FLORENCE —Earlier this season, Florence senior right fielder Samantha Vaughan had to miss three games due to a concussion.
But down the stretch she’s been inflicting some pain on the softball.
That hot bat and veteran leadership has helped the Florence Lady Buffs make school history by qualifying for the postseason for the first time.
“When I came back, I figured it was all or nothing at that moment so I decided to give it my best,” Vaughan said.
The Lady Buffs (12-13) won a three-way tiebreaker with Lexington and Cameron Yoe on Monday and take on Crawford (24-0), the No. 1 team in the latest Texas Girls Coaches Association state softball poll, in the Region III-2A bi-district playoffs.
The best-of-three series gets underway today at Temple College at approximately 8:30 p.m. Game 2 is on Friday at 6 p.m. at Moody High School and Game 3, if necessary, will be played after Game 2.
Vaughan’s classification sets her apart from the rest of the team, but in a good way.
She is the lone senior on a team with four freshmen, six sophomores and three juniors on the roster.
“We put a lot of responsibility on Sam and she’s not a vocal leader, she’s a lead by example person,” Florence head coach Brett Gola said.
“Her demeanor never changes. She’s always upbeat, always been positive and that’s what the kids really react to.”
The senior has stepped up in the clutch. Florence had to win three of its final four district games in order to have a shot in the postseason and that was when Vaughan got her bat really going.
Vaughan is hitting .500 with five runs scored and an RBI in the last four games. Her season batting average is .328. She had a clutch hit and scored a run in the 10-0 win over Lexington that clinched a playoff spot.
“We do feel like we have nothing to lose and we’re going in with our heads held high,” Vaughan said.
“We’ll be fine either way. Winning and moving on in the playoffs would be great, but I think it’s all a learning experience from here.”
The Lady Buffs will be considered the underdog against a team that won the 2012 Class 2A state title and is looking to make up for an early playoff exit in 2013. But for Vaughan, the playoffs represent a destination to a journey that began three years ago.
Vaughan moved to Florence from Cupertino, Calif. and remembers watching Florence’s final game of the 2011 regular season, a 14-0 loss to Yoe.
The short term wasn’t any better as Vaughan was a part of the 2012 Lady Buffs that went 0-19 and the 2013 team that was 6-16.
But it all came together this spring.
“I’m pumped,” Vaughan said. “I’ve been working for this for a very long time. Going from 0-19 my sophomore year to now is extraordinary and I’m along for the ride so it’s pretty awesome.”
Though no member of the Lady Buffs has ever been in a playoff game, they do have an understanding of the pressure it brings.
Florence was 3-7 in district play 20 days ago and had little room for error if it wanted to get into the playoffs. The team closed out the second round of district play on a hot streak.
“It’s gotten us to where we relax,” Gola said. “We didn’t really come out and show a lot of nerves early in that tiebreaker game and I think a lot of that was that we had to win to stay in.”
Mackenzie Futrell, Courtney Culp and Madison Hill are the other big bats for Florence, each is hitting better than .340. Futrell and freshman Emily Gray make up a solid pitching staff. Both have an ERA below 2.83 and have combined for 133 strikeouts.