In just her second season with the program, Cassie Crabtree almost led Lampasas to uncharted territory.
After beginning her career with the Lady Badgers by winning just eight games in 2013, Crabtree helped the program experience a resurgence this year, guiding Lampasas to the Class 3A regional semifinals for the third time in four years.
Despite producing a dominant Game 1 victory against Pampa, however, Lampasas (26-10) was unable to advance to the regional finals for the first time in school history. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for the Lady Badgers, who sport seven freshmen on their roster and will only lose one senior from the squad.
The Herald’s Clay Whittington recently talked with Crabtree about the season.
How valuable is this playoff experience, especially for a young team?
I just want them to have fun and enjoy it. Hopefully, they have a lot more years to come, and this will benefit them in the end, but I hope they enjoy it. That is the main thing.
I’m sure you had a timeline set out for this team in your head when you took over the program. How far ahead of schedule are these girls?
Going into it, before I took the job, you talk to people. So I knew they lost three key players, including their pitcher, which in the game of softball can make or break you, and their shortstop Hadley Brown, who I recruited when I was at UT-Tyler. So I already knew Hadley before that, but I knew there was some young talent that was coming, and last year might not have shown it to everybody else, but for me, they learned a lot. They learned how to come together as a team. They learned what the game is about.
It would be one step forward and two steps back, but last year was a building year for us. We learned a lot, and now I have leadership. Last year, that was the hard part — the leadership. They were learning how we want things run. It was a battle, but know we know how things run. We know how to get better, and things are just running more smoothly.
You mentioned leadership. Typically, that comes from your seniors, but you only have one senior – first baseman Alex Caruthers. What has that experience been like?
She has meant so much. She has come a long way in a year. When I first got here last year, I had to change the collective attitude a little bit. This year it is a positive attitude, and she is one kid that if I ask her to do something, she would do it no matter what.
Typically, you see a lot of programs that the seniors don’t pick up after practice or stay late. With me, I expect my seniors to be the last ones to leave and the first ones at the field. You can’t gain respect if you are the first one to leave or the last one to show up. She is the last one to leave every day. She makes sure the locker room is clean. It is hard to be a senior on my team because you are expected to do a lot more than the freshmen.
Everybody is like, “The freshmen don’t have to do anything here,” but we are teaching them. We are teaching our younger kids what the meaning of leadership is.
During District 8-3A play, the team struggled, finishing third after being ranked as high as fourth in the state. Then, in the playoffs, they put together a great run. What changed?
It is kind of crazy because we started the year off pretty good. We were hitting the ball pretty good. We went up to a peak, and then district started and we were pressing. We had never been in that situation before where we were the team to beat. At least, not since I’ve been here. And we had a lot of freshmen. So at that point, they were pressing.
They were pressing too much. They were pressing at the plate. They were pressing on defense. They felt they had to get the job done, but once they mentally made a commitment to take it one pitch at a time and made a commitment to stick to the plan and not worry about the outcome, it was a complete change.
It is all attitude, and once they figured that out, we started going back up and were peaking at the right time for sure. In the regional quarterfinals against Brownwood, our three phases came together finally. Luckily, offensively, we are good enough to let our pitcher slide a little, but they all came together.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org