Olivia Curtis cried, Amy Anz got angry and Kate Saucke …
“I was begging,'' said Saucke, who remembered what it felt like before this year's softball season started at Hubbard — a season that began in doubt and concern and has flourished into one no one in the program will ever forget.
It started with tears and anger and some good-old-fashioned hands-on recruiting (i.e. begging) and it's wound its way on a memorable road right smack in the middle of the Class 1A playoffs.
But what a start …
Sure, this was Hubbard, where they had won seven of the last eight district titles and had marched to the Class 1A regional finals a year ago, but now everything was different. Three seniors had graduated and then there was the shock factor of losing two impact players, who had moved to Waco.
The shortstop and the entire right side of the infield and right fielder were missing. It was a hole on the diamond and one that burned inside of Curtis, Anz and Saucke, the three senior leaders on the team.
“In the past it was always like, Hubbard is the team to beat, but this year losing two impact players just before the season started just killed us,'' said Curtis, the ace of the team. “We had already lost three senior starters.''
Saucke, who plays third and pitches, said it gripped everyone on the team.
“We had no middle infield, no first baseman and no right fielder,'' she said.
Anz was blunt. “We kind of thought our season was over ,'' said Anz, the team's catcher .
That's why Curtis cried and Anz got so mad, and why Saucke begged. Both Saucke and Curtis knew something had to be done so they went to kids they knew and asked, begged and did what ever they could do to find new softball players.
Saucke, who stars at Hubbard in volleyball and basketball, went to the Lady Jags point guard freshman Shayla Parks and talked her into playing softball.
“She had never played softball in her life,'' Saucke said. “But I knew she was a good athlete and I talked to her and asked her to come out for the team. I told Shayla to just come try it. She's kind of a natural. She still says pass instead of throw. She says I pass the ball to first base.''
Curtis went to Jamie Goodpaster, another good all-around athlete who played volleyball and basketball.
“I met her between classes (in a vacant classroom) and told her: 'I need you to step up and play softball.' She was like, 'OK,' I'll try it.'”
That became the middle infield — Parks, who had never played, at short and Goodpaster, who hadn't picked up a softball since she was 10, at second base. Megan Walker, a returning starter in the outfield, took over at first base, and suddenly with the kids helping recruit players, Hubbard started the season in a foggy doubt about what kind of season lay ahead.
“We played our first game in Malakoff, and we tied,'' Coach Mike Saucke said. “I was so happy to get the tie.''
Somehow, some way, the Lady Jags made it work, turning that doubt and fear into belief and confidence. And here they are in the middle of May still playing, still believing — and still marching in the playoffs.
Hubbard has won 26 games (26-5-1) and will play Dodd City Friday and Saturday in the best-of-three-series in the Region II 1A semifinals in Mineola. There are only 16 1A teams left in Texas, and Hubbard is the last Golden Circle softball team standing.
“We started finding ourselves and pushing each other,'' Curtis said “We were more cohesive this year. It was different. I think losing those impact players at the beginning of the year, we had to come together as a team.''
Everything about this season has been different. Kate Saucke's eyes tell the story. Just the way they look when she talks about “begging,'' before the season started. There's worry and relief in them at the same moment.
The threesome of Saucke, Curtis and Anz have been playing softball together since they were 10 on select teams in Waco, and this is was their last season.
“It was not a given that we would get to the playoffs,'' Kate Saucke said. “We knew it was our last season and we knew we had to make the most of it.''
They did — everyone on the team has had their moments. There have been a number of games, including twice in the playoffs, the bottom of the lineup has come through to win games.
Walker is hitting .430 and Sidney Lane (.298) and Hailey Davidson (.500) have played the outfield along with senior leader Nakaila Banks, who is one of the best center fielders anywhere and Hubbard is rolling.
The team batting average is .409 and four seniors have carried a lot of the load. Banks, a senior center fielder who covers a ton of ground and hits like lightning, is batting .539 with 27 RBI's. She has stolen nine bases and scored a team-high 49 runs. She leads the team with four home runs.
Saucke is batting .580 and has driven in 44 runs while scoring 44 runs. She has stolen 15 bases and has 19 extra-base hits, including 12 doubles and six triples. Saucke is a career .540 hitter at Hubbard, where she also pitched. She is 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA on the mound this season.
Anz is batting .490 with 35 RBI's and she has scored 34 runs, and Curtis is batting .442 with 20 RBI's and has scored 35 runs.
They call Curtis “O” and that's what she throws — a lot of zeros. Curtis, who recently signed with Mary Hardin-Baylor, is 23-3-1 with a 1.33 ERA on the mound, where she has been a dominating force for three years. Over the past three seasons, Curtis is 47-6-3 with a 1.20 ERA and she has struck out 404 batters along the way.
She has a 191 strikeouts in just 147 innings this season and made sure Hubbard went to the playoffs with momentum.
The Lady Jags had their bumps before district began and they lost to powerhouse Bosqueville, 3-1, early in the district season. But on the final week of the season, Curtis shut out Bosqueville 6-0 and then shut out Axtell 3-0 to give the Lady Jags (9-1 in district) a share with of the district title with Bosqueville.
“I thought the second Bosqueville was really the turning point for us,'' Mike Saucke said. “We have had so many kids come through this year. Shayla had never touched a softball until this season, and Jamie hadn't played softball in years, and they have both become good players and have gotten better and better.''
Mike Saucke has the touch and the kids know it and believe in him. He's won 487 games and he believes in this team.
“Even though we went through all this stuff, I wouldn't change it for the world,'' Curtis said.
Anz, Saucke and Curtis all said this season has been different, and called it a special season — special for all the right reasons.
“It has been one of the most fun times I have ever had playing softball,'' Anz said. “We have had so much fun. We have fun and work hard, and it's been fun watching everyone come through on the team.
We expected to slide into the playoffs in third place. We were worried.''
But everyone come together …
“This season has been more exciting,'' Anz said. “It's so much sweeter this year because it didn't start out so great.
“It's all fallen into place.''
Olivia Curtis cried, Amy Anz got angry and Kate Saucke …
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