Undefeated Lions ready for playoffs
Now it’s war for Lake Creek.
With bitter memories lingering from last season’s loss to Barbers Hill in the Class 5A regional final, the Lions are laser-focused as the playoffs start up Thursday.
Lake Creek entered that Barbers Hill series 38-0 before it was shockingly swept by the eventual state champions.
“We’re going to war, and we’re going to war together,” junior ace and Florida commit Ava Brown said. “I think everybody in the dugout knows their roles, from the first game to the last game. We only have three seniors, but we’re trying to go all the way.
“If something stops us, it stops us, but we’re not going to beat ourselves. If we get beat, it’s with us playing to the best of our ability.”
.@LakeCreek_SB junior and @GatorsSB commit Ava Brown (@avajbrownn) discusses the 30-0 Lions ranked No. 1 in state and No. 2 nationally. Lake Creek beat 6A power Katy, 1-0, in playoff tuneup tonight. Brown is 20-0 w/ 0.37 ERA and hitting .378 w/ 8 HRs. @TXPrepSoftball @LakeCreekHSpic.twitter.com/Pj60DoTQ71— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston) 1651023350
Only Barbers Hill has survived Lake Creek’s best over the last two seasons.
This year, the Lions, a fourth-year varsity program, are 30-0. They are ranked No. 1 in Class 5A in the state, according to the Texas Girls Coaches Association, and No. 2 nationally, according to MaxPreps.
Lake Creek has scored 258 runs. It has surrendered only 28.
“We’ve grown a year,” coach Michelle Rochinski said. “Last year was the first time we’d been that far, and for a lot of them that was some of the first playoff ball they had seen. Our motto this year was ‘Unfinished business,’ so they have a goal. We talk every day about taking it one pitch, one game at a time. We can’t look too far ahead. But they want it, and it shows every day.”
The Lions quickly went from an upstart, wide-eyed playoff team last year to one with a huge target on their backs. Lake Creek has six players committed to play college ball, including four NCAA Division I commits.
“They’ve done a pretty good job of keeping a level head,” Rochinski said. “We have to stay confident, but we also know we have a bull’s-eye on our back.”
Lake Creek rolled through District 20-5A, allowing only seven runs. With the playoffs looming, Rochinski scheduled a playoff tune-up game against 6A power Katy on Tuesday.
The Lions prevailed, 1-0. But more than that, they took away some lessons.
Katy sophomore ace Cameryn Harrison was brilliant with 10 strikeouts, three walks (one intentional to Brown) and four hits allowed over seven innings. Afterward, Rochinski stressed to her girls how important doing the little things would be, such as executing small-ball whenever hits are hard to come by like they were against Katy.
Rochinski said it was vital for her girls to see some “top softball” before gearing up for the playoff run.
“This is what we needed,” Brown said. “Going into the playoffs, this is a step in the right direction. Cameryn Harrison pitched her butt off. She’s definitely the type of pitcher we needed to see. With a not-so-strong district, we need to see arms like that, so we know what to look forward to in the playoffs. The girls who aren’t used to seeing that can get some work getting their timing down.”
The Lions boast a plethora of premier talent.
Junior LSU commit Maddie McKee is hitting .569 with 43 RBIs, seven home runs and 58 stolen bases. Senior Syracuse commit Madelyn Lopez is hitting .506 with 30 RBIs. Sophomore Carmen Uribe is hitting .477. Junior UTSA commit Kalee Rochinski, the coach’s daughter, has 2o RBIs and eight doubles. Junior Payton Bauer (.396 average) has emerged as a consistent contributor in the bottom of the lineup at the designated hitter spot.
But Brown is the anchor. She is the ace and bats cleanup.
Brown is hitting .369 with 29 RBIs and eight home runs, with almost as many walks (12) as strikeouts (13). In the circle, she is 20-0 with an 0.35 ERA and 261 strikeouts to 17 walks.
Ava Brown gets Katy slugger Cameryn Harrison to strikeout looking to strand a runner at third and end the fourth. 1-0 @LakeCreek_SB into the fifth.pic.twitter.com/WKVS2Y9H3L— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1651018123
“She’s matured and she’s confident,” Rochinski said. “She knows her defense has her back. She knows she doesn’t have to strike everybody out. Teams putting the ball in play is just a part of the game. She knows she doesn’t have to do too much.”
More than anything having to do with her skill, Brown is most proud of the leadership growth she’s shown this season.
“Last year, it was me and Emiley Kennedy together, and this year I feel it was my job to take her role and fill in her shoes,” Brown said. “I’ve been trying to pitch to the best of my ability, but also pitch to the best ability of my team. I’m here for these girls and I’ll do anything for them. I know they’ll do the same for me.”
Yes, talent like Brown and Co. might be enough to push Lake Creek above and beyond this season. But coaches and players believe that if they are to accomplish what they set out to do—and make no mistake, that’s to win a state championship—it will be because of something much greater, deeper.
“It’s our grit. Our determination,” Brown said. “We work so hard in practice and in the weight room. Coach Rochinski pushes us hard, pushes us to the next level, and makes sure we’re playing our best when we need to.”