Grapeland's run to state in honor of fallen coach: 'He'd be smiling right now'

GRAPELAND, TX (KTRE) - "It's 185 miles from Grapeland to Austin, so that's been our goal all year; To see what we can do to achieve the 185 miles it's going to take to get to Austin, and we're pretty close," said head softball coach, Jim Dillard.

The Sandiettes are close indeed as they are entering the regional finals, and just one game stands in their way from punching a ticket to Austin.

The girls say they feel the support of their town behind them, and it's been shown in ways beyond just showing up to games.

"Everybody's been talking about it all week, all throughout the town," said Clara Shaw, a senior, catcher on the team. "I've actually had 2 or 3 people buy my breakfast in the morning who are ready for the game. It's crazy."

Although the team is fairly young, Coach Dillard says their preparation has been on point for a victory.

"Practice has been real upbeat this week. They seem very relaxed and they're playing to win. They're playing not to loose so that makes a difference, but they're relaxed and seem to be motivated to achieve their goals," said Dillard. "They have a lot of reasons that they're playing for."

One of those reasons is for their former assistant coach, Wes Padgett. Who passed away this January from pulmonary embolism.

Padgett's initials are placed above angel wings on the sleeves of their shirts, and his initials are also written on a sign like an angel in the outfield. The team believes Coach Padgett has been with them along the way.

"I think he'd be smiling right now and I hope he's with us Friday night," said  Dillard.

"It can't end. It has to go farther," said Shaw. "We just can't end."

Grapeland will play Harleton in Lindale tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.

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