Players and coaches can feel the momentum building around the Highland Park softball program.
After consecutive playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, the Lady Scots have been rebuilding for the past two seasons with a young roster facing a brutal district alignment that included defending Class 5A state champion, Forney.
Everyone is starting to buy in. It’s a really positive environment, and the girls are working really hard. -Michael Pullen
(Junior catcher Dawson Dabboussi (ABOVE) and senior outfielder Katie Reenan (BELOW) are among the top returnees for an experienced Highland Park softball squad that aims to get back into the playoffs after a two-year absence. Photos by Rob Graham)
This year provides more hope, however, as HP begins a two-year cycle in a more favorable district with a team that has increased depth and experience.
“The experience in that district will help us out tremendously,” said third-year HP head coach Michael Pullen. “It just puts us in a better place.”
The Lady Scots will have seven returning varsity players on the roster this season, and only two seniors. HP will likely field five three-year starters.
They must replace graduated slugger Amanda Reenan, one of the most decorated players in program history. But two of her younger sisters will be on this year’s team, including Katie — a senior first baseman and outfielder — and Lilly, a freshman who will see time at third base and pitcher.
Claire Walker, a junior who pitched in several games last season, will become the primary hurler for HP this spring. Other key returnees include catcher Dawson Dabboussi and outfielder Grace Brown.
Pullen said depth also should benefit the Lady Scots going forward. He expects about 30 players in the program this season, an all-time high. That includes 11 incoming freshmen, three of which likely will play at the varsity level. Most of them play year-round on select teams.
HP is aiming for its first postseason appearance at the 5A level. Both previous playoff berths for the Lady Scots came in 6A, including a bi-district series win by a senior-laden squad over Irving in 2016.
The Lady Scots will open the regular season on Feb. 12 when they host Lancaster. Following tournament play in Forney and Richardson, the District 11-5A slate gets underway on Feb. 26 at Carrollton Newman Smith.
“Everyone is starting to buy in,” Pullen said. “It’s a really positive environment, and the girls are working really hard.”