Most softball coaches would cringe at the thought of having to replace four starters, including three who are now playing at Division I schools.
But Carl Albert coach Colin White isn’t worried. He’s actually expecting bigger and better things from his team this fall.
“We lost quite a bit, but I don’t think we’ll lose a step,”White. “I expect us to pick up right where were left off and improve, especially offensively.”
The Lady Titans’ last season ended with a loss to Pryor in the state semifinals. They fell in the first round of state the previous season, after winning it all in 2013.
White believes he has the talent to make another run at a title this fall. The team returns several top hitters and pitchers from last year, and welcomes a few promising newcomers.
“We’ll have to work harder because we lost some good seniors,” junior Lyric Cabral said. “We have a couple of incoming freshman that will help us a lot this year.”
Carl Albert should be in good shape in the circle. Ariel Denney will be the team’s pitching ace again this year. The senior went 18-3 with a 1.89 ERA and 94 strikeouts. Audi LaValley and Taliyah Talley will also see some innings.
“We should have great pitching,”White said. “I expect Ariel to keep us in games like she always has.”
Audrey LaValley led the team in hitting last season with a blistering .528 batting average along with 56 RBIs and seven home runs. She also went 8-3 in the circle with a 1.84 ERA. The University of Oklahoma commit will play shortstop and pitch some this year.
Jolie Fish returns at second base after a stellar sophomore year. Cabral will move to catcher after playing first base the past two years. Both juniors provide steady defense and hit over .400 last year.
Senior Hope Mathis will play one of the corner infield spots. Senior Casey Wojcak and Talley should start at the corner outfield spots. The center field spot it still up for grabs.
White also expects contributions from two freshmen, Aaliyah Brown and Zadie LaValley. Brown is a versatile infielder with a big bat. White said she can play any infield spot and should be one of their top hitters as well.
“The first day we were throwing live in practice she hit the first pitch out of the park,” White said.
“She has a lot of power and by the end of the year she might be our four-hole hitter.”
Zadie LaValley, who is Audrey’s cousin, will help at the corner infield spots and in the batting
Carl Albert should be the favorite to win District 5A-1 this season. Their biggest challenge will come from Deer Creek, Guthrie and El Reno. Defending state champions Collinsville, Pryor and Coweta should be the top teams in the East.
While the Lady Titans have the look of a championship contender, they will need to put it all together in the postseason. White said they have had solid pitching and defense the past couple years, but came up short at the plate.
“We need our big hitters to step up in the postseason and they haven’t done that the last couple years,” White said.
Winning a state championship would a huge achievement for the team. And it would mean bragging rights at home for a couple players.
“My brother Riley and Audrey’s LaValley’s brother (Gavin) both won state championships in baseball so to win it all would be a huge accomplishment,” Cabral said. “And it would mean that our brothers aren’t better than us.”
The Lady Titans open their season at home Aug. 11 against