In her second season, Cassie Crabtree has revived Lampasas’ softball program.
The former Texas-Dallas head coach took over the position in 2012, inheriting a team that made four consecutive trips to the playoffs, including back-to-back trips to the regional semifinals.
Last year, the streak of success ended as the Lady Badgers struggled during the transition, finishing the season with an overall record of 8-19 and losing eight of their 10 District 8-3A games in Crabtree’s debut.
One season later, however, Lampasas has reemerged as a state power, sitting at No. 4 in the current Texas Girls Coaches Association’s Class 3A poll after starting the season with a 15-2 record.
The Lady Badgers open district play at 7 p.m. today at home against Gatesville.
On the eve of the Lady Badgers’ first step toward returning to the playoffs, Crabtree talked with the Herald’s Clay Whittington.
How do you feel about where the team is at entering district?
It is exciting, especially with this group. They are pretty pumped up. We’ve had two good days of practice, and everybody is just excited. We are ready to get into district, and we are ready to face some tough opponents, especially since we have a new look. It is a lot more exciting going in knowing that we have competed, and we’ve done pretty good.
Is there a different feeling going into district this season compared to last year?
It is definitely a big turnaround. We have good leaders, who are showing good leadership, and it is just a lot of fun. Our practices are intense, and they know they are going to compete for something. It just makes the whole atmosphere at practice and in daily life so much better. They compete every day at practice, and that is our goal — to compete every day at practice and get better every day. And they do.
Have you set any goals for your team, such as winning the district championship?
Yeah, that is always a good goal to have, but our main goal is to be better than we were yesterday. That is something we stress every day. We want to practice with a purpose, and make sure when we come to practice, we work on the philosophies that we’ve set. We’ve really tried to build a team this year, and offensively, we built a philosophy and we try to stick to that philosophy. We want to stick to our competitive spirit. Winning a district championship is always in the back of our minds, but we just focus on one day at a time and try to get better every day.
The district has some good teams, including No. 6 Liberty Hill. What are your thoughts on the district as a whole?
It is very, very competitive. Every game is going to be a fight, and that is a good thing because it prepares you for the postseason when you have to compete in every district game. Then, you don’t get put in that situation where it is overwhelming.
It definitely prepares them for the postseason, and I think that is great. Gatesville is going to be scrappy. They are going to be good. Then there is Liberty Hill, which is a powerhouse both pitching and hitting. Burnet is off to a really good start this year. So, it is going to be tough, for sure, but that is the good part. At the end of the day, if you do make the postseason, you are going to be ready to play.
How important is it to get wins early when you know how difficult the district schedule will be?
Early games are crucial because they can set you up in a good spot going in to Round 2. We don’t want to be fighting at the end. We want to have our spot, so we can dictate where we go and not anybody else.
What has to happen specifically against Gatesville to start district with a win?
Gatesville is scrappy. Last year, they were running. They were fast, and I know they lost a couple of kids, but they are scrappy. Defensively, we have to be prepared. That is what we have talked about all week — being prepared for anything they can throw at us. ... We know they are going to put the short game on us, and they are going to run. So, being prepared defensively and pitching is going to be key. And we’ve got to hit the ball. We’ve been an offensive team all year. On the season, we have hit 20 home runs, and we have to keep that up.
Does it seem like the kids already possess that confidence to know they can bounce back from most situations?
Yeah, definitely. They are young, so they learn every game. We played Llano last weekend, and we got down 3-0 in the first. We came back and scored five in the bottom of the first. We just try to win the inning. If they score one, we’ll score two. If they score two, we’ll score three. We have a goal board, and that is one of the goals we put on there — win the inning.