As co-captain of a team that included seven freshmen, Liberty senior shortstop Raquel Howes quickly learned to be a leader. Her command of the infield complemented her bat, which was the spark in the Lancers lineup. Howes finished the season with a .561 average and 11 home runs to lead a Lancers team that finished 11-0 in the 5A Metro Conference to win the league title.
Are you a natural leader? Or did you have to work at it?
I think my position kind of makes you a little bit of a leader, whether you want to be or not. I try to lead by just going out there and playing the best I can, but with so many younger girls on the team, there are only a few of us who have been around for a while.
What do you think about the way the season ended? (Liberty lost to Standley Lake and Grand Junction in regionals)
Well, it definitely wasn't how we wanted it to end. We came in with confidence, and we tried our hardest to come back. It just didn't work out. But I think with so many younger players, Liberty will be good again next year.
What are you going to take away from high school softball?
It's definitely taught me a lot, and was different from summer ball. In summer ball, we're always playing different teams and with high school, it's really been about playing some of the local teams several times in my years at Liberty. You feel like you learn something different each time you play a team.
Is there a game that stands out for you from your senior year?
It would have to be that Lewis-Palmer game. I mean, they were (4A Metro) league champs in their league, and we were going to be in ours (5A Metro) and it was just a huge game.
It was our first year 5A and their first year 4A, and it was just a rivalry. I'll never forget how it ended. (Howes drove in the winning run to give the Lancers a 3-2 win.)
What will you be looking to do this season in summer softball? Have you started practice yet?
Not yet. We have a tournament in Oklahoma in January, so we'll have to start before then. I'm just hoping to keep my hitting strong and stay consistent on defense.
Are you still working out on your own?
Oh yeah. I still see my hitting coach at least once a week, and just trying to stay up with things on my own.
What kinds of drills do find really helpful?
I do a lot of repetition. Both fielding ground balls and stuff and then hitting.
I think hitting is all about muscle memory and the more you repeat, you get better.
And you can't say you're done, because there's always something that can be better or you can fix.
What are you thinking when you're up at the plate?
I mean, I really am not thinking too much when I get up there. I just do a lot of repetition with my hitting coach, so basically it's from memory. I do like inside pitches though. If you can turn on them just right, it's a great feeling.
Where do you see the biggest progress in your game?
I think I've really just worked hard and practiced and done a lot of repetition. And I've gotten stronger. But a lot of what's made a difference is my mental game, I think. I used to get really frustrated and down if I made an error in the field or I didn't get a pitch that I should have. But it's really important for me to just move past those things. And I think I've gotten a lot better at that.
What do you think the underclassmen will remember about playing with you?
(Laughs) Hopefully, they remember to always try to keep things fun. We all play 24/7, and sometimes it can be hard to just take a step back and have fun. You don't want to be lackadaisical about it, but you work hard and then it becomes more fun.