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What's it like to start a program from scratch during a pandemic? Here's what North Rock Creek softball is finding out.

Members of the North Rock Creek softball team watch from the dugout during their scrimmage Friday night in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Members of the North Rock Creek softball team watch from the dugout during their scrimmage Friday night in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

SHAWNEE — Chance Griffin watched as freshman pitcher Haley Hacker wound up and fired a fastball into the strike zone.

The pitch was met by cheers and applause from the nearly 100 fans in attendance on Friday night. Even though it was only a scrimmage, the pitch was a groundbreaking moment for the brand new North Rock Creek High School softball program.

It was the first competitive pitch thrown on its home field in school history.

“This field has been kind of vacant for two years because it’s just been K-through-8,” said Griffin, the first-year coach. “When I took over, it was all grass pretty much. We had to cut a new infield out.”

Putting the field together has not been the only hurdle Griffin has faced this year. It’s a difficult task for a coach to start a program in any scenario. But Griffin, who accepted the position in January, is launching a program in a time that truly has no precedence.

In the middle of a global pandemic.

“It has been a whirlwind and roller coaster of emotions,” Griffin said. “We’re anxious to play, but also at the same time, we’re pretty aware of what’s going on. We’re trying to be as safe as we can while still preparing for this season.”

Griffin has had coaching stops at Vanoss, Wellston, Maysville and most recently McLoud. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the spring high school season, Griffin didn’t meet his team until it was time to begin playing.

“I kind of knew who was coming,” Griffin said. “But as far as a whole team setting, I didn’t get to meet them fully until June 8 actually.

North Rock Creek, which sits about six miles from Shawnee High School, will likely compete in Class A in its inaugural season. To help the team prepare, Griffin compiled a hefty schedule this summer. Since June, the team has played 13 scrimmages. But even though it is a new team, North Rock Creek has performed well, posting an 11-2 record.

Since North Rock Creek does not yet have seniors — it began adding freshman classes last year — the softball team is young. But the fast start has the North Rock Creek community excited for this season and hopefully more to come. Out of the 17 players on the roster, only two are upperclassmen.

“We just have to gel as North Rock Creek now,” Griffin said. “Out of my 17 players, 11 are transfers. So it’s a different type of thing that I’ve ever been a part of. They’re all freshman and sophomores really.”

Many of the players have come from the surrounding schools in the Shawnee area, such as Meeker and South Rock Creek.

Bo Stafford, who was in attendance on Friday, said his family transferred to North Rock Creek from Meeker.

“We came here because it was just an all-around good decision,” he said. “One was athletics, and two was just the care and the amount of effort that these teachers put into these kids. It’s a good little program here.”

Unlike Stafford and many of the North Rock Creek parents, there are others who have spent their entire life in North Rock Creek, such as Michael Larson, who has lived in the district for 40 years.

Larson watched proudly as his daughter and her teammates took the field sporting the brand new North Rock Creek red and white uniforms.

“Love it,” he said. “I’m excited, a lot of her friends came over from South Rock, so she’s playing with a lot of travel ball teammates out here. So a lot of these girls out here have played a lot of years together. It was good to see them back playing with each other.”

The team and community have quickly grown fond of each other in the midst of a pandemic that has caused such uncertainty. It’s one reason Stafford was happy to be a part of the new beginning — and happy to help the coaches and players at the heart of it.

“If they need it, we’ll do it,” Stafford said. “I told the softball coach, ‘If you need help building an outdoor batting cage let’s do it. I’ll throw some money towards it and we can all come out here.’ The saying it takes a village to raise your kids, this is it. This is a family.”

Related Photos
<strong>Children walk through a muddy area under construction as the North Rock Creek softball team scrimmages. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Children walk through a muddy area under construction as the North Rock Creek softball team scrimmages. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f9316338a7281736c9d919d96d2c2a6c.jpg" alt="Photo - Children walk through a muddy area under construction as the North Rock Creek softball team scrimmages. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Children walk through a muddy area under construction as the North Rock Creek softball team scrimmages. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Children walk through a muddy area under construction as the North Rock Creek softball team scrimmages. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-569621f198e6131a2b516f64bf185b03.jpg" alt="Photo - The North Rock Creek softball team breaks from a huddle before the start of their scrimmage Friday in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" The North Rock Creek softball team breaks from a huddle before the start of their scrimmage Friday in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> The North Rock Creek softball team breaks from a huddle before the start of their scrimmage Friday in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-362d3faf12f031346ea734321136ef9f.jpg" alt="Photo - Members of the North Rock Creek softball team watch from the dugout during their scrimmage Friday night in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Members of the North Rock Creek softball team watch from the dugout during their scrimmage Friday night in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Members of the North Rock Creek softball team watch from the dugout during their scrimmage Friday night in Shawnee. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
James Jackson

James D. Jackson joined The Oklahoman in January 2020 to cover high school sports. He a University of Central Oklahoma graduate. During his time at UCO, James served as a sports reporter and Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Vista.... Read more ›

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