When Jeremy Hickman became the new Tivy softball coach in 2015, he inherited sort of a rebuilding project.

The Lady Antlers were in the middle of a playoff drought; their facilities needed upgrades. Hickman, though, was optimistic about the challenge. He knew that Tivy softball had experienced plenty of success in the past, and was confident they could win at a high level again. It was just going to require a little hard work.

“I really didn’t think about it being rebuild — that thought never crossed my mind,” Hickman said. “I just said, ‘We are going to work hard and try to be tough.’ … I just knew the vision that I wanted for the program and that it was going to take time.

He practiced what he preached. He painted the home dugout, installed new dirt in the infield and built new batting cages in hopes of energizing the program. His players did their part to improve the program. Most of his girls played select travel ball last summer; they vigorously trained during the fall. 

Last year’s results speak for themselves, with the Lady Antlers enjoying one of the best seasons in Tivy history. They snapped their playoff drought, captured their first district title in 20 years and advanced to the regional quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. Hickman’s initial vision had come to fruition: The Lady Antlers were once again a softball power. The hope, naturally, is that this season sets the table for continued success.

“I can’t begin to explain how it feels to have been a part of something so special,” said departing senior Kaitlyn Secor, the Lady Antlers’ 2018 ace. “Leaving Tivy on such a high note is all I could ask for. Wanting to make the playoffs was only the beginning, but to go as far as we did with this team is such an honor and I will never forget it.”

Secor and her teammates have continued receiving honors for their season. Last week, Secor (honorable mention pitcher), senior Alyssa Hickman (first-team catcher) and senior Marissa Medina (second-team utility player) discovered that they had received all-state honors from the Texas Sports Writers Association, yet another indication of how much their senior class improved the program during their four years at Tivy.

“The three all-state selections had great years for us,” Jeremy Hickman said. “Our whole team in general had a great season. Because of the success of our team, that’s why our girls were recognized. It’s a testament to the program. … It’s not about winning 25 games, it’s about how these girls went about winning — working as hard as they could every day from fall until the last minute of the season.”

After graduating six starters, the next question is whether Tivy will be able to sustain the success from last year. So far, the early indications are promising. The junior varsity team had a good 2018 season, meaning the Lady Antlers will possess some young talent next year. Tivy’s three rising seniors (Page Melcher, Liz Twiss and Lexi Callcott) have regularly attended Tivy’s strength and conditioning camp this summer, according to Hickman.

“They’ve got to develop, continue to work hard,” Hickman said. “The program is looking up — it’s trending the right way. It comes down to the leadership they’ve seen from the (graduating seniors).”

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