The 2012 season was perhaps the most successful one for high school softball in Lubbock.
Three UIL teams — Coronado, Frenship and Cooper — reached the regional semifinals, and TAPPS power Lubbock Christian High made history by becoming the first South Plains squad to reach a state tournament.
All four of those schools are well-represented on the Avalanche-Journal’s All-City team.
Lauren Heinrich, Cooper’s two-time All-City Pitcher of the Year, earned Player of the Year honors after leading the Lady Pirates to a third consecutive district title.
Kristin Tijerina earned All-City Pitcher of the Year after guiding Coronado back to the Region I-5A semifinals in her first season as the team’s ace.
Kelly Robinson was named the All-City Coach of the Year after guiding Lubbock Christian High to the TAPPS state tournament.
There might not be an appropriate way to describe Lauren Heinrich’s career statistics.
Jaw-dropping, eye-opening and earth-shattering hardly seem to do justice to her dominance.
The Cooper senior struck out 1,004 batters in 662 career innings and issued only 88 walks. She pitched in 118 games, going 86-26, and posted a 1.57 earned-run average.
Her 2012 season was equally impressive. Heinrich led the Lady Pirates to their second consecutive
Region I-3A semifinal by going 21-5 with 204 strikeouts against 21 walks. She struck out roughly 36 percent of the batters she faced.
“If a girl gets on against her, she’s earned it,” Cooper coach Landon Winton said.
Heinrich also led Cooper with a .537 batting average, .839 slugging percentage, six home runs and 60 RBIs.
Her prowess at the plate and in the circle helped earn her the distinction as the All-City Player of the Year.
She’ll continue her softball career next season at West Texas A&M.
“This is a dream come true, getting to play in college and everything,” Heinrich said. “As a freshman you dream of being the senior pitcher, because you see the girls growing up and want to be them. It was really cool this year to be that girl.”
Heinrich helped the Lady Pirates to the playoffs in each of her four seasons, and Cooper won every district game the last three years. Cooper’s back-to-back appearances in the regional semifinals in 2011 and 2012 were the program’s deepest runs.
Heinrich brought an intense focus to Cooper’s playoff runs. Her game face, if you will, was in stark contrast to her usually cheerful demeanor.
“I think you have to be into every single game you pitch,” Heinrich said. “Otherwise, you aren’t going to perform at your best. You have to be in there mentally. You train for the physical, but the mental is the hard part, and you have to stay composed. Otherwise, the other team is going to read you and beat you.”
A different path
Kristin Tijerina didn’t think she’d be pitching four years ago.
She started out as a pinch runner at Coronado and figured she was destined for the outfield.
Instead, she developed into the Lady Mustangs’ No. 1 pitcher this year, leading Coronado to its fifth appearance in the regional finals.
“Hard work after four years pays off,” Tijerina said.
Tijerina won a Coronado record 28 games with a 2.27 ERA and 164 strikeouts, making her a fitting choice to become the Avalanche-Journal’s Pitcher of the Year.
The senior didn’t overpower hitters like some of the Coronado pitchers who preceded her, but her command of junkballs kept opponents off balance.
She’ll pitch next season at Independence (Kan.) Community College.
“She continually worked hard and, as the ace this year, made the most of her opportunity,” Coronado coach J.J. Johnson said. “You read about kids all the time that have talent and don’t work very hard and don’t reach their potential. But Kristin worked as hard as anybody we’ve ever had and it paid off for her.”
Tijerina finished 26 of her 34 starts and had seven shutouts.
“I never thought I’d get a scholarship for pitching,” Tijerina said. “It’s kind of crazy.”
From the ground up
Five years ago, Kelly Robinson was begging Lubbock Christian High students to play softball.
The program has certainly come a long way since.
Robinson guided the Lady Eagles to their first TAPPS Class 3A state tournament this year, becoming the first South Plains team at any classification to reach state.
“The whole key,” Robinson said, “is getting the kids to buy into what you’re doing and understand that you’ve got a chance to be successful.”
Robinson has been successful throughout his LCHS tenure, and the Lady Eagles’ run to the state tournament earned him All-City Coach of the Year honors.
Only two of the seniors on the 2012 roster — Brittany Hardesty and Sydney Roberts — had played softball before high school, Robinson said.
But he ran with the group, winning three straight district titles and reaching the regional finals five years in a row.
The Lady Eagles’ impressive season was also spurred by a pair of freshman pitchers, Shaylin Stephenson and Renni Scarborough.
“Our kids believe now,” Robinson said. “Their expectations are pretty high now.”
Robinson was quick to thank assistant coach Mondy Brewer, and children Kamdon, Karson and Kalee, all of whom have assisted him over the years.
Kalee Robinson was the TAPPS District 1-3A player of the year two years ago and still owns several LCHS softball records.
Kelly Robinson said Kalee helped build the program during his first few seasons, and it’s only taken off from there.
“Whenever she left, we all were worried about the program taking a step back,” he said. “But she was here to help lay the groundwork for the program as it just keeps improving.”
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