The Durant Lady Lions softballers are gearing up for another season of fast-pitch softball. Last year, the team finished with a 24-16 record and hosted its first Regional Tournament.
Lady Lions are young but experienced. With a successful season under their belts, they are looking to take the next step and make it the State Tournament. Why shouldn’t they feel that way? They are talented with a depth chart that would make the Texas Rangers jealous and two seniors to guide them.
Senior Alexa Richards anchored home plate last year, but she will be sharing the duties this year after playing through a shoulder injury last season. Not to worry. She is fine and ready to play. And senior Kylie Manning will be returning with her lively bat and shut-down defense.
“Both have been with me for five years,” said head coach Aaron Mullens. “I coached them in junior high, so I know them well. Kylie will play in the outfield and some at third base. Richards was catching last year but got injured, so this year, she will be playing second base and play catcher some.”
Both seniors feel that the team has padded its roster and are looking to lead their team further into the playoffs.
“We have added a lot more talent to our team, so we are a lot stronger than we were last year,” said Richards. “Every position is strong this year.”
“We played travel ball and have gotten better,” said Manning. “We have a couple of freshman who will help us this year.”
What about Lady Lions going to State?
“I think we have a good chance to go to State,” Manning said.
“If we play our best, I think we do too,” said Richards.
With a young team and a depth chart with 28 girls on it — 14 freshmen, five sophomores; seven juniors and two seniors — coach Mullens has plenty to work with this season.
“We got everybody back,” he said. “We are still young. Basically the team is sophomores and juniors now. We have a freshman that will help us out this year too.”
A healthy roster also means players are vying for positions.
“We are going to have some depth at pitching, four or five pitchers,” said Mullens. “We’ve got a lot of competition between ourselves for spots, which pushes the players to be better and makes us better. Because no one has an assured spot, everyone is competing.”
The schedule is full of teams that will push the Lady Lions to play their best this year.
“We are going to play some really tough and competitive teams this year that will get us ready for district games,” said Mullens. “As far as district goes, we play Carl Albert. They are always good.”
Other district teams will be Bishop Kelley, Shawnee, McAlester, Guthrie and Tulsa Memorial.
“We are hoping to get that district title and that will give us a No. 1 seed,” said Mullens, “That will give us a chance to host again and get a better draw.”
With the stage set for a good season, Mullen said, “Expectations are really high. It’s going to be fun.”
Randy Bruce can be reached at (580)634-2161 or on Twitter @SportsBruce.