90° F Wednesday, July 26, 2017

There is a sense of something special on the softball diamond at Westlake.
The Chaparrals enter the 2013 season highly-touted and with internally high expectations with the most loaded roster the team has probably ever seen and a No. 4 ranking in the TGCA state poll.
Seven starters return to the team this season with visions of a state title, especially after the successful squad fell short last season with an area-round loss.
“We’re expecting to gar father than last year,” senior shortstop Stephanie Wong said. “It’s still in the back of our minds; we use that as motivation, but we’re definitely thinking forward.”
Already, six Chaps have committed to play collegiately, and there is no lack of ability on the team as Westlake has an infusion of youth on the team as well with talented sophomores and even a freshman.
Senior pitcher Liz Carter is joined by the strong-armed sisters Lauren and Lindsey McLeod, a senior and sophomore, respectively, giving the team three quality pitchers.
“This is by far the most talented team I’ve played on,” Carter said, “but that doesn’t mean anything. I’m glad with the girls we have, I think we can do something special.”
Wong is committed to play at Texas, Slovacek is committed to Penn University, Carter is committed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Gibson is committed to LSU, Lindsey McLeod is committed to Sam Houston, and Lauren McLeod is committed to the University of Texas at Dallas.
The lineup is stout once again with center fielder Gibson joining Wong at the top of the order, with the speedsters setting the table for Carter and Slovacek behind them.
Janelle Turnquest, who was injured in Friday’s game against New Braunfels and will miss about six weeks, joins the McLeod’s as returnees to the lineup.
Sophomore Elizabeth DeBlasio has stepped in to start at third base, while sophomore Leah Hook will do the majority of the work behind the plate, with Slovacek spelling her when she’s not at first.
Freshman Lacey Boyd has started at second when Lauren is on the mound, and the team has five sophomores on the roster in addition to two juniors and seven seniors.
“We know we’re good but we’re real humble about it,” Westlake softball coach Haley Gaddis said. “We also know it doesn’t matter how good you are if we don’t all show up to play.”
Westlake topped state-ranked The Woodlands Saturday at the Chaps’ home tournament with a 4-1 victory, marking Westlake’s first time winnings its own tourney.
Carter is currently taking time off the mound in the early going as she works out some mechanics, and the McLeod’s have picked up where they left off last year with strong mound performances.
“They are both pitching phenomenally right now,” Gaddis said. “Being able to work together, they complement each other, too, it’s a neat little duo. When Liz gets into the mix I really don’t know what I’m gonna do because all three of them are great pitchers. It’s better to have that problem then not have enough.”
Carter gladly has taken to talking with the sisters on the mound as she has played first base.
“Lauren is by far my best friend on the team,” Carter said, “same with Lindsey. We’re really close. Especially Lindsey, I know I can be a mentor to her. I just want to be a supporter to them.”
The team is working quickly to integrate the new pieces and roles on the team, with the change behind the plate the biggest one as veteran Kathy Dzienkowski graduated.
“[Leah and I] just had the talk about she doesn’t get to be a freshman anymore,” Gaddis said. “She doesn’t get to have her freak-out moments. We have sophomores new to varsity, too, in that same boat. It’s about having patience, letting them make that adjustment.”
In the win over The Woodlands, Lindsey McLeod gave up just three hits and one unearned run. She got the win over New Braunfels, 5-2, Friday as well, with Lauren McLeod coming on in relief to pick up the save. In that win, Lauren replaced Lindsey in the top of the sixth with one on and after two more batters reached on a single and an error, she struck out three straight to retire the side.
More from the tournament
After two weeks of scrimmages Westlake opened with a 3-1 win over Cedar Ridge Feb. 12 to start the regular season. Lindsey McLeod took the win and sister Lauren McLeod logged the save as they had nine strikeouts combined.
Two days later, the Westlake tournament began with a field of strong competition.
Westlake began with a rocky start, dropping the opener to Georgetown 5-1. Westlake jumped out to a lead 1-0 in the third inning after a double from Wong and then a triple from Gibson. Lauren McLeod held strong until the top of the seventh, including nine strikeouts, when Georgetown scored five runs on a combination of hits and Chaparral errors.
The next day, Westlake beat Westwood 2-1. DeBlasio hit her first double of the season, but the team still lacked their characteristic offense and solid defense. The seniors gathered the team for a soul-searching meeting to spark a turnaround. The team pulled together and next downed former 4A state champ Waco Midway 6-3 behind solid pitching from Lauren McLeod and an offense on the rebound. The lineup racked up hits from top to bottom including Gibson’s first homerun of the season and two doubles by Carter.
Gaddis said the win over New Braunfels marked the first time the lineup started to click.
“One of our strengths is hitting,” she said. “That game we all kind of got on the same page.”
The Chaps play The Woodlands Varsity Tournament Feb. 21-23 and start district play hosting Bowie March 5.
The Chaps are intent on taking the district crown, with the state title looming large in their minds.
“That’s what we’re going for,” Wong said.
Carter added, “I expect us to improve as a team and set the standards for the years to come. I feel like we’re doing that right now.”
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