GRANDVIEW — The Grandview Lady Zebras are at the same spot in the playoff bracket where their season ended a year ago — the area round. And similar to last year’s loss to Pilot Point, the Lady Zebras’ area matchup against Howe this season is one of the most anticipated early-round battles in the state.
A year ago, Pilot Point outlasted the Lady Zebras in a thrilling three-game series. Grandview took game 1, 5-4; Pilot Point bounced back with a 9-1 win in game 2; then Pilot Point edged Grandview, 9-7, in the decisive game 3.
Now, the Lady Zebras — albeit a different squad from last year’s area finalist — hope to push beyond round 2.
“This will be a great series between two really good teams,” Grandview Coach Ron Holton said. “I hate that we have to play each other so early in the playoffs. Howe is a very experienced bunch that went to the regional semifinals last year and only lost one senior. They aren’t 25-3 for nothing. I look for this to be either a really high scoring game or a defensive battle between us.”
Grandview is coming off a dominant sweep of Scurry-Rosser in bidistrict with wins of 8-1 and 11-1 last weekend.
“We played really well against Scurry-Rosser,” Holton said. “I was really impressed with our defense and pitching. Kylee Flores threw a 1-hitter with 14 strikeouts in game 1 and Kami Flores threw a 3-hitter in game 2.”
The Lady Zebras were a much more experienced and seasoned team from a year ago. But despite being so young this season, the Lady Zebras have continued a strong tradition for Grandview softball to the tune of a 24-5 overall record.
With so many underclassmen on the team, Holton said a key area of focus for the Lady Zebras comes from the mental part of the game.
“We are very young this year and think we have improved a lot since the beginning of the year on our mental game, but that is the area that we need to focus on the most; one pitch at a time, one out at a time, one inning at a time and play a full 21 outs,” Holton said. “If we can overcome our mental mistakes — because they are going to happen — we have really good shot of doing something good this year. We just have to play one pitch at a time and always expect the unexpected and we will be OK.”
Despite only five losses, the 2016 season for Grandview has seen its ups and downs, but the positive part about experiencing a few low points was learning from those struggles, Holton added.
“We have worked a lot on being resilient this year and learning from our mistakes and being able to move to the next play, pitch and out,” he said. “We learned a lot of valuable lessons when we played Brock at home and made 12 errors in a 13-5 loss. That was the first time all year that our ‘age’ really showed and it taught us how we needed to work on being mentally tough. We have focused on that the past three to four weeks and feel like we are ready for whatever the playoffs have to throw at us.”
The best-of-three series will be played at North Forney High School. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. Game 2 is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday. If a decisive game 3 is needed, it will follow game 2.
The winner advances to the regional quarterfinals and will meet the winner between S&S Consolidated and Peaster, a District 11-3A rival of Grandview.