At it turns 20 years old, the Highland Park High School softball program is finally growing up.
Just four years removed from having only 10 players in the program, the Lady Scots have enjoyed the best season in their history this spring.
And even if it doesn’t end with HP reaching the playoffs following tonight’s season finale against Carrollton Newman Smith, there are signs to suggest that the future is bright for a team that has long been considered an afterthought.
“This is the closest we’ve ever been,” said HP head coach Meredith Townsend. “It makes practice a whole heck of a lot easier. They’re more motivated to work hard in practice.”
When Townsend arrived at HP four years ago, she had to generate interest in the sport before she even began working on skills. Now, those efforts are starting to pay off, thanks in part to a promising group of underclassmen.
The Lady Scots reached a couple of milestones earlier this spring. They set a new school record for victories on March 25 against Carrollton Newman Smith, then rallied to upset perennial powerhouse Forney a week later. HP also clinched its first winning season.
“Beating Forney was a huge confidence builder for us,” Townsend said. “We’re very young, so I think we’ve always battled that. This year we’re finally feeling more comfortable.”
This year, the team has just one senior starting in the field — third baseman Ginna Klein — and its infield is comprised almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores. Among the team’s top sophomores are pitcher Katie Bell, catcher Rennie Orr, and second baseman Sunny Bowden.
The team has improved both at the plate and in the field, and Bell is among the leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in strikeouts.
“Her issue last year was walks,” Townsend said of Bell. “She has great speed, but she didn’t have a lot of control. If she develops a third pitch, I think she’s going to be really hard to handle.”
Eight of the nine HP starters are expected to return next year. Besides a core group that has played together during the offseason, Townsend also is encouraged by her JV team, which has a winning record in district play.
“They’ve been working really hard, and I think they’re finally putting it together,” Townsend said. “It’s good to see some progress.”