EARLY — The Early Lady Horns are treating a week like none they’ve ever experienced the same as every other week this season. Nevermind that the Lady Horns are making their first trip to the UIL Class 2A state softball tournament, where they are the top seed, and they don’t have school to contend with this week. It’s business as usual in Early.
The Region I-2A champion Lady Horns (33-4) will square off against Region IV-2A champion Hallettsville (31-9) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at McCombs Field on the University of Texas at Austin campus in one state semifinal. Region II champion Brock (31-6) and Region III champion Elysian Fields (31-7) will meet in the other at 2 p.m. The two winners will then clash at 11 a.m. Saturday to determine the 2A state champion.
Early received the top seed in the state tournament based on its record, which is better than any other 2A team in the field.
“From what I’ve learned from talking to people who have been there, the seeding is done by records,” said Lady Horns head coach Bryan Waller. “The teams with the top two records are given the first two seeds, and then the three and four seeds are drawn out of a hat.
“They paired us with Hallettsville and they’re a pretty good ball club. It should be an evenly matched game.”
While Brock and Elysian Fields are both making their third state tournament appearances overall, Hallettsville and Early have never played a game of this magnitude, so the Lady Horns don’t really know what to expect. In fact, Early’s accomplishments thus far are still a little overwhelming to some of the players and coaches.
“Who knows if it’s really sunk in,” Waller said. “When I wake up in the morning I still have that ‘Wow!’ feeling because it’s uncharted territory for all of us. We’re excited and the girls believed and knew they could do this. It wasn’t a big shock, but it was nice when the last out was made and we got to celebrate.”
One thing is certain — owning the top seed won’t put any additional pressure on the Lady Horns, who overcame everything Coahoma threw at them last week to end the Bulldogettes’ four-year run of state tournament appearances.
“Our girls don’t care about the seeding, they are just happy to be there,” Waller said. “Our goal all year was to get there, and now that we’re there, our goal is just like every other team. If we’re there, we might as well win it. That’s our philosophy and we’re going to stick to that. No matter who we play we know we have to win to get to the next game, and there are four quality teams that are still left right now.”
Despite no more classes, the Lady Horns are not altering their Monday and Tuesday practice schedules from what they had been during the school year.
“We’re practicing later in the afternoon these first two days to get used to the heat we’re going to be playing in this weekend,” Waller said. “It’s supposed to be hot and McCombs Field isn’t very air friendly. We’re going to go in the heat Monday and Tuesday and then go earlier on Wednesday to give them a chance to get their legs back underneath them Wednesday night.”
The Wednesday practice schedule change also opened the door for an 8 p.m. community-wide pep rally, which is being hosted by the Early Booster Club at Longhorn Stadium.
“There was a ton of people in Abilene,” Waller said. “When the bullpen is jam packed with fans, then you know there’s a lot of people there. Early has a tradition of the fans loving their kids and loving their community and supporting their teams.”