Willis is trying to build a tradition in girls’ high school softball. Deer Park has already established one. Both schools came up just shy of a state title by coming up on the wrong end of the same score.

With seven freshmen and five sophomores on the roster, Deer Park overachieved in 2017 by eliminating the No. 1 ranked Class 6A team in the state (Katy) in the regional finals before falling 5-2 to the defending state champion (Keller) in the state semifinals.

“You’ll be back,” Deer Park head coach Carrie Austgen told her players afterwards. “We beat some strong teams in Region III to get here. You know what you’re capable of doing. We just ran into a buzz saw in Keller.”

Senior Erin Edmoundson paced the Deer Park attack with two doubles and a run scored.

Deer Park (38-7) had one freshman and four sophomores in the starting lineup. The Deer won state championships in 2012 and 2014.

Willis (41-8) had a senior-dominated team that advanced to the regional quarterfinals or beyond three consecutive years.

The Wildcats earned the school’s first trip to the state tournament and got all the way to the Class 5A state title game in 2017 before falling 5-2 to The Colony.

Trailing 3-0 after two innings, Willis never fully recovered. Samara Lagway slugged a solo home run in the fourth inning and Lizzie Zwall added an RBI single in the seventh.

Senior pitcher Casey Dixon struck out 11 and allowed five hits while walking five batters and hitting three.

“The seniors were the main cog in getting us here,” said Willis head coach Stephanie Shelley. “Hopefully, they started a tradition for our younger girls to work hard and try to get back here next year.”

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