Tanner Wright has stepped into the pitcher's circle and provided stability for Sam Houston. The Broncos are hoping to have the right pieces in place for a run in a fourth consecutive state championship. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 11:36 AMMOSS BLUFF — Next woman up, that’s the unspoken philosophy at Sam Houston.
Essentially the Lady Broncos have no other choice. You don’t win three consecutive state softball championships — appearing in four — without losing some of your key players, so year in and year out head coach Beth Domingue finds the next athlete in line to replace any playmakers she may have lost.
And that strategy has paid off to this point.
In the past four years the Broncos have transformed into one of the most feared softball programs in the state of Louisiana.
Last season they capped off their third championship season with an 8-0 drubbing of Mount Carmel and in turn lost first baseman Alli Fields, catcher Tori Lantz and All-American pitcher Baylee Corbello.
“Offensively we lost three good hitters from our lineup last year, but this year I feel like we have a better chance at the plate,” Domingue said.
Corbello, who spent much of her senior season on the bench with an injury, was the starting pitcher in all four of the Broncos’ championship game. She now starts regularly as a freshman at LSU.
But Domingue and the Broncos aren’t worried about playing without Corbello.
“Of course (Baylee) played a big part of those runs and we realize that we lost a great player, but it’s not something that we talk about every day,” Domingue said. “It’s just like losing any other player. This is a new year and a new team.”
In fact, sophomore pitcher Tanner Wright, who saw an abundance of action last year in Corbello’s absence, has already taken over as the team’s leader.
“Tanner has done her job,” Domingue said. “It was great that she got some experience last year because it helped get those nerves out of the way. She doesn’t have any pressure on her, if anything there was more pressure on her last year than there is this year.”
“(Last year) helped me know what to expect, and to be more confident,” added Wright.
Being the focal point of every team’s game plan comes with the territory for Wright as the top team in the state’s feature pitcher, but Wright said there has been no added pressure.
“There’s not much pressure,” Wright said. “I don’t think (our opponents) are focused on just me; we are a team. We all have to hit and we all have to defend.”
This year taking the role as senior leader is shortstop Carleigh Chaumont who has been with the team for two of the three state championships. She is the lone senior on the roster this season.
“On the field our leader is Carleigh Chaumont,” Domingue said. “She leads by example; she doesn’t open her mouth a lot, but she has been our best hitter this season.”
Chaumont and Wright will have to continue to improve with the rest of the team if they want to win a fourth straight state championship, though.
The Broncos (10-5, 6-1) got off to a rocky start, losing their first two games of the year, including the district opener 2-0 to Sulphur. But Domingue said the team is starting to come around.
“We have beat some good teams, but sometimes we don’t show up,” Domingue said. “Compared to the beginning of the season the girls are more confident at the plate and Tanner is pitching better now.”
A fourth consecutive state championship is far from out of reach for the Broncos, but they know that this year’s road is as tough as it has ever been.
“There is always tough competition in 5A, but I think these girls can accomplish more than they think they can,” Domingue said. “Once they start to believe that we will be OK.”
The Broncos will get their opportunity at revenge and a chance to take control of the District 3-5A race when they host Sulphur (14-2, 7-0) at 4 p.m. today.