HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — In a sport steeped in tradition and built on unwritten rules, Harker Heights is breaking the mold of what softball can look like at the highest levels.
"They want it," Head Coach Kye Robertson said. "It's hard to explain. We have the talent and they see that. But they hold each other accountable."
That level of accountability comes as a bit of a surprise.
Despite having a core group of seniors leading the way, Harker Heights has very little playoff experience. The team made the postseason in 2021 for the first time in 17 years.
But in 2022, they have become a team of destiny, making the Regional Quarterfinals for the first time in Harker Heights history.
"We're setting records. We're doing all this stuff and it feels really great," senior Evan Fuller said. "It's really great. I can go to all my friends at other schools and say we're doing all of this, and you've never done it before!"
At the heart of the Lady Knights' success is pitcher Nevaeh Brown.
Brown has amassed more than 300 strikeouts in the circle this season. She has also been a clutch hitter at the plate.
Her starpower has become even more evident as the Lady Knights have pushed deeper into the playoffs. In Round One, Brown hit a walk-off grand slam in Game Three to secure a win against Mansfield. In Round Two, she hit a game-winning two-run double to lock up a 2-1 win over Sachse.
"Your stomach's churning," Robertson said. "I'm trying to write on my notes and my hand is shaking, because I'm like, 'We're one out away.'"
While Brown has been at the center of Harker Heights' success, their secret weapon sits up in the bleachers. And it does not take long to find them.
Merton Hunkin is part of a large group of Harker Heights parents and family members from American Samoa who bring an assortment of drums to the games. They play their rhythms between every pitch, out, run and inning.
"This is not new in our culture where we're from," Hunkin said. "This is how parents and family come out and support their children. As they're out there playing their hearts out, we're doing the same here in the stands."
The Lady Knights' success has brought more even fans to the ballpark. In Game One of their Regional Quarterfinal series, Harker Heights had to bring in extra bleachers to provide enough seating for everyone in attendance.
"People are excited. People are coming to games. We have to bring in new bleachers. It's what every coach wants," Robertson said.
Harker Heights finds itself in a high pressure situation once again. Down 1-0 in their series with Lake Ridge, the Lady Knights will have to manage another comeback.
But, as they have proven throughout the playoffs, they will not back down.
"We keep pushing that they get another chance on the field, because this is one of our biggest years," Brown said. "And to know that we've come this far, why stop now? We'll keep fighting."