COMMENTARY: Wall Softball was Dead to Rights Until Senior Leaders Sparked Revival
WALL, TX -- The Wall Lady Hawks’ season came to an end on Thursday and it was an incredible season. Not for their record (14-16), but for how they got where they were.
The Lady Hawks returned just four starters from 2018’s regional quarterfinal squad and two seniors. One of those four, Trinitye Ruebsamen, featured primarily in the field during 2018. They were young and it showed early on.
Wall won their opening two games against Fort Stockton and McCamey. Then they dropped their next 15 games to fall to a dismal 2-15 and 0-2 in district play. That’s including Wall’s first ever loss to TLCA in softball.
After Thursday’s loss to Brownfield, head coach Steve Bain admitted he didn’t think his team would be in the area round of playoffs after starting 0-2 in district.
However, it’s worth noting the Lady Hawks were without their two seniors, catcher Payton Box and utility player Ashlynn Box. Payton and assistant coach Chris Schlicke were busy helping the Lady Hawk basketball team back to the state tournament and Ashlynn Box was at the tail end of her rehab for an offseason ACL injury.
That meant Izzy Vera and Ruebsamen were the only returning starters the Lady Hawks. Following the conclusion of the basketball season, Payton had just two practices to prepare for the TLCA game and Ashlynn was a week away from returning to the lineup. Wall would commit three errors and throw four wild pitches to fall 12-10.
At the TLCA game, you could see a fire lit under Ashlynn Box. She wanted to be back on the field, but she didn’t necessarily have to. She had already signed to Angelo State University to continue her career and it’d be tough to fault the senior coming off one of sport’s toughest injuries to come back from.
Yet, for the Box cousins, who were born two months apart and have been together their whole lives, this season meant a lot. They weren’t going to just pack it in and lick their proverbial wounds.
So, prior to Ashlynn’s return, the team had a talk. There were going to be no more losses in the regular season. Enough was enough.
“Row the boat,” a motto made famous by the Western Michigan University football team, was the battle cry Schlicke would constantly remind the girls between innings.
Up 4-0? “Row the boat.” Tied 1-1? “Row the boat.” Down 5-2? “Row the boat.”
Then, Box made her return on March 12 against Sonora. She was the designated player, so she would just hit in that game. But, the player who hit a playoff team-high of .722 with 21 RBIs in six playoff games last year was back and still on a 39-game on-base and 13-game hit streak.
Ashlynn would go 1-for-3 in the game with an RBI, a run scored and a walk to her name to keep those streaks alive.
She would hit safely in all 13 games she featured for the Lady Hawks with an average of .600, 22 RBIs, 24 runs scored, 13 walks and extending those streaks to 52 and 26 games respectively. She did not strike out at all this season.
Payton hit .377 this season, including a 14-game hit streak, with 24 runs scored. More impressively, she too finished on a prolonged on-base streak of 40 games.
That led to contagious hitting throughout the lineup. A solo home run from Kaitlyn Stephens in the April 12 meeting with Ballinger proved to be just what Wall needed to claim the district crown. It was also the sophomore’s first of the season.
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