MHHS softball gains first victory against Venus

It took 19 games, but Midlothian Heritage High School’s varsity softball struck the winning iron while it was hot, defeating district rival Venus High School 20-6 on Thursday at VHS Softball Field.

“It felt great,” sophomore Lady Jaguar Rachael Gray chuckled, legs extended and akimbo as she lay sprawled on the floor of the joint softball/girls basketball office.

Gray’s posture may have been both the most telling statement about she and her team’s relief regarding the first-win monkey off their proverbial backs.

“We’re a young team and the losses helped, though,” she continued, noting their early season struggles. “You need reps to get better, it’s as simple as that.”

The Lady Jaguars softball team, which lost 18 consecutive games (two in district 7-4A) is like the team which shares its office space.

MHHS’ varsity girls basketball team lost 20 of its first 24 games before winning its district matchup against Alvarado High School by double digits on Jan. 19.

Like the softball team, the MHHS girls basketball team’s first district win was on the road.

“It is all a learning process this year for the players,” said Waylon Whitney, the Lady Jaguars head softball coach. “The coaching staff has been teaching them what it takes to get prepared before a game — means practice going into the game, pre-game warm-up and focus during game.

“We as a coaching staff are trying to build a foundation for future players to learn from. Expectations on how to prepare and warm up before a game. Focus on the goals of the game. I think that is what clicked on Thursday.”

Though the losses still came, the margins of defeats became smaller as the season progressed. Since losing 15-0, 17-2 and 18-3 during back-to-back-to-back games against Grandview, Mexia and Valley Mills high school in the beginning of the season, the Lady Jags nearly Crowley, MacArthur and Rice high schools.

During those games, their average margin of loss was four runs, a considerable improvement from the season start, said Jordan Freas, a first-year sophomore pitcher and second-year varsity player.

Freas said the change in atmosphere and pressure from playing as a role player as a Lady Panther to accepting her role as a leader as a Lady Jaguar has been a monumental key to her growth in the game of softball.

“Last year, I felt there was more pressure since I was a freshman playing on varsity,” Freas said. “I felt like if I didn’t do my job, it was my fault because I was a freshman. This year, being a sophomore, having girls look up to me feels good. It still brings pressure, but it’s kind of relieving in a way because I know everything’s not all my fault and we’re all learning and growing together.”

“You’ve got to believe you can win,” added Gray, now sitting cross-legged, a sly smile creeping across the edges of her face. “I think that’s the biggest change. Some of the girls aren’t used to winning, but now they believe they can against any opponent. Sometimes it’s all about winning that first game.”

The Lady Jaguars will have ample opportunities to both add to their district win total and get above .500 with upcoming games against Diamond Hill-Jarvis and Alvarado high schools at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lady Jaguar Field and at 6:30 p.m. Friday at AHS Softball Field.

Regardless of talent, Freas said she and her team will have to internalize one aspect of winning to reach their full potential.

“If we keep working together, we’ll be alright,” she said. “You can’t win without heart. If you don’t have that, you’ll never win.”