Ashley Lindsey took the circle in Dallas Woodrow Wilson’s first-fast pitch softball game in the late '90s and led her school into a whole new era of Dallas ISD girls sports.
More than a dozen years later, and under her married name, Ashley Palavicini returns to Woodrow’s newly renovated home field at Randall Park as much as she can to pitch batting practice and fine-tune the technique of the team’s pitching staff, providing a softball fix she lost since she finished playing at Stephen F. Austin University.
Just as valuable as her knowledge of drop balls and risers is her experience building up a program.
“It’s been an awesome experience to see how much public school fast-pitch softball has grown and to see the team that Coach [Joe] Sawyer has put together," she said. "I was blown away.”
For the first time, Woodrow had an amazing 50-girl turnout for tryouts this season, allowing Sawyer to be more selective in his first year at Woodrow than the coaches who came before him.
That created a dedicated group of girls who have put together an 8-3 record in District 12-4A, putting the Wildcats in the hunt for a quality playoff seed.
Just as Palavicini helped build Woodrow's early softball program, freshman catcher Nina Hernandez is keying the team's resurgence.
Hernandez has a staggering .793 batting average with six inside-the-park home runs while managing Woodrow’s pitching staff from behind the plate.
“Nina could play anything,” Sawyer said. “I told her mom the other day that I wished she was my son because that’s how good she is.”
Woodrow outscored its last two opponents, Thomas Jefferson and Dallas Lincoln, by a 53-8 total.
“We have a sense of urgency towards playing hard in every at bat and every play, so it’s good that we can put this many runs on these teams.” Hernandez said.
Last undefeated team falls
No area teams remain undefeated in 2012 after Lake Highlands took its first loss to District 9-5A rival Richardson Berkner 5-3 last week.
Lake Highlands had taken the first game from the Lady Rams 10-1 earlier in district play.
The Berkner win ties the Rams with Lake Highlands for the top district seed at 10-1 with one game to play in the season.
Plano East pulls even with Plano
Plano East took the second district matchup against rival Plano on Tuesday in an 8-7 thriller, leaving the teams tied for No. 1 seed in District 8-5A.
The two highest ranked Metroplex teams in the ESPN Fab 50 poll both have one game left to play in district to attempt to sort out playoff seeding.
Plano East faces last-place Lewisville on Friday at 7:30, and Plano has sixth-place Plano West on Friday at 7 p.m.