Instead of taking her usual place in the third base coaching box this season, Keller
softball head coach Lindsay Strong settles for a spot in the safety of the dugout.
She's been replaced on-field by an assistant coach — doctor's orders. Well, a doctor's recommendation with a strong second from her husband Dan, a former decathlete at the University of Oklahoma.
Strong, you see, is in the seventh month of her first pregnancy. The risk of a hard-hit foul ball causing injury is just too great.
Aside from flashing signals from the bench instead of the coaching box, it is another typical year for Strong and the Keller softball team.
Keller (27-4-1) swept Franklin (El Paso) 2-1 and 7-4 in the second round of the Class 5A Region I playoffs last week in Midland.
For leading Keller to the playoffs for the fifth time in five tries, Strong was selected as the Dallas High Yield Coach of the Week presented by Capital One Bank.
Keller is traveling west for the second straight week, to Eastland this time, for a best-of-three regional quarterfinal series against Midland. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. Friday. Game 2 is at 11 a.m. Saturday with a third game (if needed) immediately following the conclusion of Game 2.
"The girls love the trips,'' Strong said. "It's a little uncomfortable for me.''
Under Strong‘s leadership, Keller has made a habit of making it uncomfortable for opponents. In the five seasons since she came aboard, the team's record is 141-25-3.
The Lady Indians are doing it this year with a pitching trio of two freshmen (Kaylee Rogers
and Brittany Larkin
) and a junior (Robyn Stidd
"At some point in the season, all three have started and relieved,'' said Strong. "I play it by feel with our pitchers and go with the hot hand. That's the great thing about having three.''
Rogers won Game 1 against Franklin last week and Stidd did the honors in Game 2.
Pitching is a subject in which Strong is well-versed. In 1999, then by her maiden name of Lindsay Wilhelmson, she pitched Richland (North Richland Hills) to the Class 5A state title, shutting out Nacogdoches 1-0 in the semifinal and Taylor (Katy) 2-0 in the title game.
From there she went on to a career as a pitcher and designated hitter at Texas A&M. Her Aggie resume includes a no-hitter against Kansas in 2003.
It was in her college years that she began to have thoughts of going into coaching. After graduation from A&M, she accepted a job as assistant coach at Guyer (Denton), which was just opening.
Three years later Strong, at age 26, accepted the Keller head coaching position. The Lady Indians went 33-4 in her first season.
After that first season, Strong remembers some seniors saying they were afraid under a new coach it was going to be a rebuilding season.
The coach said she borrowed from experiences at Texas A&M and Guyer for the selection of drills and practice schedules.
College softball coaches these days make Keller a must-see team each spring. Catcher Brittany Lee
(Texas Tech), shortstop April Ryan
(Texas A&M) and center fielder Tori Charters
(Louisiana Tech) have already signed letters of intent. Two underclassmen have made oral commitments.
The Lady Indians play defense, too. The infield turned three double plays in the first game against Franklin.
Keller is in the playoffs for the 18th time in the 19 years since softball was accepted as a University Interscholastic League sport.
"It's the way the girls grow up here,'' said Strong. "They want to play for their school.''
If the doctor is right, Strong will need to have another child in order to come up with a future softball pitcher.
A gender test revealed she is going to give birth to a boy.