PINELAND, Texas (KTRE) -
The West Sabine Lady Tigers are in the fourth round. They like the other three 2A teams remaining in the Region III bracket are hoping to make it to state. The difference for this group of friends is that they are playing for the memory of a man they all call “Pa”.
William “Billy” Bracken, 91, of Pineland died on Janurary 2. He was the grandfather of West Sabine coach Crystal Muncrief and the great grandfather of sophomore Susan Muncrief. While those are the two family relationships to Bracken on the team, every player was considered a granddaughter to Bracken.
“He was always here,” Coach Muncrief said. “When I would come out of the school to get the field ready for practice or the field stripped for games he would be in his chair waiting for me with his popcorn. It has been tough for me and the kids all year. I don;t think there is any group left in the playoffs that spent as much time playing softball together as this group has. Most of the girls have played together since they were 8 years-old.
Every game, the team has honored Bracken by saying, ‘This one’s for you Pa’. It is a saying on their playoff shirts that fans wear to games. The team had talent good enough to make the playoffs but this year’s team seems special.
“We had some outsiders that did not want us to succeed but we overcame those and we know each other has everyone’s back,” West Sabine senior Harlee Franklin said.
The Lady Tigers are 27-5 on the year. In the post season they have out scored their opponents 72-12 in seven games. The Lady Tigers will meet up with Harleton n Round 4 with a berth in the regional final on the line.
“Of course we feel more pressure,” senior Hannah Spring said. “As long as we play our game, fast fierce and free we will be fine.”
Each time the team takes the field they hand a camouflage hat in the dugout and rub it as they take the field. The hat belonged to Bracken.
“He had never missed a game,” Susan Muncrief said. We all love him. It didn’t matter if it was raining or cold. He was there."
“In a town like Pineland, everybody knows everybody," West Sabine freshman Selina Sapulvado said. I don’t remember a time where Pa wasn’t at one of the games. It didn’t matter if it was a tournament at late night or a Dixie League game. He is everyone’s Pa. He will be in our hearts forever."
So no matter how much longer this run last, the girls in orange and black know they have a fan in their hearts that is pushing them to bring home a state championship.