By Mike Bruu, TSB Staff
If the McKinney High softball program is going to return to the postseason out of District 10-4A in 2012, it is going to have to come out of the gates strong next week to start district play.
While MHS certainly has the talent and leadership to make a return to the playoffs, the opening four games will be a true test of the Lionettes overall ability and staying power in 10-4A.
The Lionettes open up Tuesday night at home versus Wylie High School, the district’s runner-up a season ago. After a trip to Rockwall-Heath, the girls travel out to defending district champion Rockwall High, a team that defeated the Lionettes twice last season by a score of 7-2 and 9-0. Finally, MHS will host the first of two Crosstown Showdowns between the Lionettes and the Bulldogs of McKinney North High, who snuck into the postseason as the fourth seed in 2011 with a 6-8, district record.
“It’s going to be a tough race. The top four teams are going to be really tough,” said MHS coach Jeremy Greenway Thursday night following the teams MISD Softball Invitational game against Stony Point.
McKinney High finished in third place in 10-4A in 2011, posting an 11-3 record in district while finishing under .500 for the overall season at 16-17. However, the Lionettes playoff run didn’t last long as they lost in a thrilling three-game series, 2-1, to Frisco Centennial.
The Lionettes are 8-7 through the first 15 games of the season in 2012, and regardless of the outcomes of the remaining couple tournament games this weekend, Greenway believes his players are ready for the grind of 10-4A.
“At this point with this being our last tournament before district play, we think we are where we need to be,” Greenway states. “We are just trying to shore up some things and put together some good games.”
Now while they play to win the games, Greenway and the rest of the Lionettes look at the pre-season tournaments as opportunities to create a fluid lineup while building some steady momentum heading into the matchup against Wylie next Tuesday.
“We’ve been improving just like you’d hope a team would,” Greenway says. “We’ve been getting stronger and stronger and we’re figuring out our offensive lineup while getting some weaknesses squared away.”
One of the dynamics to keep an eye on about the 2012 Lionettes is their relative youth on the roster. With only two seniors in Lauren McQuestion and Alyssa Fontillas, McKinney will need players like junior Courtney Derrick and sophomore Chelsea Thomas to step up and be big throughout the season.
Thomas, who earned 14 victories on the mound for the Lionettes in 2011, has the belief of her coach in the impact she could have on McKinney’s playoff hopes this season.
“Chelsea Thomas, number five; when she dials up she pitches really well and gets the job done,” said Greenway after a strong performance by the sophomore against Stoney Point Thursday night, despite the loss.
Another player to keep a lookout for this spring is Fontillas, a four-year starter for the Lionettes and the teams starting catcher. A Grambling State commit next fall, Fontillas “is doing a fantastic job [behind the plate],” for the Lionettes this season according to Greenway, hoping she can be the veteran presence the squad needs in the locker room and on the diamond.
When asked where he expects the Lionettes to be at the end of the season in the standings in 10-4A, Greenway avoided making any definitive predictions for the spring but did make it clear that his players have something special brewing in 2012.
“Our team has shown signs of greatness to where we can do great things in district play. We are just going to take things one game at a time and put together some good victories and see what happens.”
McKinney continues its play in the 2012 MISD Softball Invitational Friday morning at 11 a.m. versus Lubbock Monterrey H.S at MHS Field. The Lionettes are 1-1 after the two games Thursday, defeating Sulphur Springs 8-0 in the morning followed by a loss versus Stoney Point 6-3 in the evening.
Below is the complete district schedule for MHS:
Date: Team (Time)
March 6th: vs. Wylie (7)
March 9th: @ Rockwall Heath (7)
March 13th: @ Rockwall (7)
March 16th: vs. McKinney North (7)
March 20th: vs. JJ Pearce (7)
March 23rd: @ Wylie East (7)
March 27th: vs. Highland Park (7)
March 30th: @Wylie (7)
April 3rd: vs. Rockwall Heath (7)
April 6th: vs. Rockwall (7)
April 10th: @ McKinney North (7)
April 13th: @ JJ Pearce (7)
April 17th: vs. Wylie East (7)
April 19th: @ Highland Park (4)
Editor’s Note: Watch for softball previews of McKinney Boyd and McKinney North in the coming days.