Last year, a young Orangefield Lady Bobcat softball team made the playoffs with a nice stretch run in District 21-3A play.
This year, Coach Amy McLaughlin squad brings back a great deal of experience as they want to make a dent in the postseason.
“Last year, we played well as a team and we kept improving later in the season,” said McLaughlin. “We were very young and inexperienced. Well, that experience should pay off and we’re so excited about what we can accomp-lish this year.”
The Lady Bobcats (15-10-2) last year, picked up a pair of huge wins against West Orange-Stark and Hamshire-Fannett during the last two games of the season to squeeze into the postseason. Orangefield fell to annual powerhouse Splendora in the bidistrict round of the playoffs.
McLaughlin is feeling pretty confident about the makeup of the squad, especially with several All-District selections returning to the mix.
All-District First Team pitcher Khandi Breaux will return to the mound. The Lady Bobcats also have to other solid pitchers with the return of All-District utility player Kaylie Evans along with Ashton Ratcliff.
“It’s always a great thing to have good pitching, and it’s a luxury to have three of them,” explained McLaughlin. “Khandi and Ashton, they both can bring it. Kaylie, we’ll probably use her some, but she’s so valuable for us in other positions. Really, the best thing about this team is that we have so many kids that can play in different spots.”
The Lady Bobcats are certainly interchangeable at catcher.
Katelyn Dickerson was Co-Newcomer of the Year on the All-District Team while fellow catcher Kylie Bradley was also All-District.
“Like I mentioned, our kids can play anywhere in the field,” said McLaughlin. “Katelyn and Kylie can both catch, and they both can play some in the infield. You gotta love that.”
The Lady Bobcats also return First Team All-District third baseman Haleigh Turley and Second Team All-District shortstop Ashton Gatreaux.
The outfield returns two starters as well in First Team All-District centerfielder Kelsey Ancelot along with leftfielder Sammi Burgess.
The Lady Bobcats should once again find fierce competition in the playoff chase from defending 21-3A champion Silsbee and Orange County rival Bridge City.
Bridge City is ranked No. 6 in the first Texas High School Girls Coaches Association Preseason Class 3A state poll.
Orangefield will have some nice early tests to get them ready for 21-3A play. They open the season on the road Tuesday at Class 4A Vidor, which was a nice playoff team a year ago. The Lady Bobcats are also playing in two tough tournaments as they will participate in the Southeast Texas Classic in Beaumont Feb. 14-16 and the Livingston Tournament Feb. 28-Mar. 2.
“We’ve got some tests early on that’s going to help us a bunch,” said McLaughlin. “The kids know there will be some challenges when district comes around too and they think they can compete with anyone and I know they can. When we put up our stuff last year after the playoff loss, we all immediately starting think about this season and we could hardly wait then. We’re expecting some great things this year.”
Feb. 12: at Vidor
Feb. 14-16: at Southeast Texas Classic (Bmt.)
Feb. 19: at Lumberton
Feb. 21-23: at Kountze Tournament
Feb. 25: Kountze
Feb. 28-Mar. 2: at Livingston Tournament
Mar. 5: at Buna*
Mar. 8: Bridge City*
Mar. 12: Silsbee*
Mar. 14: at Hamshire-Fannett*
Mar. 19: Hardin-Jefferson*
Mar. 22: WO-S*
Mar. 23: Starks (La.)
Mar. 25: at Hardin
Mar. 28: Buna*
Apr. 5: at Bridge City*
Apr. 6: at Silsbee*
Apr. 8: Hamshire-Fannett*
Apr. 12: at Hardin-Jefferson*
Apr. 16: at WO-S*