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Episcopal celebrates after winning its fifth straight SPC championship, and 20th overall, after beating St. John, 7-3, on Saturday.
Halfway through this season, Episcopal senior Camille Walker introduced a battle cry to her softball teammates.
The number represented winning a fifth Southwest Preparatory Conference championship, which would be the program’s 20th overall. Neither of those marks had been accomplished in the history of the SPC.
“We have to work harder than we’ve ever had to work before to achieve something that’s never been done before,” Walker preached.
That is, until this season. Episcopal achieved “520,” topping St. John, 7-3, in the SPC championship on Saturday.
Five consecutive SPC championships. Twenty total. The definition of a dynasty.
“Once they grabbed onto that, doing something that nobody’s ever done before, everything clicked,” said coach Caitlyn Cain, in her fourth year as head coach and 10th with the program. “It gave us purpose every day. We started working for a very specific goal. We weren’t just out there practicing just to be out there.”
In the last 11 years, Episcopal has won the SPC seven times.
“It’s been super fun,” Cain said. “We’re pretty blessed with some amazing athletes and a pretty great coaching staff. It’s been a lot of hard work, but at the same time we’re around a lot of positive people. It makes it a really good time.”
The Knights went 18-9 this year, finishing with eight straight wins. Four of those losses were to Class 6A programs Pearland, Clear Brook, Clear Lake and Klein Oak. Another was to Class 4A school Huffman Hargrave.
“It elevates our game,” Cain said of the high-level competition. “Sure, we get a few bumps and bruises from it, but it just builds our toughness. By the time we do get to that SPC championship, some of the things just feel easy because we challenge ourselves so much along the way.”
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Knights. It was anything but.
The leadership of seniors Reese Barrett (the team’s ace who led the Knights in batting average and on-base percentage in conference play), right fielder Walker (the team’s “Mother Hen,” Cain said) and catcher Lily Tanner (.349 average, 15 RBIs), and junior Emma Poirot was paramount to guiding an otherwise young team. The emergence of four starting freshmen—first baseman Gianna Lewis, third baseman Reagan Moriarty, left fielder Bella Woodcox and second baseman Kate Hale—was vital.
“We had some freshmen step up and we had awesome leadership to help them get there,” Cain said. “In the beginning, it was a lot of teaching the game and helping them learn our systems. Because we had so much youth, the first half of the season was learning those systems, whereas in years past it’s almost always been about refreshing what’s been done.”
Throw in the considerable production of sophomores Allie Williams (.353 average, six home runs, 34 RBIs) and Townsen Thomas, who had an injury-plagued season but still managed an unreal .649 average and 12 RBIs in 37 at-bats, and it made for a team that expedited a steep learning curve.
“Our goal is to win SPC every year,” Cain said. “That’s what we talk about. But the way we get there every year is different.”
The 2022 SPC champion Episcopal Knights.VYPE Media
The roster may change year to year, but Episcopal’s culture and standard don’t. They are stalwarts to sustained substantial success.
The Knights’ primary virtue is “controlling the controllables.” That, to Cain, means focusing primarily on attitude, effort and communication.
It’s an ethos Cain preaches from day one.
“Even if something’s going wrong for us in a game, we can’t worry about anything we can’t control,” Cain said. “It takes away a lot of negative energy and just lets us focus on playing Knights softball. We don’t care who’s on the other side of the field. We just take care of our game.”
Cain has a reputable staff. Kary Kemble has been with the program since before Cain arrived. He’s forgotten more about softball than many coaches know.
Lexie Elkins was a former All-American at Louisiana-Lafayette. Cortni Emanuel played at Georgia and works with the Knights on speed, agility and movement.
“I doubt many other schools are out there doing that,” Cain said. “The knowledge on our coaching staff is phenomenal.”
Cain is confident the Knights can go for six SPC championships in a row and 21 overall in 2023.
Or, as Walker would classify it, “621.”
“Because we’ll have a good returning core, we’ll be able to do more of that refreshing instead of teaching and learning,” Cain said. “I can see us figuring out our identity earlier next year.”