Hebron’s state-bound softball team got a big sendoff from classmates Thursday morning.
From fourth-place in District 6-5A to the state final four, it has been quite a playoff ride the last five weeks for the Hawks (27-12). They meet Pearland (35-6-1) in the first of two 5A semifinals 5 p.m. Friday at McCombs Field in Austin.
A win would put Hebron in Saturday’s 8 p.m. championship game.
Although this is the first time the Hawks have made the softball playoffs, let alone the state tournament, one past Hebron player in particular can share in the 2010 success story.
Hebron star sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns as a fourth grader was first schooled in the art of the underhanded delivery by Shannon Johnston, who finished her Hebron career in 2006.
After a standout career at Towson University in Maryland, Johnston is now pitching in Sweden.
Heather’s mom, Sandra Stearns, relayed that Johnston sent an inspirational good luck message on Thursday, mentioning how far Heather had come from those first days when she was “throwing the ball over the lights’’ at Hebron.
"Nobody expected us to make it this far,'' Heather Stearns said. "Nobody thought we would beat Keller in the first round. It is fun to be the underdog.''
The pitcher said the playoff experience and the pep rally at school Thursday morning, a first for softball, is something she will remember forever.
In Pearland, a state finalist last year, Heather Stearns and Hebron will be facing a softball program that has made the playoffs in every season but one (2001) since softball became a UIL sport and has one state title to its credit (1996).
Junior pitcher Jessica Bowden, second team 5A all-state last year, leads Pearland.