VYPE U Behind the Lens: A Look Into the VYPE Hoops Tournament
Cypress Christian softball has been on a meteoric ride the past few seasons under the direction of coach Matt Roberson.
The Warriors have advanced to the TAPPS State Semis this Friday on the campus of the University of Texas-Arlington.
VYPE caught up with coach before they headed on the buses for their final trip of the season.
KINGWOOD - As each new season dawns, teams look for that motto. That rallying cry that will carry them through the year. The phrase that will break out each huddle before they take the field.
For Kingwood Park softball in Kelsie McEachern's first year leading the program - "All Gas No Brakes".
"We were talking with Coach Christian Boehm, the boys soccer coach and he said and we liked it," McEachern said as she wore her Kingwood Park softball shirt donning the phrase on the back in white block lettering. “That’s our mentality that we’ve been trying to teach our kids is to compete and fight.
"They’ve embraced it."
Junior Hannah Leierer added: “It just means 110 percent every time. Do it for each other and don’t let up.”
The ultra-youthful Panthers' softball squad, which has just two seniors, a few juniors and a plethora of sophomores and freshmen on the roster have been full throttle in 2022.
Kingwood Park went 12-2 to finish second in District 20-5A behind Lake Creek. Then in the playoffs, series wins over A&M Consolidated (6-2, 3-16, 5-3), Bastrop (11-0) and Brenham (4-3, 5-3) have vaulted the Panthers into the Region III-5A Semifinals for only the second time in program history.
“It’s so special right now,” Kingwood Park senior Taysia Constantino said. “Going this far with everybody it has been memorable. I think it’s just the bonding. We’ve come together as a team. I just made friendships with each one of them. It’s been going good. It’s fun, honestly.”
When McEachern arrived at Kingwood Park, the first set of expectations was to make the playoffs every year. But this was something that the players wanted to build on.
They didn't just want to get into the big dance - they wanted to be playing and dancing deep into May.
"They’d been to the first round, and I knew from the beginning that there was that fight in them," McEachern said. "It was to get past that. That’s what they wanted to do and that’s what we’re doing this right now.”
In 2022, the Panthers have been led by Abbe Papadimitriou at the plate as she has hit .415 with 42 RBIs, nine doubles and one home run. Constantino has driven in 38 runs with 11 doubles and three home runs, hitting .424 for the year. Courtney Petrosino has chipped in 28 RBIs, hitting .393, while Taylor Crawford has driven in 23, Peyton Cote has 18 RBIs and Katherine Geiser has 14.
In the circle, Leierer has led the pitching staff with a 2.71 ERA, 158 strikeouts to just 51 walks in 149 1/3 innings. Leierer has gone 18-8 in the circle in 2022. Behind her has been Erika Savage with a 2.85 ERA with 121 strikeouts to 25 walks in 76 innings with a 6-4 record.
These stats were going into the Brenham series and does not include those numbers.
But when did this team start feeling it?
In the third tournament of the season at the beginning of March, Kingwood Park played Huffman to close out the first day. They went to extra innings with the Falcons - which as a program has won two UIL Class 4A State Championships in 2015 and 2019 - and beat them 6-3 in nine innings.
That's when Leierer started feeling the positive mojo that this team could do something special in 2022 and they've built on it.
“As a team we’ve gotten along so well,” she said. “We work really hard together, we play for each other, and I think that’s what has driven us to get this far in playoffs. We’re doing it for our seniors Taysia [Constantino] and Olivia Brown but we’re also doing it for each other.”
Kingwood Park has had its share of extra-inning dramatics this season. The win against Huffman, then in district play an 8-5 victory over New Caney in 11 innings. In the playoffs, in a game-three winner-take-all against A&M Consolidated, the Panthers won 5-3 in nine innings.
What these types of games have shown McEachern through the spring is her young group of Panthers have some feistiness to their game.
“You don’t have to teach them how to fight, they already have that in them,” she said. “That’s the best part about this group.”
Now, Kingwood Park faces Santa Fe on Thursday in a winner-take-all one-game series in Crosby at 7:30 p.m. One game to get the Panthers to the Regional Championship for the first time in program history.
All Gas ... No Brakes, right?
“We’re going to go until somebody stops us,” McEachern said. “That’s the mentality we’ve got.”
No matter what happens on Thursday, the fact that the Panthers have advanced to Round 4 and will have played seven playoff games is real-game experience that you can't imitate in practice on a Tuesday afternoon.
This run will pay dividends to Kingwood Park softball for years to come.
“For our young ones out here, it means everything,” McEachern said. “To get all of this playoff experience this is going to help us in the future. Then those that are coming up and into our program in the next few years, this is the standard. We want to continue to go deep into the playoffs.
“Hopefully this is something that sticks around and becomes an expectation.”
Standing in the background at his brother De’Juan Lewis’ recent signing day festivities was Donte Lewis.
Lewis was beaming for his brother as he signed with Prairie View A&M University to play baseball and football.
“Just seeing the passion he plays with has really inspired me,” Donte Lewis said. “He paved the way for me but now it’s time for me to make a name for myself. I’m so proud of what he’s done and saw first-hand how much work it takes to reach your dreams.”
Donte has the same dream as his brother – to play baseball and football at the college level.
Lewis is a 2024 prospect, whose stock just jumped when he hit 92-miles-per-hour on the radar gun from the mound just recently. The pitcher/shortstop/quarterback as since earned his first offer from Jackson State University for the opportunity to play both sports.
“My first offer was breath-taking,” he said. “I am so excited but I’m not satisfied. All my hard work is paying off too. It feels amazing.”
While he is fastly becoming the big man on campus at Shadow Creek, he also stars for the Marucci Elite Texas Baseball Organization.
“What I love about Marucci is the brotherhood,” he said. “Me and my teammates don’t see each other every day but we stay in contact all the time. We follow each other during the school year and cheer each other on. We go up to the cages and chop it up in our off time, and we can’t wait for the summer.
“Playing baseball is going to be my entire summer. Marucci has it all planned out for us and it’s going to be big.”
Lewis comes from a tremendously athletic background. His mom, Monique, played basketball at Texas State and his father, Dion, ran track for the Bobcats as well. What they have passed onto their sons is their athletic ability but more importantly the path to leadership.
“Being a quarterback or a pitcher, you are in a leadership position,” he said. “With that comes responsibility. You have to be a man of faith, trust in your teammates and carry yourself respectfully on and off the field. You also must lead in the classroom and in weight room.
“My parents have always taught me to look for the positive… all the time. That’s what I live by.”
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