Elkins’ 12-9 loss against Clear Springs on March 10 did not come with a sense of finality for Kassidi Davis, at least not initially. The Lady Knights had 12 more games on their regular-season schedule.
More than a month later, though, Davis has come to realize it was the last game of her softball career.
After the loss against Clear Springs, the UIL called off all high school sporting events and other extracurricular activities throughout Texas because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools in the state are closed until at least May 4 per an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott, effectively ending high school sports for the 2019-20 school year.
Davis, an Elkins senior who will be attending Texas A&M University next year, has been hit especially hard by the abrupt end to the season. She will not be continuing her softball career in College Station.
“I’ve been playing since I was 9 years old,” Davis said. “To hear that was my last game, and not even know it, really broke me down for a little bit.”
She’s not the only athlete struggling with the stoppage. Hundreds of senior athletes around the area also are trying to move forward after their campaigns were cancelled in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus.
Davis described playing for the Lady Knights as a family, and that family has been separated prematurely.
“We’ve been trying to stay optimistic about this whole thing, but it’s a really difficult thing to go through,” she said.
Austin High School baseball player Nicholas Cason saw former Houston Astro Marwin Gonzalez have a career season in 2017 while playing six different defensive positions, subsequently finding the inspiration to adapt on the field. Cason, who primarily plays outfield, learned how to play multiple infield positions and pitch after that point.
He is now trying to adopt the same mentality off the field.
“I have no regrets about my career, and I’ve never been one to dwell on the past,” Cason said. “When I found out the season was over, I was sad for a little bit. But after a few days passed, I was
ready to get it going again. Now that the season’s over, I’m ready to start getting better for next year.”
The Bulldogs played their final game of the season March 13 against Bellaire during a non-district tournament, ending their campaign with a 3-3 tie. Although the team was aware of the possibility of a season cancellation at that time, it remained a sudden end that hit the seniors like an anvil.
“(Coach Randy Ursery) told the seniors, ‘This could possibly be your last game, so go out and play hard.’ At the time, since it was before a game I was thinking, ‘I just got to go do it,’ like always. Then after the game it really sunk in,” Cason said. “A few days passed with everybody waiting, then next thing you know they suspend the season. From there we knew it probably wasn’t going to end too well.”
It won’t be the conclusion of Cason’s baseball career as he committed to play at the University of Texas at Dallas next season. However, he knows the same cannot be said for several of his teammates.
“The toughest part about it for me is talking to my friends who don’t have somewhere to play next year. My best friend isn’t playing next year, and hearing him talk about how (he’s played) his final game is heartbreaking,” Cason said. “Hearing my teammates talk about that feeling hurts me more than anything, because I care about them so much and love them so much. It’s really tough.”
Taylor West, a senior softball player for Elkins, has endured a similar tugging of the heartstrings now that she is headed off to play for NAIA program Jarvis Christian College next spring.
“The thought that I’m probably not going to see any of (my teammates) again, since we’re all going our different ways, is heartbreaking,” she said. “The most challenging part was that I got used to seeing them every day. If you had a bad day, you always had softball to get your mind off of it with your teammates. It gets to where it’s not even about softball anymore – we had built a sisterhood.”
All three local athletes know they cannot change the past – only the future, which now looks slightly different for all of them.
West said she is working out at least every other day, whether it be running sprints or doing hitting drills, to be ready as soon as college workouts begin. So too is Cason, who jokingly equated the atmosphere at his house to that of his spring workouts at Austin.
Thanks to home workouts sent by the team’s strength and conditioning coach as well as running drills with his dad, he’s got a semblance of typical workouts in an atypical world.
After about a week of video games, reading and watching movies with his family following the cancellation, it was right back to the grind.
“It’s about finding ways to not make excuses not to work right now,” Cason said.
For Davis, that future includes preparing to enroll in A&M’s veterinary program, and attempting to take solace in a small silver lining during a difficult time.
“Right now, I’m trying to focus on spending time with my family,” she said. “I usually don’t get to spend this much time with them (during softball season), so I’m really grateful to have this time off with them.”