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April 30, 2013

A chance for Moore softball state dominance

Jags, SaberCats and Lions take Eastside in state slow pitch tourney

MOORE — For three straight years, the title had made its home on the east side of the state. Muskogee, Tulsa Union and Jenks each laid claim to the Class 6A slowpitch championship, shutting out all teams from the West

But that came to an end last season when Westmoore won 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 east side 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 at 10 a.m. 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 with the Jags for the third consecutive year. Of the eight teams competing today, five are from the east. The rest are from Moore.

“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 slowpitch championship. In fact, they are the only schools from the west side 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, they did play in the championship game in 2011 in only their 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 fastpitch, slowpitch, summer ball, whatever. Every time they get on a diamond, most of our kid want to go. Doesn’t matter.”

Since 1997, the West won seven of the overall championships.

“I think it just sways side to side,” Moore coach Michael Wakefield said. “Some years East 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 around 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 that these teams 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.”

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