By Jeff Harrison
Getting to the state tournament hasn’t been an issue for the Carl Albert fast-pitch softball team.
Staying there has been.
After winning the Class 5A state championship in 2014, the Lady Titans have made it past the first round once since. But that could change this year with six returning starters and a talented new pitcher.
“Our girls have been to the state tournament. They know the experience. And we’re hoping that will pay dividends this year,” coach Colin White said.
Seniors Jolie Fish and Taliya Talley remember, as eighth-graders, watching the Lady Titans capture state and dreaming of the day they would do the same.
“Seeing them win made me so excited to play high school softball,” Fish said. “I couldn’t wait to play with them. And hopefully we can get back to state and win it this year.”
Talley echoed those statements.
“Winning state would mean everything to us. It’s been our goal since eighth grade,” she said.
Carl Albert should be one of the top offensive teams in 5A this season. They return their top four hitters from last year. Audrie LaValley led the team with a .575 average, 10 home runs and 16 doubles and Jolie Fish was a close second, hitting .550 with 60 runs scored. Lyric Cabral led the team with 51 RBI, while Taliya Talley (.433) and Aaliyah Brown (.409) also hit .400 or better.
The Lady Titans will have a big void in the circle after Ariel Denny, a three-year starter, graduated this spring. But they should have a solid newcomer in Chenise Delce. The senior transferred to Carl Albert last year after helping Choctaw win state in 2015. Delce will not be able to play until early September due to OSSAA transfer rules.
“Chenise is a hard thrower who works the corners and in and out with her curve ball and screw ball,” White said. “And her rise ball is her strikeout pitch.”
Sophomore Hannah Williams will likely be the starter for the first month of the season. Audrie LaValley and Taliya Talley could also see time in the circle.
“Hannah didn’t see much varsity time last year but I’ve been really impressed with her this summer,” White said.
The infield should stay the same with Zadie LaValley (first base), Fish (second base), Audrie LaValley (shortstop), Brown (third base) and Cabral behind the plate. Sophomore Carly Kelley could also see playing time at the corners.
Taliya Talley will be the only returning starter in the outfield. The team will need to replace Casey Wojcak, an all-state centerfielder, and Charissa Price and KK Ghoram who played left. Madison Gaiski, Sidnie Hurst, Cora Allison and Taliya’s younger sister Aerin Talley will likely compete for the two other spots.
Carl Albert should be the favorite to win District 5A-1. White believes their biggest challenge will be newcomer Woodward. The district also includes Del City, El Reno, Guymon, Noble, Western Heights and Guthrie.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played Woodward but I’ve heard they’re pretty decent,” White said.
The top title contenders will likely come from the east side of the state. Defending state champion Pryor, Collinsville, Coweta and Durant, who beat Carl Albert in the first round of state last year, figure to be the top teams in the state.
Carl Albert opens the season Aug. 15 at Del City.