By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — The warm-up is done and now the real season begins for area fastpitch teams. The regional round in class 6A kick-off this week with the winner earning a spot in next week’s state championship tournament.
Westmoore has never away with the gold ball in fastpitch. But in order to even get a chance to play for it, it must first go on the road and fight its way out of a tough Mustang regional.
“I don’t mind our bracket,” Westmoore coach Jenny Rollins said. “I feel like there are strong teams in our bracket, however we played solid teams all year to prepare for this. It’s up to the girls. They are a talented group of kids and I would be happy to take them to any regional. I know when we are playing at our best we can play with anybody.”
The Jaguars (23-9) are the No. 2 seed and will face-off with Putnam City in the opening round at 2 p.m. Thursday. Mustang and Del City are on the other side of the bracket. Only one team from each regional advances to state.
Southmoore also hits the road Thursday and makes it way to No. 3 Yukon. The second-seeded SaberCats (19-7) take on MidWest City at 2 p.m. The Millers and Norman North play at Noon.
The Cats did not face Midwest City or Yukon during the regular season. They were 2-0 against the Timberwolves.
The only area team hosting a regional this week is Moore, which begins competition today. It will host Eisenhower at 2 p.m. while Lawton High and Putnam City North take the field at Noon.
“We have Lawton in our districts so we have seen them play,” MHS coach Stephanie Riley said. “They have continued to get better throughout the year. We have not played Ike or PCN yet this year, so we will be ready with our “A” game no matter what. Any given team can have a great game at any given moment.”
Despite a variety of injuries and health concerns, the Lions (29-2) have not felt the sting of defeat since Aug. 24. Both of their losses came on the same day. Since then they have reeled off 21 straight victories.
“Our seniors set some pretty high goals for the squad and themselves at the start of the year,” Riley said. “They have accomplished two of those goals (go undefeated through district play and host a regional tournament). Now they are pushing forward to accomplish the rest of their list. This squad is very special. The seniors are very strong leaders and there is a great amount of accountability between the players. Every student-athlete knows about the tradition of Moore High School softball and they want to continue to built it.”
The Jaguars haven not been as impressive down the stretch, but it does have wins against Little Axe and Yukon to its credit.
“The team looks good,” Rollins said. “There are always things to work on, we are trying to work on things we can do better to continually improve our team as a whole. We have played well the past week or so and I feel good about where we are as a team.”
After a stellar regular season, Rollins is looking for Larie Amos to have a strong postseason for the Jaguars. But knows it will take a team effort to just get out of the regional round.
“Offensively we need everybody,” Rollins said. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the line-up if everyone is doing their job and we are scoring runs, we can compete. We are successful when we play as a team, when each player prepares themselves to the best of their ability and then focuses on the outcome of the game not individual performance.”
Pitching has been the key for the Lions this year. That trend will continue in the postseason with Jenna Lynn. Riley said she expects Lynn, along with Hannah Lynch, Jazmine White and Kristen Prieto to come on strong throughout the post-season.
Moore has its sights set on its first state championship since 2007. That is too long of a gap for Riley.
“I do not accept mediocrity and I am not satisfied with complacency,” Riley said. “The team knows what they want and they know what the coaching staff expects. There isn’t much leniency. We have a great relationship between the coaches and between the coaches and the players. The student-athletes know and understand the role they are given when they become a member of the Moore High School softball team and they join the family.”