A few months ago, Bowie softball coach Cathie Johnson-Landers gathered her players for a pre-season chat that proved much more difficult than she ever anticipated.
Her voice cracked and her eyes moistened as she spoke, and the girls grew silent when Johnson-Landers explained that her husband of six years — and father of their triplets — had been diagnosed with liver cancer. The outlook, she said, was not good.
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Two years ago as a sophomore, pitcher Brandi Neeham led Dripping Springs to the state tournament and was named the All-Central Texas player of the year. Now a senior, she’s a contender to win the award again. A University of Illinois signee, Needham leads the area in victories (26), earned-run average (0.82) and strikeouts (247). She has a career record of 83-14 with the Tigers, who open the Class 4A playoffs against Travis. … McCallum, which faces Leander in a Class 4A bi-district playoff, boasts the leading hitter in Central Texas. The Knights’ Desiree Hamilton has batted .625 this season while driving in 45 runs. … Liberty Hill sophomore pitcher Samantha Junkin helped the Lady Panthers earn a first-round bye in the Class 3A playoffs. Junkin (21-1) has struck out 165 in 121 innings while posting a 1.33 ERA. … Along with some other playoff qualifiers from the area, district champions Hays and Round Rock have benefited from a doubly strong pitching rotation. Hays has called on Sarah Leal (17-3, 1.77 ERA, 142 strikeouts) and Clarissa Gonzalez (11-0-1). Round Rock relied on Taylor Simmonds (11-2, 92 strikeouts) and Sara Davison (8-1). … Hannah Contreras, of Class 5A playoffs qualifier Lake Travis, has hit an area-high 14 homers this season and also driven in 40 runs. She has scored 30 runs, too. … Westlake, which shared the District 15-5A title with Bowie, faces Cedar Ridge, the third seed out of 16-5A in a best-of-three, opening-round series. The Chaparrals lineup includes shortstop Stephanie Wong, a University of Texas signee.
— From staff reports
UIL softball bi-district playoffs
Austin vs. Round Rock, 7 p.m. Friday (Westwood HS)
San Marcos vs. SA Churchill, 7 p.m. Friday (Blossom Athletic Center, San Antonio)
Bowie vs. Stony Point, 8 p.m. Friday (Noack Fields)
Pflugerville vs. Lake Travis: Game 1, 7 p.m. Friday (Lake Travis HS); Game 2, 12 p.m. Saturday (Pflugerville HS); Game 3, 2 p.m. Saturday, if needed (Pflugerville HS)
Cedar Ridge vs Westlake: Game 1, 7:30 p.m. Friday (Westlake HS); Game 2, 2 p.m. Saturday (Cedar Ridge HS); Game 3, 4 p.m. Saturday, if needed (Cedar Ridge HS)
Dripping Springs vs. Travis, 6 p.m. Friday (Noack Fields)
SA Jefferson at Hays, 6 p.m Friday
Lockhart vs. SA Brackenridge, 6 p.m. Friday (Blossom Athletic Center, San Antonio)
LBJ at Cedar Park, 7 p.m. Friday
Leander vs. McCallum, 7:30 p.m. Friday (Noack Fields)
Georgetown vs. Brenham: Game 1, 5 p.m. Friday; Game 2, 7:30 p.m. Friday; Game 3, 11 a.m. Saturday (All games at La Grange HS)
East View vs. Huntsville: Game 1, 6 p.m. Friday; Game 2, 3 p.m. Saturday; Game 3, 7 p.m. Monday (All games at A&M Consolidated HS)
Elgin vs. Magnolia West: Game 1, 7 p.m. Friday (Magnolia West HS); Game 2, 5 p.m. Saturday (Elgin HS); Game 3, 7 p.m. Saturday, if needed (Elgin HS)
Hutto vs. Montgomery: Game 1, 7 p.m. Friday; Game 2, 2 p.m. Saturday; Game 3, 4 p.m. Saturday, if needed (All games at Bryan HS)
Marble Falls vs. Crockett: Game 1, 7 p.m Friday; Game 2, 1 p.m. Saturday; Game 3, 3 p.m. Saturday, if needed (Garrison Park)
Liberty Hill, bye
Taylor vs. West: Game 1, 7 p.m. Friday; Game 2, 1 p.m. Saturday; Game 3, 3 p.m. Saturday, if needed (Temple College)
Thorndale vs. Normangee, 7 p.m. Friday (Bryan Rudder HS)