By Moses Leos III
After claiming second place in District 14-6A, the Hays Lady Rebels are gearing up for what they hope is a lengthy run in the playoffs.
For Hays High head coach Lisa Cone, using the bidistrict playoff loss to Cedar Ridge last year has provided ample motivation for her program to improve. They look to do so against the Westwood Warriors in a three-game first round playoff series that starts Thursday.
“Last year, when we lost to Cedar Ridge, we shouldn’t have lost. There were so many errors, but we were in all of the games, no matter what,” Cone said. “We talked about that. We told them, ‘do not forget how this feels.’ They used it as motivation.”
Hays’ success has been heralded by its offense, which exploded for 15 runs in a 15-0 win over Akins.
Cone said the team was able to get “good hits” at the plate and was confident at the plate.
Conducting live pitching scenarios with pitchers Nadia Netek and Maxine Valdez have helped zero in the focus for the team. For Cone, the tactic helps ready the team for pressure situations during the playoffs.
“Sometimes we struggle when we get behind in the count,” Cone said. “We’ve been working on where the situation is the count is one ball, two strikes. It’s helped us a lot.”
Helping the Lady Rebels are seniors Netek, Karina Rocha and Madison Allen, who Cone said provides experience for the team. In addition, Cone said the Lady Rebels have been able to stay healthy so far during the season. Last year the Lady Rebels lost Rocha, a key component on offense, to a thumb injury prior to the playoffs.
In the circle, Cone said pitchers Netek and Valdez, whom she has been working in a quasi-rotation during the second half of district play, are “probably very prepared for what’s going to happen” in the playoffs.
“They are prepared for the situation and both are excited,” Cone said.
Defensively, Cone said the Lady Rebels have worked as a group to mesh together on the diamond.
She cited instances where the team has worked together to complete double plays more efficiently.
“There are certain situations where I think they know each other well now,” Cone said. “I feel like they are working together.”
Taking on a Westwood team with a strong pitching staff will be the focus for the Lady Rebels this week.
Cone said adjusting to Westwood senior pitcher Jamie Endel’s ability to throw the ball at a high velocity will be the team’s most pressing task.
“If we can get on the ball and score some runs, hopefully that will rattle her a bit,” Cone said. “I think we can do that if we’re patient.”