Gatesville senior shortstop Lauren Nichols is a four-year member of the varsity team with every season ending with a position on the all-district list, including a first-team selection as a junior. In the Hornets’ first playoff game since 2010, Nichols went 2 for 3 as Gatesville defeated Stephenville 7-4 in the bi-district round of the Class 3A playoffs on Monday.
How does it feel to be back in the playoffs?
It feels really good, actually. We haven’t been in the playoffs in a while, and going out with a bang is nice. The team gets along great, and that is helping us too. Its turning out to be a really good season, and I hope it keeps going on for a very long time. We work together really well. We all have our points that we are best at, but we fit really well together.
You haven’t been to the playoffs since your freshman season. After you made the playoffs the first time, did you assume you would be back every year?
I didn’t expect it. I looked forward to it, but I didn’t expect it. We knew we were going to lose a bunch of people after my freshman year, so that meant we had to step it up. We didn’t think we weren’t going to make it, but we knew that we had to work harder, and things didn’t really work out for us those two years. We still had a really good team. We got along great, and those were great years. There are no regrets from those two years.
It has to be sweet for you personally to finally be back in the playoffs.
It is really nice, especially since it’s my senior year. Making it every year would be nice, but making it your senior year is always the best — most definitely. It is the last memory you will have of the softball season, so it is good.
You’ve got a tough task ahead of you against No. 7 Burkburnett. What is it going to take to get past them?
We just have to make sure to bring our ‘A’ game, play our hardest and, hopefully, we’ll be able to make it be what we want it to be. I have faith in my team, so as long as we work hard, I think we can do it.
You share a district with No. 2 Liberty Hill. Has playing them during the season prepared the team for this situation?
Yeah, it did help us a lot, actually. Knowing that they did not necessarily run over us as a team. We did get beat by them, but it helped us mentally prepare for state-ranked teams that we might play in the playoffs. We know not to automatically think that we are beat. We know that we actually have a chance.
You are part of a core group of five seniors, but overall the team is very young. What is that like?
Honestly, they are very mature players because they’ve played a lot of select ball. It is really not like we are playing with a bunch of freshmen out there. It is like playing with juniors and seniors. We are a very mature team.
Do you still find yourself leading the younger players along?
We find ourselves doing that sometimes. We let them know that we’ve been put in this situation before. Sometimes they might get down on themselves, so we make them understand that it is OK. Things happen in a game. To be on varsity, you have to have your head on straight, you can’t get down on yourself, you have to be a team player and you can’t play for yourself. We make sure everyone understands that.