Tori Whillock has an idea of the softball player she wants to become four years from now, and she doesn’t have to look far.
“I have a lot to live up to,” Whillock said.
A senior center fielder at Katy, Whillock comes from a great softball pedigree, what with her mom, Judy, having won an NCAA Championship at Texas A&M in 1987 while earning All-American honors. And it’s not just the at-home mom Tori has to lean on. Judy is also one of her coaches for the state-bound Tigers.
Judy Whillock coached at Katy from 1992-98 before taking a three-year layoff to be with her family. She returned to the diamond in 2002 at Cinco Ranch, where she coached until 2007. After another family hiatus, she returned to coaching in a volunteer assistant role at Katy, where her Texas Tech-signed daughter has become one of the faces of the Tigers’ program.
Tori is hitting .524 with 18 RBIs and is 31-for-31 on stolen bases for the state-bound Tigers, who play Keller in the Class 6A state semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at the University of Texas’ McCombs Field.
“I’ve tried to back off because she is my daughter,” Judy said. “At home, we’ll talk a little bit more, but I’ve more or less let (head coach Kalum) Haack and (assistant Meghan) Burrell kind of take her. But I mean, she’s been super focused, just like all the seniors this year. It’s just been a blast for me because I’ve been able to be at every single game.”
And what a ride it’s been. The Tigers advanced to the Class 6A Region III finals in all four years Tori has played for Katy.
“Fourth year’s a charm,” Tori said, eliciting a chuckle from her mom.
Judy returned to Katy for her second stint when Tori was a freshman after Haack injured his back. The Tigers’ administration reached out to her, and she accepted.
“They were kind enough to let me come back,” Judy said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Who knew she’d take on an extended family life in her return to coaching. Little did Judy know she’d become that mother figure for more than just Tori, who had four hits in the region final-clinching game May 23 against Deer Park.
“It’s really nice having her out there,” Tori said. “She balances out really good. If Haack or Burrell were to get on someone, my mom is kind of that coach like, ‘Take a deep breath, calm down, you’re alright, next pitch.’ I feel like she just creates that balance in the coaching staff, which is really nice for everyone, including me.”
Haack coached against Judy while she was playing second base for the Aggies during his days at Sam Houston State.
“She would take you out,” Haack said. “She was just a tough, tough player. She was a good softball player. So to have a daughter who is a really good softball player doesn’t surprise me.”
While at Cinco Ranch, Judy coached Burrell, whom Haack coached in youth ball. Seven degrees of separation are best exemplified in Katy’s softball circles. Now they’re all headed to the state semifinals together.
“I’m really excited for our peripheral people like Meghan and Judy,” Haack said.
And four-year players like Tori.
“To finally reach that goal and to make it to state, it just feels awesome to do it with all of our seniors and the rest of the team,” Tori said. “We’ve been working so hard for this, but we keep saying, ‘We’re not done yet.’”
“It’s pretty amazing, because there’s not a lot of people that would get this opportunity,” Judy said. “To finally get over the hump, it’s just awesome.”
Enough with the warm and fuzzies, though. Everyone wants to know what mother has to say to daughter if she’s not executing properly.
“She does not get on me that much,” Tori said. “If I could think of something, when I’m slapping, opening up and dropping my hands.”
“I’m not really a yeller,” Judy added. “When she was smaller, maybe I did, a little bit more. But we just kind of grow and mature. Like she said, I feel like my role is to kind of balance out. I try to be as positive as I can with the kids.”
OK, but when Tori ventures off to Lubbock, and the inevitable college comparisons start, what will they say then about who’s better?
“It’s a tough one, because she’s really good,” Tori said.
“She’s taller, she’s got the longer legs, she might be faster ... maybe,” Judy responded. “She’s got a lot of speed, and she’s just bigger and stronger than I was.”
“Stop it mom,” Tori said, playfully slapping Judy.
Uh oh, slapping ... better watch the video. Mom might have a word or two to offer.