HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL: Making adjustments helps Lady Bronchos advance

The Odessa High softball team’s ability to adjust was on full display in its Class 6A bi-district round series against El Paso Pebble Hills last week.

Trailing 6-2 early in the series-deciding third game against the Spartans, the Lady Bronchos found a way to score 10 unanswered runs to secure their ticket to the area round.

Now Odessa High is needs to adjust to its next opponent in Fort Worth Boswell, a team that gave up a combined three runs in a two-game sweep of Trophy Club Byron Nelson last weekend.

“I just tell them to believe in themselves and believe in their abilities,” Odessa High head coach Rachel Pena said.

Throughout the 2021 season, the Lady Bronchos (21-8 overall) took the field with the theme “play with courage” resonating in their minds.

Pena said the theme helped every player on the roster stay focused with each coming game, being the best that they can be.

Before the Lady Bronchos make their way to Abilene for their area-round matchup at 6 p.m. Friday at Abilene Cooper High School, they plan on bolstering their strengths at practice.

Sticking to what they know and leaning on veteran leadership could play key roles when Odessa High meets the top team from District 3-6A.

Pitcher Meghan Gattis, outfielder Joley Cruz and infielder Emily Salgado are some of the more experienced members for the Lady Bronchos, as all three were on the team during a playoff run in 2019.

Pena said she gave the young players the opportunity to move up with the varsity team to pass the experience down to their teammates.

She is continuing that trend this year, giving four players from the junior varsity team a chance to see postseason play.

“When my seniors were sophomores and freshmen, they got to move up and experience [it],” Pena said. “It’s kind of been a tradition to come and experience it and know what we’re looking for in the offseason.”

The head coach believes all five of her seniors this season benefitted from their time playing behind former leaders like Skylar Herrera and Sierra Camacho.

She said each player has taken a leadership role, stepping up to make big plays when the team has needed them.

The last time Odessa High appeared the playoffs was in 2019.

That team advanced to the regional semifinal round before being eliminated by Haslet Eaton.

Because the start of the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2020 season short, Odessa High didn’t reach postseason play last year.

Although Pena said the 2021 Lady Bronchos are different from the last playoff team, she said the way they approach the game is similar. They have the same desire, dedication and goal.

Fort Worth Boswell (24-4) also last made the playoffs in 2019, advancing to the 5A regional quarterfinal round against Lewisville The Colony.

This is the school’s first season competing in the 6A classification after being bumped up in February 2020.

Pena plans on keeping her lineup consistent with the ones she brought out against El Paso Pebble Hills to start the series against the Lady Pioneers.

With the 2021 campaign providing many unexpected twists and turns, Pena and the Lady Bronchos are thankful for the chance to keep advancing.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time and being grateful for the opportunity to play,” she said. “That’s how we’ve taken this whole season, being grateful.”

>> Follow Chris Amaya on Twitter at @OA_CAmaya