As soon as the ball sailed into centerfielder Campbell Grona’s glove for the game’s final out, Tivy pitcher Kaitlyn Secor dashed into centerfield and embraced her senior teammate. Senior shortstop Marissa Medina immediately hugged third baseman Liz Twiss after the final out before meeting with Alyssa Hickman for another embrace.
Basically, everyone on the Tivy softball team took turns hugging each other after demolishing Harlandale, 10-1, on Thursday night. They cheered as they unfurled a golden banner emblazoned with the words, “District champs,” in blue lettering. After they were finished posing for photos holding the banner, they shared more embraces with each other.
“We all just found one person and started hugging them,” Hickman said. “It was one emotional night being the seniors’ last time playing on this field.”
Thurday’s game was emotional for another reason: It perfectly captured the progress the seniors have achieved during their four years at Tivy. The seniors never made the playoffs during their first three seasons in the program. Last year, they finished with a 6-19-1 record. But never once did they panic. They knew they could be a good team in 2019; they just had to work hard. So they did.
Most of them played select travel ball during the offseason. They all performed excruciating workouts during the summer and the fall, realizing that they only had one more opportunity to leave an impact at Tivy.
That’s what made Thursday night so special; the realization that all of that hard work had paid off. For the first time in 20 years, the Lady Antlers are district Champions. They will play Austin LBJ in the bi-district round of the Class 5A playoffs.
“It’s a feeling that you dream about, but now that it’s here, you never knew it was going to feel this good,” Alyssa Hickman said. “A lot of us have been playing together for a long time, so all of that work from that time has finally paid off and it feels amazing. And I love my team, so to achieve this with them makes it even better.
“We worked four years for this (moment),” Secor added.
In other words, the stakes for Thursday’s game were pretty high. The Lady Antlers (22-10-2, 14-2 District 26-5A) entered the contest knowing they had to beat Harlandale to secure an outright district title. A loss would have given Seguin a share of the title, and the two squads would have played Monday to determine the district champion. Thursday’s game also featured a playoff atmosphere. Tivy fans packed the bleachers before the first pitch. Even more fans sat in lawn chairs behind the left foul line.
But the Lady Antlers insist they weren’t nervous. They had defeated the Indians, 8-5, earlier in the season and had a great practice on Wednesday. In the days leading to the game, Tivy coach Jeremy Hickman never mentioned the possibility of winning a district championship. Instead, he simply encouraged them to have fun.
“We had beaten them once; I knew we could do it again,” Secor said. “I knew with all the momentum we had — with it being senior night and our last time playing on this field, I knew we were going to pull it out.
“So, I wasn’t nervous. I was just really excited and amped up for the game.”
The Lady Antlers played with that level of confidence on Thursday. Secor pitched a complete game of one-run softball. Alyssa Hickman muscled a home run over the left centerfield wall to lead off the second. Medina drove 0-1 pitch past the right fielder for a two-run triple in the third, and later stole home to stretch Tivy’s lead to 4-1. Lexi Callcott unloaded on a 0-2 pitch for another triple to score Amber Pintsch in the first. Medina then plated Callcott with a bloop single that sailed over the second baseman’s head. The rout had begun. The Lady Antlers scored four more runs to punctuate the victory.
“It was a great defensive game,” Jeremy Hickman said. “It was a great offensive game, great pitching. What else can you ask of them? I am proud of them.”
Jeremy Hickman quickly pointed out that the season isn’t over. Thursday’s win may have been a special moment for his players, but they have an opportunity to continue to reap the benefits of their hard work in the postseason.
“We have really good players,” Jeremy Hickman said. “Our seniors have done a great job of leading, playing and competing. … We have a lot of work to do to get better. There are still some things today that we can fix to get better, so we are going to work.”
“We can go as far we can go. It’s going to come down to how much desire and how much hunger we have to get better every day.”