The “What Might Have Been” feature series is Big Country Preps’ effort to celebrate area athletes who have seen their seasons affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The series will continue through June 15. If you have a suggested story for the “What Might Have Been” series, please contact Big Country Preps at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com.
Breanna Leathers’ versatility and dependability were a comforting combination for Hawley’s Maci Clayton.
The first-year coach not only started the aptly named Leathers in center field, but she was the Lady Bearcats’ second pitcher to Caitlin Crow.
Because of that, Leathers didn’t see much time at shortstop, but that change didn’t keep the junior from being unprepared.
“I stayed after practice and took some reps at shortstop because you never know what’s going to happen or if someone gets hurt,” Leathers said. “You’ve always got to be ready to get put there if they need you.”
About the only thing Leathers wasn’t prepare for was Hawley’s abrupt end to its season. The Lady Bearcats had survived a difficult schedule with a 9-9 record and were ready for a challenging District 7-2A race that lay ahead.
“I thought the season was going to end at state honestly,” Leathers said. “I thought we had a great season going. In reality, I thought we had a long road ahead of us before ending the season.”
Even though Clayton didn’t spend a whole season coaching Leathers, the young coach was thankful for all the qualities she possessed. Clayton first met Leathers during volleyball two-a-days and was immediately impressed with her athletic and leadership abilities.
“She’s an encourager and she’s always finding ways to improve,” Clayton said. “Those things you can’t always teach and coach. I think the thing I’m most excited about is the leadership qualities she carries.”
Leathers, an honorable mention all-state utility selection as a sophomore, was batting .425 and using her speed to get on base a team-best 54 percent of the time in 2020. Leathers had a 3-2 record in 24 innings pitched, but it was her play in center field she took the most pride in because defense is the “main part of the game.”
When asked what was her favorite defensive gem Leathers made, Clayton couldn’t put her finger on any one certain play.
“To me, she made those outstanding plays routine. I feel like that was every play for her,” Clayton said. “She doesn’t hesitate, she has great eyes for the ball and she spots it.”
Like athletes around the globe during the COVID-19 outbreak, Leathers has learned not to take anything for granted. Without softball these last couple months, Leathers picked up a job and is babysitting on the side to stay busy.
Leathers is also going to play on a travel softball team out of Merkel called American Freedom this summer as she prepares for her senior season.
“Right now I haven’t been doing much due to work, but I’m fixing to get back on it and start hitting daily and pitching and running to make myself better for every sport I play,” Leathers said.
Hawley’s program will miss its three senior starters – Crow, Maddie Bruton and K’Lynn O’Shields – the next time it takes the field.
But Clayton knows the Lady Bearcats still have a strong foundation with Leathers and a hungry group of returners who will be looking to make up for lost time.
“She brings an energy level and encouragement, and she won’t be alone in that,” Clayton said. “We have several seniors coming up. I’m excited about the energy that’s going to be around, our team being led by them.”