Let's not get mercy-ruled.

That used to be the goal of the Council Rock South softball team.

Not let's win or let's make a run in districts.

No, for the Golden Hawks, losing was expected, almost a guarantee.

Second baseman Katelyn Gaudet remembers those days. So do fellow seniors Amanda Sharp and Jackie Schneider.

Just two years ago, C.R. South sat at the bottom of the Suburban One National Conference, unable to compete against powerhouses like Pennsbury and Neshaminy.

Gaudet, Sharp, and Schneider all agree: things have really changed for the Golden Hawks since those lean years.

So, what has transformed the mentality and atmosphere? The answer is more like who.

Enter head coach Greg Heydet Sr. and assistant coach Steve Bitting, who both took over last year.

"Typically, when your program is trying to [move forward], you generally don't jump levels," athletic director John "Buff" Radick said. "Where we were, the next level was .500, then playoffs, then try to win league.

"You don't generally jump from a one- or two- win team to a playoff team."

But under the tutelage of Heydet and Bitting, that's exactly what the Golden Hawks did.

From 2009 until 2013, C.R. South went 9-72 and only won four conference games. Last year, they won six league games, eight overall, and earned a berth in the District 1 Class AAAA tournament - a program first.

"Last year, there was a little bit of excitement," Sharp said. "Previous years, it wasn't like that. It was known that everyone was going to beat us - that we were always going to lose. That's what it always felt like, because we had never really won before."

The feeling that losing was a foregone conclusion was gone. Heydet and Bitting had high expectations as soon as they took over. They made sure the girls knew it, too.

Heydet's expectations came from an impressive resume. He started playing softball at 18 and began pitching at 20. He traveled the country for three decades competing at a high level in men's fast-pitch softball. He played until 2009. Then, in 2013, he was diagnosed with ALS.

"Since I retired from work because of ALS, I was just home doing nothing," Heydet said. "I thought that this could restore my energy. Softball has been very good for me and I wanted to give back."

Practices are more intense now. The girls work on footwork and agility and lift weights in the offseason. Heydet preaches effort and hard work. He says he might be a "hard teacher or a hard coach," but he's also been there himself. He knows what habits beget winning.

"It makes us feel like we can do anything in the league because of how far we've grown," Schneider said.

With one successful year behind them, what does the future look like for the Golden Hawks?

"Not just making it to playoffs, but being a strong contender there and going far," Gaudet said. "Maybe states, who knows?"

After their game ended Wednesday, the junior varsity players made their way to the varsity contest against Upper Merion - the first of the season. The younger girls looked up at the scoreboard and saw it was a tie game in the sixth inning.

"This is exciting," one remarked.

Her teammates agreed with her, and a buzz consumed them on the cold, damp day. However, Upper Merion rallied to win it, 8-6.

The scene would have never played out like that two years ago, Sharp said. Her team probably wouldn't have been in such a close game. There would have been no reason for anyone to pay attention in the sixth inning.

This team is different. And it is exciting.