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Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

Hungry for more

Fresh off a fourth round trip in the playoffs, the Lady Cards want to defy expectations yet again
Jonathan Chiraboga
Senior centerfielder Mia Lopez stands in the box in the playoffs last year against Pearland in the fourth round.

Memorial, Katy and Jersey Village. These are the teams that the Bellaire Cardinal softball team beat in the playoffs last year on their way to an unexpected round four run.

Knocking off Katy, one of the favorites to win the state championship, was one of, if not the biggest, upsets in the entire tournament. With a little roster turnover, the team is striving for another upset in round two and hopes to make it to the fourth round again, and even beyond. Senior captains Ainsley Pinkerton and Mia Lopez are at the helm of this team, and as the only seniors on the team, they have to lead.

“We have a younger team this year, but that just means more room to grow,” Pinkerton said, “and obviously striving to be better than last year.”

Pinkerton has been the starting catcher for the Lady Cards since her sophomore year, her experience making her perfect for a leadership role. She has to constantly communicate with the pitchers, as well as the infield, to make sure that the defense is unbreakable. Starting shortstop Callie Hester, ace pitcher Claire Shelley and the ‘mom of the team’ Margaret Reid all graduated last year, putting pressure on the underclassmen to mature quickly and fill the voids in the starting lineup. Sophomore Nina Ozuna is filling the void that Hester left behind, while the vacany in right field is currently undergoing competition. But the biggest unknown for the young Lady Cardinals is their pitching staff, as junior Sophie Donalson is being tasked with replacing the graduated Shelley as the team’s ace on the bump.

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“Definitely at the end of last year, when playoffs started [I grew up],” Donalson said. “I realized that when Claire is gone, I’m going to have to fill her spot. So I just keep that mentality and remember that.”

That mentality of next man (or woman) up has served the Cardinals well in the past. Since Bellaire established a softball team, they have not missed the playoffs once. Each year they are in contention for a district title, and have a chance to make a memorable run against the top teams in Texas. Bellaire’s improbable run to the fourth round last year was the furthest an HISD team has made since 2018, before they ultimately surrenderedsurrendering to the future state champions in Atascocita.

As the centerfielder for the team, Lopez is the unquestioned captain of the outfield, having priority on any ball and the full authority to call off other players if she thinks she can make a play on a ball hit to the outfield.

Senior catcher Ainsley Pinkerton frames a strike in the playoffs last year against Pearland in the fourth round. (Jonathan Chiraboga)

“I think me and Ainsley definitely play a big role in leadership,” Lopez said. “I think I try to help out the underclassmen with the little things in their game.”

The little things in a softball game often make the biggest difference. Hustling down the first base line on a ground ball, missing location on just one pitch, and losing the ball in the sun can completely change the complexion of a game, and sometimes a season. Just ask the team last year, when the Lady Cards beat Katy in the second round of playoffs 1-0. The only hit in the game for either team was a home run by Shelley in the first inning, an example of how one pitch can drastically change an entire season. Because of the hanging breaking ball the senior hit, Bellaire moved on and Katy was sent home.

Another massive component of the success of the Cardinals is their chemistry. Taking trips to Round Rock, outside of Austin, and Alabama for tournaments has really drawn the team together. Many of the players went on both trips, and the best way to pass the time in between games is to interact with teammates.

“Spending a whole week in the hotel room brings us together,” Lopez said. “Especially because I’ll bring the Wii or I’ll bring the Xbox, and we’ll just stay up playing video games and that brings us together.”

With family-like chemistry, the team, lead by Coach Tuffly, is in a position to challenge for the district title, after it was snatched from their hands by the Heights Bulldogs last year.

“If we could win district, and take back the district title again, that would be nice,” Lopez said. “I think we can do it since Heights lost a few seniors.”

The Lady Cards have even more to play for this upcoming season, and a team on a mission is always the most dangerous, especially if they are being underestimated.

“Heights is definitely expecting to beat us,” Pinkerton said. “So I think we have something to bring, especially since they’re expecting to win so we can pull off an upset.”

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