Houston RBI softball leans on 'Drill Queen'

August 11th, 2021

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Cameron Lavergne is doing everything she can to help her former softball team win its third consecutive championship.

The 23-year-old Lavergne -- a player on the Houston Astros Foundation RBI team before it won consecutive titles in 2018 and ’19 -- is an assistant coach on the team as it readies itself for the final two days of the 2021 RBI World Series.

A three-peat is just two victories away -- one Thursday in the elimination round and a final one Friday in the championship game -- and Lavergne, who played collegiately at Prairie View A&M and earned a degree in engineering, is a major contributor for coach Megan Hays’ squad.

“She’s the one I think the girls can look up to just a little more because she’s fresh out of college,” Hays said. “She’s played in their shoes, been on the same field, been in the same competition. Whereas me, I’m a little bit older, so they’re like, ‘How many years ago?’ sometimes.

“The closeness in age really helps, and it’s kind of like big sister, but [she’s] still just a coach they can relate to.”

Lavergne, who starts a new tech job Monday, credits much of her success to receiving the prized RBI for RBI scholarship in 2016, allowing her to excel in the college classroom, play sports and participate in numerous activities.

The former outfielder said she was stunned five years ago at the RBI World Series banquet when it was announced she was the scholarship’s recipient.

“That was just so rewarding,” Lavergne said. “I put a lot of effort into writing the essays and being a standout student when I was in high school. It was such a blessing, and I felt all the hard work had paid off.

“It really changed things for me, because I’m one of those kids that’s very outgoing and likes to be a part of a lot of things. To be able to alleviate that stress of having to pay for school -- I was able to be more involved in school.

“Without that scholarship, I’d have had to find a way to make things work. It allowed me to be my full self in college.”

Hays readily turns over the team drills to Lavergne, who was a coach on the 2018 championship Astros and has become known as the “Drill Queen.”

“Coming straight off of college [ball], she’s fresh with the drills that are actually being done right now in the college realm. I really do rely on her for that. I know I can really count on her to get them focused on what they’re doing at the next level,” Hays said.

The Houston side must be good listeners to Lavergne’s instructions.

The Astros (4-1) earned a bye Wednesday with an 8-5 win over Harrisburg -- the club they defeated in 2019 to claim their second championship -- and hold the No. 2 seed going into Thursday’s pressure-packed elimination play.

Winning pitcher Melonie Guardiola allowed just one run in her first four innings, and Houston exploded for five runs in the bottom of the fourth to build an 8-1 lead.

Alyssa Woods lashed a three-run triple, and Turiya Coleman followed with a massive two-run homer to right to account for the five RBIs in the breakout frame.

However, Harrisburg’s Jimiah McDonald slammed a two-out, two-run shot in the seventh to cut the deficit to three, but Houston hard-throwing reliever Jennifer Gress used her fastball to whiff Ava Beamesderfer on five pitches, notching the save and giving her club the early morning off Thursday.

“I had Jenny ready the whole game. I knew when the time was right, I’d get her in there,” said Hays.

Also, with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the third, the Astros turned a rare triple play that started with Coleman, who will begin her playing career at the powerhouse University of Oklahoma next week.

The Sooner-to-be snared a line drive over third base for the first out and quickly tagged the runner retreating to the bag for the second. Coleman then tripled up Harrisburg by whipping the ball to second baseman Jaelyn Simmons to stifle the Pennsylvania club’s best early threat.

“I’ve had one before while playing shortstop. It was very similar -- I caught it, threw to second and she threw to first,” Coleman said.

And Lavergne’s feeling of a possible three-peat?

“I mean, that [would be] history,” the Houston native said. “I feel like 2021 has been full of historical moments, and for us to add to that on this stage and in front of MLB would mean a lot to everyone involved and in that dugout.”