By LARRY BOWEN
Bryan softball player Meagan Kraatz considers her medical history, which includes a couple of concussions, and jokes that the ball seems to find her head.
Softballs tend to find Kraatz's bat, too.
The senior will take a healthy .407 batting average into this year's first round of the Crosstown Showdown, with Bryan hosting A&M Consolidated at 7 p.m. Friday.
Kraatz has been on a hitting tear since late last season. She missed nearly a month of her junior season after being hit in the head with a throw she didn't see coming during pregame warmups. After regaining her form, Kraatz sizzled in the playoffs, hitting .559 with two home runs and 13 runs batted in during 10 postseason games.
The hot streak corresponded with the Lady Vikings' surge. After finishing fourth in District 12-5A, Bryan won three playoff series to reach the regional semifinals.
"We came together as a team," Kraatz said. "We got the fourth seed, and we knew we were better than that. My defense wasn't that hot, but I started hitting better at that time."
Kraatz has been on the Bryan varsity team four years. As a freshman she was promoted from the JV because of injuries and became starting third baseman on the Bryan team that reached the second round of the playoffs.
"She is so softball-savvy," Bryan coach Enrique Luna said. "She was a big reason we made a good run her freshman year. Last season she was a big part of us getting hot with the way she hit. I was really proud of her."
The freshman promotion was at first frightening for Kraatz, coming before she started playing for a Gold-level travel team in Houston. Her sophomore season was difficult because a senior who switched positions took over at third base and Kraatz was not a full-time starter.
"Being the athlete that she is, I know she wasn't completely happy with it, but she did everything she could to help the team," Luna said.
Kraatz still made the lineup as a designated player or in a utility role. Last year she could not play at all for nearly a month after she was hit in the head during an early season tournament.
"It [wasn't fun] watching the games and not being able to help my teammates," Kraatz said.
In addition to the concussions, Kraatz has dealt with injuries to her knee, elbow and shoulder. Her time spent rehabbing, along with her father's work in hospitals, have Kraatz leaning toward a career as a physical therapist or doctor. She has been accepted to attend Texas State University in San Marcos.
Luna said he believes Kraatz could help the Texas State softball team as a walk-on, but Kraatz isn't sure about continuing her playing career. She also doesn't want to think much about the possibility of this being her last season.
"I'm just trying to focus on what's at hand right now," Kraatz said. "Basically I'm hoping that we get as far into the season as possible. Hopefully our season will end June 2."
The 5A state championship is set for June 2 in Austin.
NOTES -- Kraatz said she believes she should be a team leader in her fourth year on the varsity. She also praises the leadership abilities of Bryan's other seniors, Hannah Parker and Kenna Buxbaum. "We have two other seniors that are really good at that," Kraatz said. "Everybody understands their role. If they need somebody to help them out, we do that." ... Consol and Bryan enter the showdown close in the 12-5A standings but with very different overall records. The Lady Tigers are alone in first place at 5-0, one game ahead of Bryan and Temple at 4-1. Consol had a rough start to the season and is 6-15 overall. Bryan has the league's best overall mark at 17-3, but the Lady Vikings were victims of a no-hitter at Temple last week.
What: District 12-5A softball
Who: A&M Consolidated vs. Bryan
When/Where: 7 p.m. Friday, Lady Viking Field