By Shiela K. Haynes, Sports Editor
The Lady Raiders came up against a formidable West Rusk team in the area round of the playoffs falling 12-2 and 14-0 in the best-of-three series at Longview. West Rusk came into the series with a 25-1 record behind a power-hitting lineup, solid pitching, clean defense plus the benefit of a deep playoff run in 2021.
Winnsboro, who had been picked to finish out of the playoffs by preseason prognosticators, ended the district schedule as runner up with a 10-2 district record and earned the bi-district title with a pair of wins over Redwater. A well-rounded and resilient team, this is the first time a Winnsboro team has reached the second round since 2009.
District 13 champ Mount Vernon defeated Troup in the area round and will advance to the regional quarterfinals versus District 14 winner Queen City.
Chapel Hill and Quitman were the other two teams making it into the postseason and both teams were eliminated in the first round.
Head coach Kasey Coke was proud of the team’s effort.
“My girls came in ready to work after last season to be a better team and to prove people wrong. Their dedication has been unmatched, and they pushed themselves to the limits. We battled injury after injury, yet my girls never gave up. I believe it is a major accomplishment to be District 13-3A runner-up and bi-district champions,” said Coke.
“My outlook on next season is bright. I still have key players who are eager to continue to prove people wrong.”
This year’s effort earned success behind a strong senior leadership group – Rylee Stephens, Taylor Newton, Keltie Capehart, and Bailey Clark.
“My seniors have seen what Winnsboro softball has been and what Winnsboro softball is getting to. Their leadership to the underclassmen has been such a blessing. They’ve reached out and helped anyone who needed it. They have helped make history for our program,” said Coke.
This senior crew has seen plenty of adversity through the last few years. They have had three different head coaches, lost a season to COVID-19, and worked through injuries that sidelined multiple starters early this season. Coke came on as an assistant coach and took the head coaching reins in 2021; assistant coach Rick McClain came on board this season.
“I have had the privilege to coach these girls their entire softball careers at Winnsboro,” said Coke.
“They are such great role models to all the younger girls and have helped create a legacy in the Winnsboro High School softball program. I am going to miss them so much next year, but I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in their lives.”