HOUSTON – As Brandy Mardis stood on the field, watching her team run together and celebrate on the infield, the Second Baptist School softball coach was finally able to take a deep breath.
In an emotion-filled victory, Coach Mardis watched her team defeat Faith Christian 13-0 in the 2021 TAPPS Division II State Championship on Saturday afternoon in Waco, Texas, earning the program's first-ever state crown.
"I was so happy for our girls, and I wanted them to enjoy and savor that moment," Mardis said. "[The double play] was a great play to finish on, and watching their celebration was incredibly fulfilling."
What makes this achievement even more remarkable is the fact that Second Baptist School had just two seniors on the softball roster. Despite not having a large senior class, the Eagles came together as an outstanding team balanced with youth and senior leadership.
"Our team is young, but the underclassmen are steady," Mardis said. "They have great mindsets. A lot of that comes through great leadership of our upperclassmen. Our two seniors, Rachel Riley and Leyla Ertan, were absolutely vital to building the team chemistry and leading this team. They also have a great group of juniors behind them learning and growing from their example."
IT’S OVER!!! @SBS_Athletics wins the @TAPPSSoftball Division II State Championship on this epic double play to win 13-0!!! They are State Champs for the first time ever!!! #vypecampus @mawalker_SBAD @robertreidryan @TXPrepSoftball @CoachPirtle @Deuce2CMC @CecilShortsIII pic.twitter.com/7VPJ4gIKDB— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 15, 2021
In the playoffs, Second Baptist School really got rolling.
After TMI Episcopal forfeited the first round, a 4-0 victory over St. John Paul II and a 10-0 win over Lutheran South Academy propelled the Eagles to the TAPPS Final Four. Once there, Second Baptist School defeated Fort Bend Christian Academy, 5-3, and then Faith Christian for the crown.
"Coach Brandy Mardis is very detailed in her preparations and serves as a master motivator," Second Baptist School Director of Athletics Mike Walker said. "I am so very proud of the work Coach Mardis and her staff did this year building championship habits on a daily basis. Coach Jeff Schroeder has won quite a few championships on the baseball side, and we are so blessed to have his wisdom, experience, and calming demeanor now assisting the softball program. We are also blessed to have Coach Kelli Cager as part of the staff; she completes a stellar group of coaches that executes our core values on a daily basis."
Mardis agreed, saying, "My assistants have been so vital to this success."
So, what made this team go?
Let's start with senior ace Rachel Riley, who is headed to Penn next fall. In the circle, she posted a 15-5 record with 151 strikeouts and just 25 walks – a nice 6.04 K/BB ratio – and a 2.21 ERA in 110 innings. At the plate, she hit .530 for the season with 23 RBIs.
Emma Garcia '22 hit .515, including smashing a grand slam in the championship game, with a team-leading 25 RBIs and 11 doubles. Behind her was Emily Rogers '23 (.473, 11 RBIs), Leyla Ertan '21 (.458, 10 RBIs), Danielle Dicecco '23 (.333, 9 RBIs), Ella Ryan '23 (.320, 14 RBIs) and McKenzie Schmidt '24 (.311, 22 RBIs).
Schmidt was also 3-0 in the circle with 22 strikeouts and one walk in 20 1/3 innings, an incredible record for a freshman player.
To make these stats, wins and eventual championship become a reality in 2021, the Second Baptist School Eagles had to also take care of business off the field by following protocols to stay safe.
After losing last season due to the pandemic, Mardis said this season meant even more.
"This championship means a lot to this team. We had a phenomenal team last year as well - strong leadership, highly skilled and great team chemistry. We were really disappointed we didn't get to see that through," Mardis said. "Our kids we're dedicated to the health protocols to ensure they had an opportunity to compete this year."
BREAKING: @SBS_Athletics softball wins the programs first ever State Championship with a 13-0 victory in Waco!! The 🏆 is coming back to H-Town!!! #vypecampus @robertreidryan @mawalker_SBAD @SBS_Houston @TAPPSSoftball @Deuce2CMC @CecilShortsIII @CoachPirtle @TXPrepSoftball pic.twitter.com/hsONxxiJY5— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 15, 2021
Bringing it full circle, three seniors from the Class of 2020 were there to support the Eagles in the state championship in Waco.
"They deserve some recognition for their time in this program and their ongoing support. Two of them were able to watch their sisters win a state championship, and as a coach, those memories and relationships are what really matter."
Next thing for the women of Second Baptist School softball is to do some ring shopping.
"I'm excited for the girls - they'll get to make a lot of those decisions," Mardis said about designing the championship ring. "This is their championship, they earned it every step of the way. It truly could not have happened to a better group of student-athletes."