Back with a vengeance: Lindsey's return to softball helping Austin reach new heights

Apr. 3—The worst thing you can do to a competitor is take away their ability to compete.

Last year, that was the reality Abby Lindsey faced.

Lindsey has been a softball star for the Black Bears so far this year. However, while she is a senior, this is her first season playing for the Black Bears.

Lindsey transferred to Austin last year. Before that she was a star at West Morgan, where she was named The Daily's Class 1A-4A Player of the Year in 2021 and 2022.

Lindsey had a rough exit from West Morgan, though, and transferred to Austin in early spring of last year. Because it was the middle of the season, she was ineligible to play, meaning she had to miss the majority of her junior season.

It was a tough pill to swallow.

"It was really hard, a really emotional time," Lindsey said. "I had gone to West Morgan my entire life, all my siblings had graduated from there, and it was terrible to leave the way I did. Not being able to play made it even worse."

As tough as it may have been, Lindsey quickly learned that she had a new home in Austin.

"The coaches, the girls, the school, they were all so welcoming," Lindsey said.

Lindsey was unable to suit up for the Black Bears, but she decided to make the best of her situation.

"I got to practice and I threw a lot of bullpens and kept the pitching chart," Lindsey said. "I mostly cheered. I did get to take some pictures, which was pretty fun."

While that time spent doing everything but playing might have been rough for Lindsey, for Austin head coach Blake Gray, it told him a lot about his new player.

"Even joining us as a manager, you could see her love of the game and her competitiveness," Gray said. "She was a sponge. She sat beside me while I called pitches and she just learned everything she could.

"That was a great opportunity for us to learn from each other and I think that's played a big part in how successful she and our team has been this year."

Successful might be an understatement.

So far this year Lindsey is hitting .484 with an OPS of 1.588. She's had 44 hits, 45 RBIs and seven home runs. In the circle she has a 9-5 record with a 3.46 ERA and has struck out 102 batters.

Recently she delivered a star performance when she pitched a five-inning perfect game in a 7-0 win over Danville in the Morgan County softball tournament. Lindsey struck out 13 of the 15 batters she faced.

Lindsey was giddy just talking about it.

"In the first inning when I struck the third girl out, I just had a feeling something was about to happen," Lindsey said. "Every inning I was just thinking, 'Don't mess this up.' It was awesome."

Austin is having plenty of success as a team as well. The Black Bears are 24-8-1 and last weekend won the Morgan County softball tournament for the third consecutive time. In the month of March, Austin had a 19-2 record.

"We took February to kind of learn our team and then we spent a lot of time in practice working on the things we needed to fix," Gray said. "I think our pitching staff (Lindsey, Callie Lang, Grace Lamb) and defense is one of the best in the state and I really challenged our offense in practice, constantly putting them in game-like scenarios where they had to come up with clutch hits to pull through. I think you saw the benefits of that in March."

Austin was already a strong top 7A program, having advanced to the regional tournament the last two seasons. Adding Lindsey has only made the Black Bears that much better.

"I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I think she's one of the best three-way players in the state," Gray said. "She's our ace. She plays in the outfield and she hits in the middle of the lineup with a powerful bat. She's top notch."

As the calendar has turned to April and as postseason nears, Austin hopes to keep the March's red-hot fire going. The Black Bears have goals of reaching the state softball tournament, something they haven't done since 2013 and have never done in Class 7A.

Lindsey thinks they're on the right path.

"I think we can go to state, I really do," Lindsey said. "There's a lot of great teams on our schedule but, honestly, I don't think there's any team we can't beat. At least not in our region."

As she works on helping Austin reach its goal, after a season away, Lindsey has her own goals she's working on.

"Because of the way I left West Morgan and because I've been dominant in the area, I know there's a lot of people that don't like me," Lindsey said. "I just want to prove that I'm still a great player, even if I'm playing against the top competition in the state." or 256-340-2395. Twitter @CalebSuggs2