CRAWFORD, TEXAS — 2020 was supposed to be their year...again.
After winning a state title in 2019 behind a large group of juniors, the Crawford Lady Pirates were the odds-on-favorite to win the UIL Class 2A Softball title once again in 2020.
Instead, their season was cut short by the global pandemic, costing them the chance to go back-to-back for the first time in program history.
"It was rough because we were so good, and we were going to be so good last year," junior first baseman Kylie Ray said.
The Lady Pirates opened the 2020 season ranked No. 1 in the TGCA poll.
"It stings a little bit," junior Lexi Moody said. "We were so excited to get to see what we could do and how far we could go, and to not get to do that was a little tough."
Crawford graduated seven seniors from that 2020 team, including Head Coach Kirk Allen's daughter.
Now, Allen will have to guide a group of young and relatively inexperienced athletes on a quest to finish what was started a year ago. The team only has three juniors and seniors on the roster.
"A lot of us have been playing together since we were in like first grade, so it's kind of just like a big family reunion," Ray said.
According to Allen, this group of players competed during Little League when they were less than 13 years old. Several of the kids played above their age group, meaning nearly the entire roster played together at some point.
Still, living up to the expectations set by the previous senior class will be no easy feet.
The Lady Pirates will be led in the circle by sophomore pitcher Kenzie Jones.
"I dont feel like anything's changed," Jones said. "I feel like we still have an athletic group of girls that can work together and win a state championship."
But for others, the return to softball is a welcome relief.
The team has only played 15 games over the last two calendar years, meaning there was plenty of rust to knock off early in the year. The team was only able to practice one time before opening the season with a win against West.
They got off to a late start to the season because several players compete for the Crawford basketball team, which made a run in the playoffs. At the same time, an
ice storm canceled nearly a week of potential practice time.
"I was itching to get back on the softball field," Ray said.
Allen said he expects a sharp learning curve in the first few weeks, as his players get back in the groove after such a long hiatus.
"After last year and the way it ended, it's just awesome to be out here," he said.
Crawford opens district play March 9 against Bosqueville.