WAXAHACHIE — The Waxahachie Lady Indians, who made a late-season rush and nearly reached the UIL 5A postseason, ended their season with a bang Tuesday night at the Avenue Church.
Head softball coach Steve Howell handed out team superlative awards and gave a farewell to a friend that has stood side-by-side with him in the Lady Indians' dugout.
"We're all going to miss her," said Howell about his primary assistant Erika Weber. "She was everything for us — a friend, disciplinarian and statistician. It's going to be hard to replace what she's done for the softball teams as well as throughout WISD."
Howell reached over and hugged the shorter Weber, whispering a goodbye into her ear as she wiped away a tear.
Weber, who operated as Howell's right-hand woman and assistant on Sandy Faussett's Lady Indian volleyball staff, will make a move to Cuero, Texas at the end of the school year to be closer to her husband's family.
"I'm from here. It's not like I'm going away forever," Weber said to the audience while gripping a bouquet of roses in one hand and an autographed green softball in the other.
Under the guidance of Howell and Weber, the Lady Indians finished the season 11-14-1 overall and 7-7 in District 10-5A and nearly claimed the fourth and final playoff seed by winning five of their last seven games.
One season earlier, they guided the team through the death of former assistant Joe Wakeland and into the UIL postseason with a 14-11 overall and 8-7 District 14-5A record.
An 8-6 loss to regional-semifinal-round bound Mansfield Lake Ridge High School on April 21 eliminated Waxahachie from playoff contention.
The Lady Indians named Sharrika Levingston and Ariana Robles the Offensive Players of the Year, Kaylie Burdine and Talia Salinas the Defensive Players of the Year, Robles and Addy Redd the Home Run Hitters of the Year and Hope David and Lillian Graham the Newcomers of the Year.
Levingston and Robles led Waxahachie in hitting with .413 and .394 batting averages, respectively. Burdine had 134 defensive putouts in 150 chances, while Salinas struck out 111 pitches in 95 total innings and closed 2017 with a 4.876 ERA and a 1.786 WHIP.
David had a .407 batting average and hit a homer against Red Oak on April 4 and Graham, a freshman, threw two no-hitters against Lancaster High School.
Redd's five home runs against Ennis, Mansfield Legacy, Midlothian, Red Oak and South Grand Prairie High Schools tied her with Robles for the team lead. Levingston led the team with six in 2016.
"Anytime you can beat Ennis in softball, it's a good day," Howell joked. "I think this is the first year I've had so many girls hit home runs in a single season. You can go down the roster and almost every girl has one. It was amazing. We're expecting more next year."
Robles' five came against Hallsville, Frisco Heritage Mansfield Summit and Mansfield Timberview and South Grand Prairie High Schools and added to homers by Hannah Rash (3), Chelsey Catlett (2), Courtney Crownover (2), Caley Robles (1) and Kameron Ryer (1).
The Lady Indians also gave goodbyes to their three senior stars Catlett, Jasmine Sanchez and Taylor Wakefield. Some, like junior Brooklyn Chislom's, gave onlookers a glimpse of a lifetime of friendship in less than two minutes.
"You made a huge impact on, not only my life, but countless others," said Chisolm about Wakefield, furiously wiping tears away from her face as she read from a prepared speech on her cell phone. "You weren't given a nickname like Tay-Wow or Tay-Quisha for no reason, either. I was not very qualified as a manager, but you gave the girls the best support you could — from showing them the light at the end of the tunnel in a difficult situation to joking around in the press box. You're the one that perfected everyone's eyeblack and rushed to get out so you wouldn't get in trouble with Coach Howell. You've made this experience 10 times better and I can't wait to watch you grow. You're going to accomplish things people said you never could and I will be by your side to the finish line."
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI