadoff for us. Hannah Reed is a sophomore at shortstop who is committed to Tarleton.
“So we’re a really young team. We’ll get all these young girls playing time, and with the classes we have coming in the next two years, it looks really good.”
As for the season at hand, Lemons said Weatherford will quickly get opportunities to see what it has in tournament and non-district play.
“Our very first game will be at Northwest, I feel like we’re gonna be able to score some runs, and if we can tighten things up a little bit defensively, I think that’ll be a good competitive game for us,” Lemons said.
“And then for our first tournament, we go to the Bryan-College Station Tournament. We’re playing the defending 4A state champ that has everybody back. We’re playing some other state-ranked teams, so we’re gonna have to play well. But it will also let us know where we’re at really early.
“Then we play Nolan Catholic in our first home game, and then we go to Mansfield, where we’ll play some really tough teams. Not necessarily at the 6A level, but they are state ranked in 5A, 4A, 3A. There’s not that much difference between a state-ranked team at the 6A and 3A levels, except the 3A team might not be quite as deep through the lineup, but the pitching is gonna be really good.
“And then our last tournament is the Granbury Tournament.”
While reiterating that the team’s non-district slate will help he and his coaching staff determine who needs to go where on the lineup and in the field, Lemons stressed the team’s non-district record is not the focus early on.
“I’m not interested necessarily in our non-district record, that’s just to pad the coaches’ record basically,” Lemons said.
“If you go 0-20 in non-district, you all start at 0-0 in district, so all non-district is about is, let’s get innings, at bats and situations to prepare us for the next 12 games that really count.”
Speaking of district play, Weatherford’s head softball coach said there are admittedly some unknowns being new to the District 3-6A landscape.
“The L.D. Bell coach is one of my best friends, so it’s not like they’re a secret to me, and Trinity, I coached there for years so I’m pretty familiar with both of them,” Lemons said.
“I do know Haltom’s got some players coming back. Richland, one of my former players was a coach there, she’s not this year, but I still kind of have my finger on what’s going on over there.
“Abilene and San Angelo Central I don’t know much about, other than the fact that Abilene lost their pitcher from last year, they were pretty senior heavy, pitching-wise. Bell lost their senior pitcher. Trinity has a girl coming back who would be considered the No. 1 pitcher in the district just because of what she did last year.”
However, Lemons added that the Lady Roos need to approach every district game believing they can win and backing that confidence up on the field.
“I try to preach all the time, one game at a time,” Lemons said.
“And we talked [Wednesday] in practice about never doing the little pat on the back, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK.’ It’s not really OK, what I want you to say is, ‘Next play.’ Because that’s where you need to be focused, not over here feeling sorry for yourself because you made a bad play or struck out, it’s alright, what’s next.”
Thompson said the Lady Roos have the player leadership to embody that mentality moving forward.
“One strength our team has is, we have a lot of leaders,” Thompson said.
“We push each other and hold each other accountable. We’d like to win a lot of our games, but as long as we’re playing well and doing our best that’s all that really matters.”
Tidwell added that the Lady Roos have responded well to Lemons’ aggressive coaching style.
“Coach Lemons pushes us a lot, but we’re up for the challenge and we really appreciate a coach that sees the potential in us,” Tidwell said.
The work Weatherford has put in practice to this point has also helped further unify the team, Reed said.
“We have really good team chemistry,” Reed said.
Lemons himself said the start of the regular season cannot get here soon enough, citing his own excitement about the opportunity to lead the Lady Roos.
“I’ve got butterflies,” Lemons said.
“Even though I’ve done this for 20-something years, I’m ready to get going. I’m just constantly thinking about what we need to do, what we need to do next, what didn’t work last time, what can we fix.
“I’m ready to turn the lights on and play for real. We know what we can do against each other, let’s see what we can do against a team in another color uniform.”