By Greg Higgins
(Photo by Joe Watson. North Lamar senior Ashlyn Reavis celebrating a home run against Celina.
At the end of 2019, North Lamar softball coach Ashley Endsley asked me for some help on putting together a video. She didn’t want just any video, though. She wanted something that was going to pop. Something that was going to stand out.
Although she would never say it at the time, I feel like she knew she had something special brewing for the 2020 season. In 2019, the Pantherettes found themselves one win away from a trip to Austin. Despite losing their starting pitcher in the opening round series of the playoffs, North Lamar rode the pitching of sophomore Karsyn Iltis.
Iltis’ pitching and some timely hitting put North Lamar in the position for another chance at a state championship. At the end of the season, though, it was Anna heading to Austin and North Lamar’s season coming to an end. The heartbreak felt by that team, in that moment was something you cannot explain.
Fast forward to 2020 and the expectations were through the roof. North Lamar had only graduated two players from that season. That being said, they were two very critical pieces to the Pantherettes success. Trying to replace Keegan Fendley and McKayla Figueroa was no easy task. It was a task that Endlsey was up for, though.
The 2020 season didn’t start exactly how the coaching staff wanted. After a couple of scrimmages, North Lamar opened up with a win over Bells and Texas High, with the latter being a 10-0 shutout.
The first loss of the season came in their next game. The Pantherettes matched up against the defending state champions out of class 3A and lost 3-2. With the game tied heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, Rains got the walk off on a sacrifice fly to center field. Little did we know at the time, but that would be North Lamar’s only loss of the season.
The Pantherettes would go on a run in which they won 16 games in a row. In those 16 games, the Pantherettes threw six shutouts including a no-hitter in their final game against McKinney North. Jaycie Hall threw the no-hitter. She would have had a perfect game except she walked one batter.
Hall and Iltis shared the majority of the pitching load for North Lamar. Hall finished with 68.2 innings pitched while Iltis had 43. Claire Stewart also threw a couple of innings. For the 19 games, Hall finished with a 1.019 ERA while Iltis had 1.791. The two combined for a 1.293 ERA on the season. In the 19 games, North Lamar pitching combined for 167 strikeouts with only 20 walks. That’s almost nine strikeouts a game while only walking one batter a game.
It’s not just the pitching that was on point for North Lamar. The batters came alive. While the pitching was giving up just over two runs a game, the offense was scoring eight per game. Senior Ashlyn Reavis led the charge offensively as she was hitting .558 on the season.
Throw in McKenzie Dickson (.467), Iltis (.438) and Hall (.400) and you can see why the offense scored so many runs. Sloane Hill and Emma Layton were also over .300. Hill at .370 and Layton at .327.
Reavis led the team in hits with 29. Dickson and Iltis each had 28. Hill was the only other player with at least 20 hits. Iltis, through 19 games, led the team with six home runs and 38 RBI. The next closest RBI person was Reavis at 17.
This team had all the makings of a team not satisfied with what happened last year. They wanted more. You could tell they wanted to be on top of the softball world in 4A. It wasn’t just talk. It was something they believed in and it motivated them. From the head coach down to the last bench player, this team believed in each other.
Unfortunately we will never know what could have been. You never know how the season would have played out. They were set to start district play the week after the shutdown. Playoff would be starting this week.
We can only speculate about what might have been. We can ponder and dream but, the reality is, we will never know. We do know that Covid-19 has robbed us of watching one of the fiercest competitors compete in her senior year. Ashlyn Reavis will go on and conquer life. She’ll go to college, she’ll look it in the face and she’ll dive head first as if she just hit a double. We won’t know if she could have been standing at home plate in Austin receiving a first place medal.
She was good enough. This team was good enough and they were just starting to find their stride when things were shut down. For this team, the season is over. For this bunch of young ladies, 2020 is behind them. Speculation is all we have about this team. Everyone dreams about winning the final game of the season. For Dirty Thirty, they did exactly that. They ended with a win. A convincing win at that. For Dirty Thirty, though, their season ended prematurely. Even though it ended with a win, it ended with a bitter taste in their mouth. Dirty Thirty is over. What happens with Team 31? Stay tuned…..