About 20 miles west of Copperas Cove, something special is happening.
Coming off an eight-win season with a roster full of players not expected to peak as a group for another year, Lampasas is blossoming ahead of schedule.
After losing the most successful head coach in program history and suffering through a forgettable first year under Cassie Crabtree, the Lady Badgers are among Class 3A’s Sweet 16.
No. 9 Lampasas begins a three-game series against No. 8 Pampa at 6 tonight in Bowie. Game 2 will be played Saturday at noon with Game 3, if necessary, immediately following.
On the line is a trip to the regional finals — a destination the Lady Badgers have never visited. Despite everything Lampasas has been forced to overcome, the group highlighted by nine underclassmen is on the verge of defying the odds.
Should the Lady Badgers advance, it would not be a surprise. For all the inexperience issues plaguing this team, Lampasas is loaded with talent.
In 33 games this season, the Lady Badgers have accounted for 40 home runs, their team batting average is .368, they have scored 316 runs, while allowing only 133, and defensively, their fielding percentage is .939.
Considering seven current players were not even in high school at this time last year, including the team’s starting pitcher and top home run hitter, the numbers are rather astounding.
The fact these girls are excelling is not a surprise. After all, Lampasas is a city with a successful softball history over the past few years.
Before making the varsity team, they saw the Lady Badgers slowly develop into a power, reaching the same point in the playoffs they are at now twice under Rusty Erwin, who left in 2012 to accept the same position at A&M Consolidated.
They saw Lampasas produce all-district MVPs and become regular fixtures in district championship races.
They saw the Lady Badgers get recognized in state polls and have seen previous players go on to compete collegiately.
They saw all the glory that comes with being a winning program, and then they saw the flip side.
Upon Erwin’s departure, the good times ended, but following a season of transition, the current Lady Badgers are thriving with a group of young, hungry girls itching to create their own legacy.
Although some would consider the 8-19 overall record in 2013 a stumbling block, in fact, it was a starting point.
Lampasas has only one senior on its roster, meaning the coming years should be this crop of Lady Badgers’ true glory days, but they don’t see it that way.
The Lady Badgers already have eliminated then-No. 2 Kennedale from the playoffs and followed the upset by dispatching District 8-3A rival Brownwood, which swept the regular season series.
Lampasas’ year has been far from flawless, but almost everything is going right in the playoffs, and there is no doubt this team has the potential to finish its season in Austin thanks to a unique combination of skill, will, belief and poise.
Regardless of how much longer Lampasas’ season lasts, the future is bright for the Lady Badgers. Crabtree has instilled an unimaginable amount of faith into her players, causing them to play beyond their years.
There is no doubt the Lady Badgers are a good collection of players, but what is happening in Lampasas right now is special.
This team is a testament to the fact timetables are unnecessary when it comes to rebuilding.
More importantly, the Lady Badgers prove age really is just a number, and experience is a luxury, not a requirement.