By Jeff Harrison
Expectations are always high for Carl Albert’s softball team.
And there’s no reason to think differently this year.
The Lady Titans are again looking to contend for a state title after reaching the state semifinals last fall.
“With the girls in the lineup and the girls in the circle, I feel really optimistic about what this team can achieve,” said coach Garrett Wages.
The team has a solid group of returning players led by seniors Ausha Moore, Kaylee Davis, and Shelby Rusche. The trio each hit over .400 last year and make up a solid left side of the infield.
Davis will likely hit leadoff and play second base and outfield this fall. She has excellent speed to cover ground in the outfield and gets on base. Moore returns at shortstop where she’s played her entire high school career, except for an injury as a freshman. Shelby Rusche is also back at third base and gives the team a steady bat in the lineup and defense in the field.
Carl Albert has big shoes to fill at pitcher. All-stater Marissa Frolich graduated this spring after starting for the past three seasons. Frolich was also a big bat in the lineup. She hit .589 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs in 2022.
The team will rely on a pair of talented freshmen to carry the load with Madison Ethridge and Kynlee Sutton.
“It hurts losing Marissa in the circle, but I’ve been really impressed with these two girls over the last few weeks of practice,” said Wages. “They spun it well and kept the ball down and let their defense work.”
Sophomore Bailey Rusche will return at catcher. She hit .338 with 10 doubles as a freshman.
Senior Ariana Harmon will help at first base.
Londyn McNair and Merrick Collier will anchor the outfield for Carl Albert.
Freshman AJ Bennett is a utility player who can help at any position.
“She’s another freshman who has surprised me this year,” Wages said. “She can catch, play infield, play outfield for us.”
Wages is making his head coaching debut this season with the Lady Titans. The Carl Albert alum served as an assistant for the past few years under former coaches Colin White and Dani Dobb.
“I had butterflies for our first game,” he said. “There are always high expectations at Carl Albert and I’m excited to have those expectations.”
The Lady Titans moved to District 5A-2 for the next two seasons. Their toughest competition will likely be defending state champion Piedmont.
“Piedmont is going to be the biggest problem within our district,” Wages said. “I like that they’re in our district this year and we’ll get to see them two times in the regular season.”
Carl Albert opened the season Monday with a pair of road games against Tahlequah and Pryor. They travel to Edmond Memorial on Thursday evening.