Petrolia Ready For State

Petrolia's softball team has been proving people wrong all season long.

"No one expected us to be here," senior Jamie Kowalick said, after the Lady Pirates regional final win and at the team's final practice on Monday.

Another tough obstacle stands in the way of the Lady Pirates next. Petrolia faces top-ranked Sam Rayburn in the Class A State Semifinals on Wednesday morning.

The Lady Rebels are 26-4-1 overall and undefeated in Class A this season. After a loss to defending Class 3A state champion Celina in a warm-up game, Rayburn has rolled through the playoffs, outscoring opponents 57-3.

But Petrolia's been the underdog for most of its playoff run. The Lady Pirates entered the postseason at 9-12 overall had to beat a pair Texoma teams that dominated them, Windthorst and Seymour, in order to move on.

To simplify the game plan, Petrolia head coach DeDe Gray compared Rayburn to a more familiar opponent, Windthorst.

"If you've seen Windthorst, you've seen Rayburn," Gray said to her team at practice.

Players expect the Lady Rebels to be aggressive, especially their top six hitters, and play solid defense.

Gray and the players will keep that prove-people-wrong attitude entering the game. Girls walked around practice saying "we've already made it", "let's just play our game" and "this is just the icing on the cake."

Opening pitch is set for 9:00 a.m. at the University of Texas's McCombs Field in Austin.

Starting From Scratch - Alaina Anderson's Journey Back To Pitching

Senior Alaina Anderson had a plan entering high school: she'd pitch for two years until Katie Cummings hits the ninth grade.

But plans change.

Anderson excelled, leading the Lady Pirates to the regional final as a sophomore. She grew to love pitching and saw college as a future possibility.

"Maybe that's (college) what the purpose of this is," she said, after an early pitching lesson.

With Anderson excelling in the circle, a complete breakdown of mechanics entering her senior season was the last thing anyone expected.

Petrolia head coach DeDe Gray points to one of Anderson's most successful pitches as the root of the problem. Gray said Anderson's curveball had been effective throughout her career.

"When a player has success with a pitch, they tend to throw it too much," Gray said.

After a summer of throwing curveballs, the breakdown began.

"I was actually playing at a tournament this fall. I couldn't even throw a strike. I think I walked like three runs in," Anderson said. "I was just completely humiliated because I just realized I'm broken, I can't pitch."

With flamethrower Katie Cummings now on the team, Anderson could have gone back to her original plans.

She didn't.

"It would have been easy to just give up," she said. "But, it would have been even harder to say I didn't even try."

Thanks to a lot of help and re-tooling, Anderson returned to the circle at the end of the season, completing a deadly one-two punch with Cummings.

While Gray says Anderson's not the exact same pitcher as before, she knows Anderson's been key to this postseason run.

One plan has changed for Anderson: college softball. She'll strictly be a student next year at Hardin-Simmons University.

"I was trying so hard to go to college. The harder I tried, the worse it got," she said. "I just realized that that's not it, maybe there's another purpose for it."

So now, Anderson will take the field for one, hopefully two, more times to wrap up her softball career.

"This is what every girl dreams of, every softball player anyway," she said. "It would be great to win my last softball game."

Click on the video link for a special look at Alaina Anderson's return to the circle, told by Anderson, head coach DeDe Gray and the rest of the Lady Pirates