When Shelly Hayes became Copperas Cove’s softball coach, she did not care about her players’ positions. She only cared about putting players in a position to succeed.
Once the first-year coach got in tune with her team, the Lady Bulldawgs thrived both individually and collectively.
Copperas Cove produced an 8-6 record in District 8-5A, and the program experienced its first playoff appearance since 2008. In the process, six Lady Bulldawgs caught the attention of opposing coaches, landing on the all-district first and second teams.
Atop the list were senior pitcher Ashley Hartwell – a two-time all-district catcher prior to Hayes’ arrival – and junior left fielder Tayler Hammack, who each received first team recognition.
“It took me probably through the preseason to really figure out where people needed to play and also where they needed to bat,” said Hayes, who stepped down after the season. “I was changing my lineup like crazy trying to figure out how I could use those slappers.”
Hayes moved players from their familiar spots, adjusted the batting order to address needs in the lineup and rounded a collection of individuals into a cohesive unit, but Hartwell’s transition was perhaps the biggest surprise of the season.
“She’s just real versatile; you can play her pretty much anywhere,” Hayes said. “For her to get first-team pitcher for just pitching for one year, I think that says a lot for her and what type of player she is.”
Hammack finished second on the team in batting average, hitting .410 in district, and second in on-base percentage.
“Tayler was a surprise to me, actually,” Hayes said. “We worked with her and worked with her on her slapping. … I think she surprised some of the coaches (too).”
Sophomore pitcher Carlee Duran, freshman catcher Sydney Andrews, junior shortstop Irene Espinoza and junior centerfielder Elliana Doubleday were all on the second team.
The quartet was instrumental in the team’s offensive success as they were rotated around in the lineup until Hayes finally discovered the batting order she would primarily use in district.
“I think that’s what’s made me successful as a coach is I can pin-point exactly where I need them to be,” Hayes said. “I tell the kids, ‘This is where I need you to play, and you’ve got to be willing compromise with me.’ … They don’t usually argue too much with me.”
Belton dominated the list with freshman pitcher Sidney Holman, receiving the newcomer of the year honor, and six other Lady Tigers earned first-team recognition.
Temple junior pitcher Lexi Smith was named MVP, her second straight time to receive the accolade, and district champion Waco Midway swept the three other all-district superlatives. Midway junior pitcher Callee Guffee was the defensive MVP; freshman shortstop Taylor Ellis was the offensive MVP and coach Michelle Edwards was the coach of the year.