Why Not Us

Atascocita softball wins 6A state championship

Atascocita win their first state championship in school history Vype

For the first time in school history, Atascocita is coming home with a team championship.

The Lady Eagles of AHS softball beat #3 Comal Canyon, 5-3, in a thrilling, back-and-forth game to claim the 6A UIL State Title.

All season, the Eagles’ motto has been “Why Not Us?”

On a steamy Saturday night at Red & Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, it was them.

“We don’t quit. As long as we have an out on that board we’re going to give it everything we’ve got,” head coach Ashley Boyd said.

Multiple times this game, Atascocita found themselves in a hole. First in the third inning, when Canyon took a 1-0 lead on a two-out error. With Oklahoma signee Brooke Vestal cruising (7 Ks through 4IP), it was going to be tough on the Eagles.

Then, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Canyon switched pitchers to Aliyah Pritchett — a move they had done all year. Still, with Vestal dominating, it was a key moment in the game.

Two walks and a single loaded the bases for AHS. After two strikeouts, that’s when the clutch gene kicked in. Lesly Miranda singled to second base, scoring Skylar Wilabay. It all happened because senior Lillie Grotenhuis beat out a throw at second base.

“We put pressure on their defense,” Boyd said. “It came down to hustle. We hustled out a few of those outs and ground balls to give ourself the opportunity to pass the bat to the next person and keep innings alive.”

Grotenhuis’ hustle allowed the tying run to score and another batter to see pitches. Good thing. A wild pitch scored Lauren Bazan to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.

Bazan, the game MVP was on base all tournament, going 5-8 with four runs scored in her two games in Austin.

“My game plan is to just find a way to get on base or score a run to keep my team going,” Bazan said. “I faced some of the best pitching in the state this weekend, so I just tried to keep battling.”

That mentality was consistent throughout the entire Eagles lineup, because just a few minutes late, adversity struck again.

In the top of the 6th inning, Canyon showed why they were 29-1 on the season. After a walk and a sac bunt, Sydney Owens drove in Pritchett to tie the game. The very next pitch, Bailey Zibelin ripped a double down the line to give the Cougarettes a 3-2 lead.

“This team has been through everything together,” Bazan said. “We’re all so appreciative of each other. We fight through and adversity that comes our way and we just come out on top, not matter the score.”

With their backs against the wall, and only six outs remaining in their season, Atascocita show that grit and determination.

After a walk, Atascocita laid down a sac bunt. An error by Canyon allowed both runners to be safe. Then another bunt was laid down and Canyon again made a mistake to allow the bases to be loaded with no outs.

The Eagles capitalized.

A passed ball scored Bryanna Bell to tie the game at three. After Bazan lined out, Grotenhuis gave the Eagles a lead with a SAC fly to right field, scoring Macie Pampell. Then Wilabay scored on another wild pitch to give Atascocita a 5-3 lead going the the final frame.

Though they only needed three outs, nothing was going to come easy. A one-out double and a walk put the tying run on first base with the dangerous Vestal at the plate.

A ground ball up the middle looked like it would squeeze through but freshman Katie Cimusz — the hero of the semifinals — backhanded the ball and glove flipped it to get the force out at second base.

With runners on the corners and two outs, it only took Mikayla Garza one more pitch to win it all.

A ground ball to shortstop Macie Pampell was calmly field, fired to first and just like that, the Eagles were champions.

“I had a whole bunch of faith in Macie,” Bazan said. “She’s a great shortstop the whole time she’s been with us. I just had so much faith she’d make the play. When we finally got it, my heart sunk. I couldn’t believe it. But you know, why not us?”

Atascocita’s 5-3 victory is the first team championship in the school’s history, something not lost on coach Boyd.

“Our athletic department at AHS is so strong and we’ve been so close so many times,” Boyd said. “To be that first one to knock down that door means a lot. I hope there is five more right behind us. It’s the first of many for Atascocita High School.”

The Eagles senior class (five players) will also hold a special place in Boyd’s heart.

“This is my first four year group,” she said. “For it to be this group that takes us to this point, it’s huge. As a coach, it gets you emotional because you saw them as the little babies. You saw them come here with heartbreak two years ago. And now you saw the fight and drive to want to get back here.

“It’s not just what we do here on the field,” Boyd added. “It’s what they do when nobody is watching.”

After two-straight years of Dallas teams winning 6A softball titles, it was high-time H-Town be crowned champions.

Atascocita finished the job.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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