A 17-2 record, which includes a 13-game winning streak, and a No. 4-state ranking notwithstanding, the Rusk Lady Eagle softball team has had significant hurdles to overcome this spring.
For starters, Rusk was forced to find a new starting second baseman before the season ever got under way after Kara Hugghins sustained a significant knee injury during the tail end of basketball season.
Rusk head softball coach Ashley Renner had some huge shoes to fill with Hugghins, the 2012 District Most Valuable Player, being sidelined.
“It's always difficult to replace a starter, especially one that has been a three-year varsity starter and one of the top players in the district the past two seasons,” Renner said.
Renner turned to sophomore Kaitlin Tugwell to take over a second and things have worked out well for Tugwell, who was a reserve last year.
Renner said that she is proud of the way that the entire Lady Eagle team has responded to the loss of Hugghins.
“Every since we found out that we would not have Kara (Hugghins) this season our girls have pulled together and have decided to play for Kara,” Renner said. “It would have been easy for them to have gotten down and depressed, but instead they have handled the adversity and have actually tried to turn that into an advantage.”
When another starter from a year ago decided to bypass softball this year, Renner was once again forced to scramble to fill a position.
“Once again, it was the attitude of our kids that made the difference,” Renner said. “I had several girls come up to me and say “Coach, play me where ever you need me, I just want to help the team win.””
Coach also went on to elude to the importance of confidence.
“When I looked at our girls and I saw the confidence that they had, despite not having some of the players that we had last year, that made me more confident as a coach, because I knew our team still really believed in themselves,” Renner said.
Renner said once she had made the adjustments to the line-up the team began set goals for each and every game as a mean of getting the Lady Eagles to the point that they need to be at for what, hopefully, will be a lengthy post-season run.
“Regardless of who we are playing, we make individual goals for each player for every game,” Renner said. “We hope these challenges will make us better and have us on top of things when the playoffs roll around. In addition to trying to win each game, we are trying to accomplish our individual goals, whether that is bunting successfully in certain situations, or playing error-free defense, or being able to steal a base at the right time.”
NOTE: Rusk is scheduled to play at home twice next week...On Tuesday Mexia comes to town and on Friday the Lady Eagles will entertain Fairfield's Lady Eagles...First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. both nights.