Shiner picked up its second straight Class 2A state championship last season after the Lady Comanches shut out Windthorst 13-0 on a perfect game by Cece Darilek.
Shiner's Bethany Nevlud, left, and Kailey Williams celebrate the Lady Comanches' 13-0 Class 2A state championship game win over Windthorst at Red & Charline McCombs Field in Austin on June 2, 2016. The Lady Comanches begin the season ranked No. 1 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason poll.
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all photos by Travis Harsch, special to the Advocate
Now, Shiner will be looking to take the long road back to state.
"We are off to a good start so far," said Shiner head coach Steven Cerny. "The girls came in Day 1 working hard and aren't dwelling off what we did last year. We're having a great time right now."
Shiner finished with a 31-5 record last season, and begin the season ranked No. 1 in the Class 2A Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason poll.
"Our No. 1 goal this year is to be district champions," Cerny said. "A lot of things have to go your way to win a state championship, and it's not easy. Right now, we're just focused on getting better with each practice."
The Shiner and Weimar rivalry will continue in District 28-2A.
Emma Holland and Makayla Kunz are returning for their senior seasons for the Lady Cats, who are ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll.
The Lady Comanches return several key players, including two all-state juniors Bethany Nevlud and Kailey Williams.
Shiner third baseman Bethany Nevlud throws to first after fielding a bunt against Windthorst.
"Last year, it was a total team effort," Cerny said. "It's never been about one player carrying the team. One of our strengths last year was that we were solid one through nine. This year, we will be looking to continue to do that with a solid lineup surrounded by great defense."
Lauren Schuette is back at second base, while Mackinly Pilat and Kassidy Bishop are back in the outfield.
"We put a big emphasis on our defense and that's something that every team needs in order to be successful."
East, West, Calhoun collide in District 27-5A
Victoria West, Victoria East and Calhoun will be looking to make the playoffs in District 27-5A.
But the new district will have its challenges with No. 3 ranked Angleton, Richmond Foster, Rosenberg Lamar Consolidated and Rosenberg Terry.
"The playoffs are our goal, but it's going to take a lot of hard work to get there in this new district," said West head coach Courtney Rigamonti. "We have a lot of players that are versatile and a great group of seniors that will be able to lead us this season."
Seniors Leah Espinoza and Devon Parsons will be in the circle for the Warriors, while Sarah Espinoza and Elyze Garza will bring the offense for the Warriors.
"We have a lot of seniors and we want to make the playoffs," Sarah Espinoza said. "We have been on the same teams since we were younger. We have been working hard at practice and we're willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our senior season is special."
Victoria East missed the playoffs last season, but second-year coach Melissa Buck believes experienced players will be key in helping the Lady Titans reach the playoffs.
"We have a lot of the same kids as last year," Buck said. "We didn't finish as well as we wanted to, but I have high hopes in the fact that we have talented kids who have played together for over a year now. And they've done really well throughout the summer and fall."
The Lady Titans, who finished 7-7 in District 30-5A last season, will look to four-year varsity shortstop Mari Alarcon and four-year starter Michaela Blough to lead the charge.
"I'm excited to find out what our team is going to do," Alarcon said. "We want to show everyone what we're made out of and prove we can make it far."
"Our practices have been going well," Blough added. "We look fine on the field and our offense is looking good. We push our hardest during practice to make our game look great."
The Lady Titans open the season Tuesday against Corpus Christi Calallen.
"For the most part, we've been hitting the ball well, Buck said. "It's just an adjustment of getting everyone in their spots and getting together to work together communication wise, and figuring out what everyone else is doing around you. We've had a couple of scrimmages, but until we get a few games under our belt, it's going to be hard to tell."
Pitching will be the strength for Calhoun this year.
Sophomore Zoe Flores and Hayleigh Hill will be in the circle for the Sandies, along with Dhalia Ortiz and Alexis Carabajal.
"We're pretty young," said 10-year coach Daniel Castillo. "We only have three seniors this season because we lost seven. The good thing is that we have freshmen playing select ball."
The Sandies are coming off a 3-7 record in District 25-5A.
Castillo is counting on Flores to be the ace of the pitching staff after leading the Sandies last season.
She pitched well in district," Castillo said. "The good thing about the new district is that we won't have to travel as far."
Cuero aims for similar success
Cuero made school history last year after reaching the Class 4A regional final before falling to Needville.
The Lady Gobblers lost four starters, but Maegan Pakebusch and all-state pitcher Regan Dunn will be back in the circle.
"I have seen a lot of positives so far through practice," said Cuero head coach Cody Miller. "We have people competing for spots, and it's bringing out great competition."
Cuero starts the season ranked No. 7 in the preseason poll.
Maraya Guzman, Raevin Ruiz and Dunn will take command at the plate for the Lady Gobblers this season.
"It's going to be a little different this year because we're going to have a lot of speed on the bases," Miller said. "We're looking to make another deep run this year. We had a great year last year, but were looking for more this season."
Hallettsville hoping to rebound
Hallettsville's Rylee Trlicek winds up for a pitch during a district game against Industrial last season.
Hallettsville fell short against Santa Gertrudis last year in the Class 3A regional final game.
The Lady Brahmas are hoping to go farther this year.
"We want to win that last game of the year," said Hallettsville head coach Mike Mikeska. "We have nine starters coming back this year, and I know that our defense will get better as the year goes. The girls know how much softball means in Hallettsville, and they're ready to get things going."
Pitcher Rylee Trlicek, who is verbally committed to the University of Florida, and shortstop Kendyl Lange, who signed to play with Central Florida, are back for the Lady Brahmas, who begin the season ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll.
"We're going to have to find a different way to score runs this year, but we will get there."
District 27-3A is another challenge the Lady Brahmas will face this season.
"We're going to play 14 games in district this year," Mikeska said. "We're used to playing only 10 games, so we will just have to adjust. Once we get everyone back from basketball season, we will be able to see who we have on the field."
St. Joseph looks for success in TAPPS
St. Joseph first-year coach Clayton Sullivan is confident his team can make a strong push this season after the Lady Flyers came up short in the TAPPS area round last season.
"They're motivated, and they want to be competing," Sullivan said. "They want to continue the tradition that St. Joseph has done in years past."
The Lady Flyers completed a strong season before falling to Sugar Land Fort Bend Christian.
Hannah Kristynik and Jillian Chapa are looking to lead in their role as captains.
Nicole Nasley and freshman Emily Llanes also look to lead after gaining playoff experience.
"We have four seniors who are ball players," Sullivan said. "They were motivated last year and they want to go out with a bang with their goal of making the state playoffs."
Marcus Gutierrez is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or email@example.com Rey Castillo is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-574-1222 or firstname.lastname@example.org