By all accounts, Hannah Cole had a remarkable freshman season. It might have been the best season she's ever had, Cole thought.
Until her sophomore season.
Cole rewrote the record books in her second year with the Longhorns, finishing with a 21-3 record and 0.86 ERA and helping the Longhorns to the Class 7A state tournament in Columbus.
"Me and my dad were looking at my stats from last year, and I used to think those were probably the best stats I've ever had," Cole said. "Then I was looking back at it this year and I was like, 'Those are not very good, actually.'"
Cole, the 2021 Forsyth County News Pitcher of the Year, collected 185 strikeouts, 10 shutouts and 27 appearances, which are school records, as is her 15-strikeout performance during Lambert's 4-0 win against Hillgrove in the first round of the eight-team tournament.
The win marked Lambert's first victory in three trips to Columbus.
"I think we were honestly more excited than we were nervous," Cole said. "As a team, I don't think we were really playing nervous. Everyone was just very excited. None of the girls on the team had ever been to Columbus, so we were just very excited to be there."
Cole allowed only two baserunners — both singles — and struck out the first seven batters she faced. Nobody made it past first base.
On offense, Cole went 2-for-4 with an RBI, driving in Maddie Todd with a single in the sixth inning.
"Before the game, I was a little nervous and had a little upset stomach," Cole said. "I was not feeling well before the game, but after that first inning was when I was like, 'OK, we've got this.'"
Cole also finished with a .315 batting average in 92 at-bats, driving in 28 runs and reaching base at a 42 percent clip.
But nothing compares to the feeling Cole gets when the game is on the line and she is in the circle.
"I really like being under pressure when I'm pitching, and the adrenaline," Cole said. "I feel like I thrive better when I'm under pressure. I like hitting when I'm hitting good. Especially this year, I feel like I had a little bit of a slump, so it was a little different. Pitching was definitely more fun this year."
Some of her fiercest battles are reserved for practices, when she faces one of the county's top players in her own right, Courtney Sauer.
How do you get Sauer out?
"Definitely try not to keep the ball over the plate, because she'll hit anything. Definitely spin the ball. Not let her know that I'm nervous, I guess," Cole said with a laugh.
Cole is about 50 strikeouts from the program's all-time record, which is held by Kassie Howard . Cole likely would be even closer to the record, but she played a total of three innings in two blowout wins against Gainesville, then watched the third game from the dugout.
Cole will not have as much time to rest next season with Milton taking Gainesville's place in Region 6-7A.
As for Cole's final two seasons with the Longhorns, she would like to see a few more records fall. Still, she is in no rush to reach the collegiate level.
"I know for sure I want to go DI as of right now. I would love to go SEC, but I don't know what's going to happen," Cole said. "I'm trying to stay in touch with some college coaches, and there's been a lot at our travel games the past two weekends, but I can't talk to them until Sept. 1 of my junior year."