After injury ended junior season, Harleton’s Phillips enjoying senior campaign
March 30, 2017 at 4 a.m.
HARLETON - It's the final game of last year's softball regional finals between Harleton and Beckville in Hallsville. Harleton star pitcher Randi Carol Phillips collapsed in the circle due to a torn ACL.
The good news for Phillips that night was her team made a comeback that helped advance the Ladycats to the state tournament for the third year in a row.
The bad news for Phillips was she wouldn't be able to play for the rest of the season.
"It almost made me sick to not be out there with them," Phillips recalls.
That was one lesson she learned the hard way, and now the senior hopes her teammates don't have to learn it the same way.
"I don't want them to take the game for granted," Phillips said. "Last year when I tore my ACL, (I realized) it's just something that can happen so fast that you don't realize that everything that you've worked for and everything that you cherish can be taken away from you."
That experience has only made Phillips hungrier to help lead Hallsville to a fourth straight appearance at the state meet.
"The fact that we've been there the past three years and haven't finished the job makes me want it even more and knowing it's my last chance to get something like that," she said.
Phillips had a scare on Feb. 24, roughly a week before going into the Grandview tournament.
"I was just pitching and I felt a little pop," Phillips said. "It was just some scar tissue in there that was breaking up, which to me was more painful than tearing it."
She returned on March 14 against New Diana and adds she feels 100 percent now.
"I feel 100 times better," she said. "My pain levels have gone away. Earlier in the year I hurt my knee because of scar tissue. That went away and everything is fine now. It's just a matter of getting the rust out."
The future Texas A&M pitcher owns an overall record of 9-3 with an ERA of .92. She has 132 strikeouts in 66 innings pitched.
The Ladycats currently own an overall record of 13-9 and a district record 7-1, and find themselves in a three-way tie for first place.
"We beat New Diana and New Diana beat White Oak and White Oak beat us," Harleton head coach Justin Kniffen said. "We got to White Oak Friday so that's a big one."
The Ladycats moved up a classification after playing 2A ball for the last couple years.
"I think it's more fun to play better completion and to play around here and have our own rivals around here," Phillips said.
"I think over the years, our non-district schedule has kind of prepared us for a move up anyway," Kniffen said. "We've always traveled and tried to find the best competition no matter what level it was. We've handled it well.
"We went through some early struggles with injuries and not real healthy but now I feel like we're healthy in some key parts and we've moved some people around where it benefits the team. I feel like we're playing our best ball right now."
As much as Phillips and her Ladycats want a state championship, they're more focused on district play.
"With this senior group being so close, they've been spoiled," Kniffen added. "They've been to the state tournament three times and the state championship twice. You want it for them but you want to play your best ball every game, especially in this district. Every game is a new challenge. State championships are good but we're a lot more narrowly focused than that right now. We're just trying to win every district game that we can and try to get into the playoffs and see what happens from there."
Friday's game is slated for a 7 p.m. first pitch in White Oak.