Softball: Young Tomball team hopes to fight for playoff spot
First-year head coach Billy Noonan arrived at Tomball thinking he was only going for football and then be in the softball program as the first assistant.
However, when Alicia Pierucci left, the job was open, he asked to interview for it and the rest is history.
Noonan considerers himself lucky to be where he is and to have an entire group of talented young players that all get along, care about each other, play hard for each other and are buying into what he’s selling and what the program is.
“My program is built on relationships, trust within each other, mental toughness and responding to adversity in a way that you can get the outcome that you want,” Noonan said.
The team graduated a lot of seniors, which is why this year’s team is very young. The roster features one senior, hardworking outfielder Kayla King, while the rest includes a mixture of young talent.
Sophomore SS Imani Edwards, Tulsa commit, is going to have a key role in the team’s success, and Taylor Spexarth, UMass commit, will be at first base while also taking on additional positions. They both hit in the top of the order.
Tomball finished the 2017 season with an 18-12 overall record, while going 7-7 in district. Willis placed first, followed by Magnolia West.
The team needed one win in the last game of the season against Magnolia to clinch fourth place and a spot in the playoffs. They lost 3-2 in a heartbreaking, nail-biter and were right there on the cusp of the playoffs, finishing fifth.
The team looks different now, but the goal remains the same.
“The idea that we can make a playoff run and fight for district championship, that’s in the cards, that is a possibility,” Noonan said. “I’m excited for them because I know how hard they’re working.”
The expectation for the program is to work hard with great attitude, body language and encourage each other. Besides team mindset, the common theme has been effort. Everything the team does will be fast and with great determination.
“We’re that young team who can be dangerous if they put it all together,” Noonan said. “When we do, we’re pretty good. We’re looking for every game as an individual season.
“We have to do our very best with the greatest effort possible, then we can be successful. The wins will follow, and if they don’t, then we’re going to build a foundation for next year.”
As far as leadership goes, Noonan is still trying to identify those people. No one has really separated themselves.
“We’re all working so hard together,” Noonan said. “That’s the great thing about this team is that we don’t rely on one or two people. This is a group effort.”
The rest of the lineup features freshman 3B Amanda Skivington, likely to bat cleanup, and junior Jeryn Cook who will play second base.
Two sophomores are battling behind the plate in C/1B Emily Redden and C Celeste Finch, but only will be the starting catcher.
The rotation is led by sophomore pitcher Catie Boyd. She’s worked extremely hard, just like everyone else, and has gotten a lot better since last year.
Cook will also pitch. Noonan will attempt to mix it up with the pitchers, try to keep some teams off balance.
There’s also junior LF Britney Fritz, CF C.J. Croston, sophomore RF Farrin Weinert and freshman 2B/OF Kylle Huey.
In the first scrimmage of the season, Noonan had many players in positions that were new to them. A double-digit loss to Cy Creek showed that the team was going through positional changes and new concepts, not the talent or ability of the team.
The following week, the Cougars had a double header against Caney Creek and Bryan. The team bounced back, took care of business winning 6-3 and 7-3, respectably. Both comeback wins.
Edwards hit a solo homerun in the sixth inning that sparked a six run inning to cap the win against Caney Creek.
The second game was highlighted by Spexarth’s two runs. Cook pitched well, giving up no earned runs in three innings with four strikeouts.
The Cougars then lost a hard fought game against Class 6A state ranked Oak Ridge on the road, 7-2. Cook and Boyd both pitched, performed well. Edwards and Cook both drove in one run.
Tomball won its preseason home opener against a talented Montgomery team, 8-6, but lost a tough close game against Willis, 9-8, to open district play. The team played hard and battled every inning.
Noonan has been coaching for three years, was previously the head coach at New Caney for two years.
“We got to see where our pieces fit as a team,” Noonan said. “We got to find out who we are and where we fit best together.”
Coach: Billy Noonan, first season
2017: 18-12 overall, 7-7 in District 20-5A
2018: District member with Tomball Memorial, Magnolia, Magnolia West, Brenham, Huntsville, Waller and Willis
Next up: District game against Huntsville, 7 p.m. Tues. Mar. 20 at Huntsville High School
Key players: P Catie Boyd, SS Imani Edwards, 3B Amanda Skivington, 1B Taylor Spexarth and 2B Jeryn Cook