Lady Bobcats ready for softball season
Last updated 2/19/2023 at 6:58pm
Two years ago the Orangefield Lady Bobcats were district champions in softball. After graduating six seniors from that team last season was more of a rebuilding year for the Lady Bobcats.
Orangefield Coach Rebekah Ragsdale said it is tough when you lose that many players to graduation. "I think our girls did a good job stepping up. We played really well at times but just not good enough to get into the playoffs. We missed a playoff spot last year that was super disappointing. It kind of came down to the last few games, and we just didn't get it done. So, that's kind of driving us this season, we don't want to be the team that misses out this year again," Ragsdale indicated.
Seven Lady Bobcats are back from last season, two seniors, four juniors, and a sophomore. Ragsdale believes this is a good balance which means Orangefield should have some experience this year and the next couple of seasons.
Rylee Dougay and Harleigh Rawls are both seniors. Ragsdale pointed out, "They've been four year varsity members for us and big contributors the last couple of seasons."
Rawls will be shifting from catcher to mostly first base because of an injury to her right elbow she suffered during the Lady Bobcat basketball season. The injury is restricting Harleigh's ability to throw the ball with any velocity so first base hopefully will not require her to throw as much as catching would.
Junior Greenlea Oldham will still be in the mix at first base for Orangefield. "Especially in preseason I expect Greenlea to be a big contributor for us. We're just mixing everything up and trying to figure out what our best combination is. Probably for the next two weeks we'll have the Lady Bobcats all over the place and will not have anything set until district starts. We're just trying every combination to see what works best for us and what puts us in the best position to be successful," Ragsdale explained.
Oldham joins Paris Becker, Abby Broussard, and Abigail Curphey as the four juniors that will also provide additional leadership for the Lady Bobcats. The returning sophomore is Alysen Vincent who played second base last year but can fit in anywhere on the diamond according to Ragsdale.
Five freshman will start the season on the Lady Bobcat varsity squad and all five are expected to get considerable playing time. Coach Ragsdale is super excited to have Aubree Beck playing the left side of the infield at either third base or shortstop. Pitcher Charlee Sanches will get time in the circle helping out number one starter Curphey for Orangefield as a combination of arms.
A utility player will be Haylee Spears. Emily Meyers swings a good bat and will be a designated player for the Lady Bobcats. Hallee Becker the sister of left fielder Paris Becker is expected to start in right field.
Coach Ragsdale has prepared her batting order for Orangefield and has Hallee Becker penciled in as the leadoff hitter. "Hallee is a little slapper, I've actually never had a true slapper before so it's going to be fun to have her at the top of the lineup, she's got some speed, she's a good little spark plug for us at the top of the lineup, and it'll be fun to see her on the bases this season," Ragsdale assured.
The Lady Bobcat bats were not producing as much as Ragsdale would like in the early games. Pitching always starts a little better than hitting early in a season so the coach is optimistic that with the addition of several players from the Lady Bobcat basketball team in the last week the hitting will improve.
Experience and more at bats should help the Orangefield bats to start hitting better. Ragsdale shared, "I think it's just a matter of time. Offensively I expect Harleigh Rawls to be big in the middle of the lineup. We're going to have Hallee Becker and Aubree Beck at the top to set the table, and I think they're going to have speed so that we might be able to steal some bases. The more experience they get, the games they get under their belt, the more at bats, we're just going to get better each game, and that's going to be exciting to see that happen."
Orangefield returns its starting pitcher from last season in Abigail Curphey. "It's always exciting when you're returning an ace in the circle, and Abigail is only a junior. Curphey did what we asked her to do a year ago and went the distance in pretty much every game," Ragsdale reminded.
During Ragsdale's time in Orangefield she has never really had more than one pitcher during a season. Two other Lady Bobcats Charlee Sanches and Alysen Vincent will see time in the circle this season. Ragsdale elaborated, "I am excited to have them in combination with Curphey. Charlee brings a little bit of zip on the ball. We just need to get her some innings, and she'll be a good one-two punch with Abigail. Alysen will get to throw every once in a while to give teams a different look."
Having dropped down a classification the opposition does not get easier for the Orangefield Lady Bobcats during this softball season in fact there's a target on the Lady Bobcats' backs. The previous Class 4A district was always tough and the new one in Class 3A will be just as difficult as all the teams are in the same boat with pitching, speed, and hitting.
The goal is always the same each season for Coach Ragsdale. "Our goal is a district championship, and it's hard to believe that we start district in less than two weeks on February 28, and we've got to be ready by then. We're going to do our best to be ready and we're going to do our best to give everyone our best shot," Ragsdale concluded.
The Orangefield Lady Bobcats were one of the host teams in the Southeast Texas Kick-off Classic played at Orangefield and Little Cypress Mauriceville on February 16-18. The Lady Bobcats won their first five games before dropping their last game in the tournament.
The Lady Bobcats won both games on Thursday defeating the Hardin Jefferson Lady Hawks 6-3 and winning 12-0 over the West Orange Stark Lady Mustangs. Orangefield got off to a good start in the opener with a two-run homer by Harleigh Rawls in the first inning. Aubree Beck had a key rbi single in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie. Charlee Sanches pitched the first three and a third innings with Abigail Curphey finishing the game in the circle.
Orangefield won the night cap on Thursday in three innings. Curphey pitched a one hitter with 7 strikeouts. Hallee Becker was a hitting star with 3 hits, 3 runs, and 2 runs batted in. Curphey also swung a big bat with 4 rbis.
Two more one sided wins followed on Friday for Orangefield. The Lady Bobcats walloped the Lady Mustangs again 16-3 and blasted the Evadale Lady Rebels 11-1.
Charlee Sanches started the first game and got the win in the circle with Alysen Vincent finishing the game giving up just two hits. Beck accounted for six Lady Bobcat runs. Sanches had 3 rbis. Paris Becker and Emily Meyers both had a hit and a run batted in.
Against Evadale Abigail Curphey yielded just two hits with 4 strikeouts pitching shutout ball for six innings for the pitching victory. Vincent threw one inning in relief.
Orangefield rapped out ten hits in the win over the Lady Rebels. The hit parade was spread out between Sanches, Beck, Paris Becker, Abby Broussard, and Harleigh Rawls. Hallee Becker scored 2 runs and stole 2 bases for the Lady Bobcats.
On Saturday Orangefield got stellar pitching from Sanches who gave up two hits while striking out 4 Deweyville Lady Pirates in a 5-0 shutout. Abby Broussard tripled, drove in a run, and scored a run for the Lady Bobcats.
The final game of the tournament for the Lady Bobcats was a 6-2 loss to Hamshire-Fannett. Abigail Curphey pitched and took the loss. Hallee Becker and Harleigh Rawls combined hits for the initial Orangefield run in the first. Curphey scored the other run on a hit by Abby Broussard. The Lady Bobcats finished the weekend 5-1, and moved to 5-3 overall on the season.