Youth + Inexperience Not Holding Elysian Fields Softball Team Back
Elysian Fields softball coach Lexi Commanders admits there were doubters at the beginning of the season.
But with a talented nucleus of underclassmen, Elysian Fields enters this week's Class 2A Region III bi-district playoff against Harmony having won eight of its last nine games.
“We have a really young team," Commander said. "We lost some seniors who moved or decided to quit, so I only have one senior and one junior. I’m real proud of the season we’ve had so far. A lot of people counted us out with our youth. But everyone’s stepped up, we’re on a good roll and hopefully we’ll keep rolling in the playoffs.”
Elysian Fields entered District 17-2A with a record of 12-6, but won 11 of its 14 league games to finish second behind district-champion New Diana.
“I think getting some of our girls from basketball we didn’t have earlier in the season (helped)," Commander said. "And getting some of my young ones more games under their belt has given them more confidence. They’ve kinda settled into their positions and have worked really hard in practice.”
One of those basketball players was Kaylee Prather, Elysian Fields' lone senior. She leads the team in hitting at .576, and has broken both the school's single-season and career records for stolen bases. Prather has 51 steals this season and has been caught only once.
“If she gets on base, I have a good feeling we’re going to score; everyone kinda breathes a sigh of relief," Commander said. "She’s a leader both at the plate and in the field, just her speed and ability to do different things at the plate along with her stolen-base ability. She’s doing exactly what we need her to do from the leadoff spot, getting on base.”
Also fueling Elysian Fields' run to the playoffs has been its 1-2 pitching combination of junior Jane Harris and freshman Keely Howard. Harris is 10-6 with a 2.37 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings, while Howard has burst on the scene with a 9-3 record, 0.99 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings.
“I think any time you have to two pitchers you can count on, it’s an advantage," Commander said.
Elysian Fields faces perennial force Harmony at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Longview's Lear Park in a one-game playoff.
“They have a lot of history," Commander said of Harmony. "We’ve played them in the playoffs over the years and they used to be in our district. They’re always solid, similar to us. They’re a little bit older than we are. Any time you see Harmony, you see a solid ball club.”
The winner of Friday's game will face District 20-2A champion Woodville next week in the area round.