Lady Bulldogs’ success been a long time coming

As the Borger Lady Bulldogs prepare to take on the Andrews Lady Mustangs in the 3A Area Round of the playoffs this weekend, it might be easy for some Borger fans to forget that it was just two years ago that the team was able to collect just one win on the softball diamond. At the time, this could’ve been considered an improvement from the winless season the varsity squad experienced from the previous year.For the bulk of the current Lady Bulldogs on the varsity roster, there is no question they experienced a little bit of baptism under fire by playing on the varsity level as freshmen and sophomores. Those memories of the team struggling on the field are still pretty fresh in their minds today. Those rough seasons helped cause what is now an experienced softball team to really appreciate the success it has seen this season. That includes getting a bi-district playoff win last weekend over former district foe Levelland.Of the team’s success this season, senior Kylie Boyd commented, “Knowing where we have came from, it has been nice to enjoy what we have been able to do this season. “ Senior Brittany Thomas added, “We have put in a lot of work and this year has been fun. So I’m not quite ready for it all to end just yet.”Assistant Softball Coach Vicki Brame remembers the condition of Borger softball program back in 2008, saying, “A couple of situations took place that caused the program to essentially lose all our upperclassmen in the program, which gave us no choice but to have to play freshmen on the varsity level.”Even though the Lady Bulldogs struggled to a winless campaign in 2008, senior Alexie Fleming believed things would turn around, saying, “I think we had the capability to be good but we were just a young team that was having to compete with teams that had several seniors and juniors.” After the winless 2008 campaign, Coach Steven Watkins moved from working as an assistant baseball coach to lead the Borger softball program.Brame said almost instantly there was a change in the program from the expectations for the team on the field, how practices were conducted and even having the girls spend time in the weight room during the off season. This was an adjustment to some of the players, with junior Dakota Karins joking that at first it felt like they were having to run football drills.Despite the change at head coach and the way the team prepared, the Lady Bulldogs’ struggles on the field continued by winning just one game in 2009 before making the modest jump to winning six games in 2010.However, through both seasons the players on the team were able to develop an understanding of how to play with each other, which has developed into a pretty good team chemistry on and off the field this season.Junior Lauren Hernandez said, “There were times in the past that we kind of allowed too much drama to take place in the team. But I think this year we have matured to where those issues just didn’t come up as much.”Going into this season, the main objective for the team was to find a way to reach the playoffs for the first team since 2007 for the Borger program.Asked if they were shooting for first or second place, both Boyd and Fleming were quick to say it didn’t matter what place they finished in, as long as they finally made the playoffs.While there was a sense of optimism about what was in store for the season, the players on the team said it did a take a couple of weeks to realize that this season had the potential to be pretty good.For seniors Lyndsey Barrow, Traysha Walker, Joanne Jones, Boyd and Fleming, the moment they all realized this year would be a little different came early on in tournament play, with Boyd saying, “When we were able to play well against and even beat some of the bigger schools like Lubbock High and Hereford I think showed that we were a much improved team.”Fleming added, “I just remember a couple of years ago when we played Canyon they would beat us really bad. In the Amarillo tournament we were able to hold our own with them and it showed me that we were a much different team than what we were in the past.”For junior Alex Lopez the difference between seasons came from the support the team received by joking, “In the past we were losing bad enough that fans would start leaving in the second inning. So it has been kind of nice seeing people come out to support us and stay throughout the whole game.”With a 19-17 record, there is no question that the team still has experienced its share of ups and downs this season. However the team fought through district play to not only clinch a playoff berth but finish in second place in the district standings.While making the playoffs was nice, there is no question that the team took a lot of pride in defeating Levelland, who had beat Borger four times in district play the past two seasons, in the bi-district round.Thomas said, “They underestimated us and kept talking about how they run ruled us last year, so it was nice being able to get the win over them.”Now the focus of the Lady Bulldogs centers on Andrews, who won the District 4-3A title, when they begin the best of a three-game series Friday evening in Plainview.The Lady Bulldogs know they have a tough challenge ahead but Thomas, Fleming and Barrow all were quick to say that they know they are beatable.Of the weekend, Boyd said, “We just know we have to come together and play well as a team and limit the number of mistakes we make.”Karins added, “We need to come out hitting the ball good.” Barrow added, “We also need to have our big inning early.”With the turnaround the team has experienced this year, there is no question that when the season comes to an end that the Lady Bulldogs will look back on what they did with pride.However, when looking at the team there is no question that there is a desire to keep the season going as long as they can.The series with Andrews starts at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow evening at the Plainview High School softball field and will continue on Saturday afternoon starting at 1:30 p.m.