The defending District 7-4A champion Brownwood Lady Lions open the 2020 softball season at 7 p.m. Monday at home against the Jim Ned Lady Indians, and the starting lineup will be chock full of new faces.
The full-time returning starters for the Lady Lions — who posted a 25-4-2 overall record and reached the third round of the playoffs a year ago — are center fielder Ashlynn Patteson; shortstop Aubrie Harris, moving over from second base; catcher Auzzlyn Benedict, who spent time at shortstop, right field and as the designated player last year; and Annie-Klein Allgood, who moves to pitcher after playing first base in 2019.
“We have several spots to fill but we're starting to figure some things out,” said Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn. “The girls are coming together, but there's a lot of new faces on varsity this year. We're trying to figure out who fits the best together as far as chemistry goes, but we still have have a few questions. We may continue to rotate girls until district starts.”
Allgood takes over in the circle for four-year starter Chyanne Ellett, who rewrote the Lady Lion record book en route to earning a scholarship from the University of Memphis roster.
“She threw a couple of games last year and she's doing a good job, but she's a different style pitcher than Chyanne,” Lynn said of Allgood. “She's not a power pitcher, she's not going to get a ton of strikeouts, she gets weak contact ground balls and the defense is going to have to make plays, and they're doing a good job with that right now. It's a little different because the ball wasn't put in play much last year, but she's doing a good job trusting the defense, letting her stuff move and letting them make plays behind her.”
Along with Harris at shortstop, the rest of the infield features competitions for playing time at first, second and third base. Lexie Castillo and Cecilia Rodriguez are in a battle at third base, Castillo and Mackenzie Welch are vying for time at second base, and Rodriguez and Chesney Covey have seen action at first base.
With Patteson in center field, Chesney and Katelyn Windham have occupied right field while left field has featured Chesney, Caitlyn Moody and Heaven Badillo.
“There's lots of new faces doing a lot of good things, we're just trying to find the right mixture,” Lynn said. “The last several years we were pretty solid as far as who was going to play where. This is a different way to start the season and go about setting up our team this year.”
Through four scrimmages, including Thursday's 8-5 victory over Lampasas, Lynn has seen clear strides from her young squad.
"I feel like defense is going to be our strong suit early,” Lynn said. “In the scrimmage against Lampasas I saw our biggest improvements on defense. We're starting to trust each other to make plays. The first couple of scrimmages they were a little unsure, but you can see them coming together and gelling. We're pretty fast in the outfield and have some good gloves in the infield.
“Our offense looked good against Lampasas but we're still trying to get them to be more aggressive at the plate. When that comes around we should be pretty solid offensively.”
Following the season opener against Jim Ned, the Lady Lions visit Stamford (Feb. 25), take part in the Abilene Icebreaker Tournament (Feb. 27-29), host Robinson (March 10), compete at the Graham tournament (March 12-14), and venture to Argyle (March 20) to wrap up pre-district action.
With a revamped roster, Lynn stated the obvious goal prior to the start of District 7-4A action is to find the right combination of talent to put on the field for the Lady Lions to maximize their potential.
League play begins March 24 at Glen Rose, then Godley visits March 27. The Lady Lions step out of league play and travel to Clyde March 31, resume district play at Stephenville April 3 and conclude the first half of 7-4A action April 7 at home against Mineral Wells. Glen Rose visits April 9 to start the second half of district, Brownwood journeys to Godley April 14, Stephenville comes to town for Senior Night April 21 and the district and regular season finale is April 24 at Mineral Wells.
“Like every year it's going to be competitive, which I like because it gets you ready for the playoffs,” Lynn said of the 7-4A race. “I'm excited to get to that point and see how it all plays out.
“We can be pretty good, we just have to realize we have that potential. In the past we relied on Chyanne for a lot of the energy and setting the tone, but they have to learn they have the ability to do that on their own, make plays, and get the job done. We're young, but when the young ones get comfortable we'll be fine and should make a good run this year.”