By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — For three straight years, the title made its home on the Eastside of the state. Muskogee, Tulsa Union and Jenks each laid claim to the 6A slow pitch championship, shutting out all teams from the West
But that came to an end last season when Westmoore rose up to end the East dominance by drubbing Union 18-7. In the process, the Jaguars may have also helped the city of Moore reclaim its spot as the softball capital of Oklahoma.
“The last few years, the Eastside has won three of four state championships, but overall everyone knows that when it comes to a state championship, the teams out of the Moore Public Schools are going to have a say on who wins that championship,” Southmoore coach Jason Lingo said. “I think that is something to be proud of and says a lot for our district as a whole.”
No. 1 Westmoore is back at the state tournament to defend its title, which starts today at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. But it’s not alone. No. 3 Moore and No. 10 Southmoore are crashing the party also.
For the third consecutive year, all three Moore public schools will make a run at state championship. No other school district can make that claim.
“It says Moore softball is in a good place,” Westmoore coach Steve Schwarz said. “We have good athletes and coaches in the area.”
The Jaguars (10) and Lions (9) have accounted for 19 slow pitch championship. In fact, they are the only schools from the Westside of the state to have ever won a 6A-5A title since the tournament began in 1983.
Even though the SaberCats have yet to win one, it did play in the championship game in 2011 in only its third year of existence.
“Softball in Moore is obviously the bigger sport for girls,” Lingo said. “They take it seriously from 7 years old all the way through high school. It says a lot about our kids that they like the game so much they are willing to play fast pitch, slow pitch, summer ball, whatever. Every time they get on a diamond, most of our kid want to go. Doesn’t matter.”
The Moore schools have had their share of success on the fast pitch diamond also. MHS has three titles while the Jags have played for several. Since 1997, the West won seven of the championships overall.
“I think it just sways side to side,” Moore coach Michael Wakefield said. “Some years East side wins and other years West does.”
But one of the factors on why Moore schools have seemingly owned softball is emphasis. While the East schools are large enough to have enough good athletes to play every sport, it’s a little more spread out on the West side of the state.
“I think it’s a weird thing, just like in boys sports, where one district may be real high in football and another district real high in basketball,” Lingo said. “Girls sports are the same way. It just seems this area has been so good in softball for so long, I think a lot of girls at a young age focus on softball rather than playing AAU basketball year-round or volleyball. You still have those groups, but the large majority of them are softball girls.”
The interest in softball in Moore may stem from consistent success on the field. But a huge factor is the fact they get their players scholarships to play college softball.
Last year alone, seven girls from Cleveland County signed scholarships to play at the next level. Six of them came from the Moore schools. That’s something parents can get behind early on.
“College coaches are noticing how much talent is in Cleveland County, Moore Public Schools in particular,” Lingo said. “They know these girls have been playing their whole lives, are well coached, they know the game and can play at the next level. Coaches look for that and are willing to take a shot with a lot of kids that have played this type of softball their whole life.”
Regardless of how many college players they produce, there is still no guarantee one of the Moore schools will win the state title this year. Even with three teams it’s up in the air. Of the eight teams competing today, five are from the East. The rest are from Moore.
“As a Moore Public school, you would love for two of us to meet in one semifinal and one play in the other and two of us meet in the championship every year,” Lingo said. “I think as long as we can keep up a tradition of playing excellence at all three schools. That won’t change in the future.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org