Laurence Manning’s softball team entered the SCISA 3A playoffs in a tough position.
The Lady Swampcats lost three players to injury and were stretched a bit. Head Coach Buddy Truett decided to look to the JV team for support. One of those players was Lily Wellborn.
Wellborn replaced senior shortstop Malorie Spiegel and thrived in his new role. The eighth-grader helped the Lady Saints go 3-0 in the first two days of the state playoffs, earning a spot in this week’s Championship Series. Her performance also helped her win Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.
“It’s really shocking, but it feels really good,” Wellborn said of the recognition. “I did not expect that.”
When Laurence Manning started losing players to injury, the last thing Wellborn expected was to get the call to join the team in the playoffs. After the Lady Swampcats played their final two regular season games, that call came on Tuesday night.
“When I first heard (Spiegel) he was injured, I really couldn’t believe it. I had a few players come up to me and say, ‘They’ll definitely pull up.’ And I said no,” Wellborn said. “My JV coach told me I was going to be taken to college and I was like, ‘Woah. “”
Not only was Wellborn raised in college, but she was immediately thrown into the starting lineup. Wellborn was surprised when told she was starting her opener against Augusta Christian at shortstop.
“I had no idea,” Wellborn said. “I was so nervous, even though I was going to sit down, then they came to me and said I was starting.”
Truett saw what Wellborn was capable of at the joint venture level and he was confident that she would be able to step into training and be successful.
“She’s a terrific athlete, no doubt. It was important for her to be in the position when we were injured,” Truett said. “We watched her all the time on JV and she did well. We knew she would fit in well with us. that and kept his cool.
“I’m proud of her. The future is very bright for her.”
Laurence Manning had to work her way through the playoffs. LMA won their opener against Augusta Christian 13-9 and saw pitcher Kayleigh Parmenter Avins take a knee shot. Fortunately, she was able to come back in their second match against Ben Lippen, but the injuries kept coming. The Lady ‘Cats then lost Lyza Pricklemeyer to an arm injury as the center player flew over the wall to steal a home run in the 11-4 win. Lindsey Barwick then injured her leg while stretching for the final.
After all that, LMA trailed Augusta Christian 8-0 in their rematch on Saturday, only to score 11 unanswered points to clinch a spot in the Championship Series. A wild ride for Wellborn’s first week as a college starter.
“I was a bit panicked. We can’t lose another player, what are we going to do? I think everyone was really nervous about everything. I was just trying to be careful with everything I was doing, I think everyone was at that point,” Wellborn said. “I think Anna Marie Beard was a big help to us (Saturday. She said, ‘If you don’t want to be here, you have to say something thing.” She was just helping us stir things up.
“We were all worried and depressed and you could tell by the way we were playing. It was like we lost the championship game right there. Marlee Black came up to bat and it just started. Then (Madison) Rainwater came up base, I got to base and it was just boom, boom, boom and everything started clicking for us.”
Wellborn immediately got a feel for college softball, particularly at home plate. She went 5-11 at home plate in the first two days of the playoffs, making five runs and scoring six more. Although Wellborn had never played college before, she had seen varsity-level pitchers in the travel ball. This helped her make a quick transition, where she eventually earned a place at the heart of the LMA lineup.
“I saw a quick throw with a travel ball, but I haven’t seen that kind of throw in a while. It was just timing,” Wellborn said. “I just went up there with no worries, I just wanted to hit the ball and that’s what I did.”
Laurence Manning was ultimately swept by Wilson Hall in the State Championship Series this week, but earning a trip to the state as an eighth grader meant the world to Wellborn. She hopes the show’s sleeper will plant the seeds for an even better season next spring.
“I didn’t expect us to go this far and I don’t think many others have. We were all so excited, we felt like we were on cloud nine. We were just happy to have come this far.” said Wellborn. “It will inspire us more than ever. We will try to make a big comeback next season.”