LAMPASAS — Alex Caruthers remembers the moment everything changed.
With the regular season coming to a close and Lampasas’ playoff opportunities dwindling, the Lady Badgers’ lone senior recalls her teammates deciding they had enough.
“We all kind of had that great realization and asked ourselves, ‘Do we really, really want to go to the playoffs or are we just playing to look cool?’” Caruthers said.
Once the team made the postseason its sole purpose, for the first time, lofty goals became attainable in the players’ minds.
“We all agreed we are going to state,” Caruthers said. “I guess that got our engine going, and it hasn’t stopped yet.”
With a roster full of underclassmen, the Lady Badgers, who won eight games last season, are two series wins away from achieving their objective.
No. 9 Lampasas begins its best-of-three Region I-3A semifinals series against No. 8 Pampa at 6 p.m. Friday at Bowie High School. Game 2 will be played at noon Saturday with Game 3, if necessary, to follow.
Although second-year Lady Badgers head coach Cassie Crabtree always knew her team was talented, she admits the group consisting of nine underclassmen is playing beyond its years.
“Never in a million years did anyone really think we would ever be 25-8 or be playing in the regional semifinals,” she said. “So, now, I just tell them, ‘You are the underdogs. At this point, you can’t be nervous.’
“Our motto since the playoffs started is we are one-pitch warriors. Defensively, it’s one pitch at a time, and offensively, it’s one pitch at a time.”
So far, the strategy is working to near perfection.
After a streak of five loses during a seven-game span at the tail end of the District 8-3A schedule nearly doomed the Lady Badgers’ bounce-back season, everything is falling into place.
In six postseason games, Lampasas holds a 52-28 scoring advantage over its opponents, upsetting then-No. 2 Kennedale in the area round before shutting out Brownwood following two consecutive loses to the Lady Lions during district play.
Now, the Lady Badgers, who field seven freshmen, including starting pitcher Sienna Lawson, have an opportunity to make the deepest run in program history by beating the Lady Harvesters.
Age, however, plays no factor, according to freshman catcher Kloe Corbin, who leads the team in home runs with 12, while ranking second in hits (45) and RBIs (51).
“The majority of the team is my age, and I’ve played with them before,” she said. “I know they have my back, and I have their backs. … We play at the same level as anyone else despite being young. It just doesn’t really matter.”
The only thing Lampasas is concerned with is Pampa (31-7).
The Lady Harvesters are undefeated in postseason play after sweeping Seminole, Midland Greenwood and Lubbock Cooper, using a small-ball philosophy to chip away at the opposition.
With Pampa serving as a stark contrast to Lampasas’ hard-hitting offense, Crabtree believes defense will determine the outcome.
“It is going to come down to who can prevent the big inning,” she said, “and who can prevent errors. I think if we stay error-free, then we shouldn’t have a problem at all.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com