Florence softball fans waited more than a decade for the first playoff appearance in the history of the program.
Now the way the team is set up, postseason appearance No. 2 may not take nearly as long.
The core of Florence’s historic playoff run is made up of underclassmen and will return in 2015 with a season of experience and work under their belts.
“I know this has made them hungry for the next season,” Florence coach Brett Gola said. “We’re going to come back with even more fire and understand what we’re playing for more. We broke through that threshold there and now we want to be here all of the time.”
Samantha Vaughan is the only senior in a group of 14 players listed on the Lady Buff roster.
In its bi-district playoff series against No. 1 Crawford (26-0), one junior, six sophomores and four freshmen played.
“We definitely know we can do everything possible next year,” shortstop Clarissa Carranco said.
Sophomore Mackenzie Futrell and freshman Emily Gray pitched for the Lady Buffs (12-15) in the series and should also be a formidable 1-2 punch next season.
Gray started Game 1 and the District 22-2A fourth place tiebreaker, where she struck out a combined 15 batters. She finished the regular season with a 2.83 ERA and 89 strikeouts.
Futrell, the Game 2 starter, had an 8-6 record with a 2.65 ERA in the regular season.
“We’re going to be more experienced next year than we were this year,” Futrell said. “I think that we’re really going to want it and we’re not really going to care who we play because we know we’re going to make it and we know we can do good.”
Futrell was also dangerous at the plate. She led the team in batting average (.386) and RBIs (20) in the regular season to go along with 10 doubles.
She hit .571 (4 for 7) in the playoffs with a run scored. Futrell said the preparation for next season begins this week when she begins playing select league ball.
Sophomore Courtney Culp and freshman Madison Hill also brought an offensive punch, hitting .358 and .340, respectively, in the regular season.
Culp also had a team-best five steals and 20 runs scored in the regular season.
District rivals Florence and Jarrell will compete in the new District 25-3A in 2015 and 2016 along with Blanco, Comfort, Georgetown Gateway College Prep, Ingram Moore and Lago Vista. The new district will also compete in Region IV.