Oklahoma high school fastpitch softball: Teams and players to watch in 2020 season
High school fastpitch softball is underway across the state.
And although fans and players are facing new procedures and precautions off-the-field to give teams the opportunity to safely play during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's still business as usual on-the-field.
This has been the case for Jill Dickson and the Edmond Memorial Bulldogs. The junior pitcher, who earned the win last year in the Class 6A 2019 state championship, has had a hot start to the 2020 season for the 4-0 Bulldogs.
“We gained the confidence,” Dickson said. “And we’re trying to push it onto the underclassmen who weren’t here for that. But I think most of us feel pretty confident going into the season because we have the same people.”
The Bulldogs returned every starter from last season, which was led by Dickson, Emersen Heron and Oklahoma commit Leah McAnally. With Dickson and Heron as the one-two pitching combo and McAnally serving as the catcher, the trio will likely win a lot of games with just their performances in the 43-feet between the pitching circle and home plate.
On Monday, Dickson got the start as Edmond Memorial hosted its first home district game this season. With Dickson in the circle, enforcing her curveball and changeup, the Bulldogs run-ruled Edmond North 10-0 in five innings. The win gave Dickson her second win in two starts this season. Her other outing came in the season-opener against Norman last week.
“It was such a good year last year,” Edmond Memorial coach Janet Chartney said about Dickson. “So you’re like, ‘Can we live up to that again?’ And so far she has. So it’s been good so far.”
There are several teams in Class 6A with a shot at dethroning Edmond Memorial this season.
And it starts with the team it knocked off in the first round of the state tournament last year.
Deer Creek: The Antlers, who are led by Central Oklahoma commit Terin Ritz. Ritz recorded a .649 batting average and hit 19 home runs, breaking the school record last year. She was named the 2019 District 6A-1 Player of the Year and the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference's Player of the Year. With her leading the way, the Antlers look like a force to be reckoned with as they’ve opened the season 4-2.
Southmoore: The SaberCats are 7-0 with impressive wins in the Broken Arrow tournament where they took down four dominant teams, including last season’s state runner-up Owasso. They are led by sophomore shortstop Tallen Edwards, who won the 2020 USA Softball Gold 18-Under National Championship Tournament in July with the Birmingham Thunderbolts travel team. “She’s our shortstop, our leadoff and she really causes problems on the base paths for people,” Southmoore coach Jason Lingo said. “She’s one of the most smooth and talented kids you're going to see with a glove on her hand. She’s our go-getter, our table-setter and a lot of times if she goes, we go.”
Westmoore: The Jaguars only returned three starters from last season, but the new group has brought a new dynamic, backed by senior outfielder Ieesha Christian. She was named to The Oklahoman’s Big-All City first team after posting a .466 batting average to help lead the Jaguars to the first round of the state tournament. “I have a very athletic, fast group this year,” Westmoore coach Jenny Rollins said. “It’s a different dynamic of a team. I’m excited."
Shawnee: The Wolves won the El Reno tournament behind a no-hitter by sophomore pitcher Anneca Anderson in the championship game. Shawnee has notched a perfect 7-0 record, only giving up one run this season.
In other classes:
Piedmont: The defending Class 5A state champions have jumped out to a 7-2 record, topping three Class 6A teams in the process.
North Rock Creek: Class A NRC, in its inaugural season, is 5-3 with 15 of its 17 players listed as underclassmen. Creek has been backed by freshman center fielder, Liyah Dauman who opened the season 8-for-8 from the plate.
Newcastle: Despite graduating McKenzie Wagoner, the 2019-20 Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the year, Class 4A Newcastle is 7-2. The Racers returned five starters from last year which includes Destiny Donahue, who was named to The Oklahoman’s Little All-City first team. “I’m really pleased with how we’ve responded,” Newcastle coach Mike Crossley said. “There’s some good teams around so it’s going to be tough again. But with our bunch coming off last year, there’s a lot of confidence. You can definitely tell it’s carried over to this year.”