Tanner Wright’s first year in the circle didn’t produce many good times.
Five years later, a dominant year pitching for Class 5A state champion Sam Houston has earned Wright the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Miss Softball award. The annual award honors the Louisiana’s top high school softball player in all classifications.
The junior started every game this season for the Broncos, compiling a 25-2 record. She pitched 169 innings and struck out 190 batters. She also batted .375 with 17 RBIs.
A change in attitude helped inspire improvement from last year, when the Broncos lost to Live Oak High in the regional round.
“I stopped trying to pitch around the hitters and started going after them,” Wright said.
As a 12-year-old, Wright moved to the circle in recreation ball. It took a while for her to take a liking to it.
“It was real frustrating in the beginning,” she said. “But I stuck with it, and after I started getting better at it, I started liking it more. It grew into my favorite thing to do. It was hard to get down at first. It was a little rough learning how to do it.”
Upon reaching high school, Wright was sent to the circle for half of the season.
“It was always my goal just to be able to make the team in high school,” Wright said. “To be where I am now is amazing. I was real nervous that first year. I was just trying to work as hard as I could and see how far we could go. It was kind of a blessing to be able to pitch as much as I did.”
As a sophomore in 2014, Wright became the full-time starter and earned first-team all-state honors. Before this season, the junior was determined to help the Broncos return to the state tournament in nearby Sulphur.
“I went into it with a different approach mentally,” Wright said. “We didn’t go to state the year before. I knew our whole team wanted it, and I had to do as much as I can to help us get there. We trained mentally and physically, everyone on the team was prepared.
“As a pitcher, my movement on the ball and placement are my strengths. Batting, I think I can always do what is needed when the team needs it most.”
Wright said she was more confident heading into this season.
“I knew I was just going to go after the hitters and I had my team behind me,” Wright said. “If I made a mistake, they were going to get it. This year’s team meshed so well. There was no doubt we were going to be able to do it.”
Wright capped the season with a stellar performance in Sulphur, allowing two runs in three games at the state tournament. On the final day of the season, she helped the Broncos take down previously undefeated St. Amant in a semifinal game and claim the school’s fourth title in five years with a win over Dutchtown.
“It was unbelievable pitching at the state tournament. It was something I had always dreamed about,” Wright said. “I was pretty nervous (before the semifinal game), but I knew we had to get it done and move on to the next one.”
Wright said she will not rest on this year’s accomplishments, spending the summer playing travel ball and working to get better.
“I started playing softball when I was about 3,” she said. “It has always been my passion so I have always worked at it.”