By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — For most of her life, McAlester senior Baylee Dawkins has been a competitor. She said Thursday she started competitive softball as a 7-year-old, and within two years she started playing competitive basketball as well.
Dawkins played both sports for Frink-Chambers, even winning a state championship in softball with the Lady Falcons. She also started playing travel softball with the McAlester Knockouts, a team that at the time included Lady Buffs softball teammate Cheyenne Selman, at about the same age.
Dawkins’ positions in both sports have changed over the years. She said she began her softball career as a second baseman, but she converted to first starting in the eighth grade.
“My sister always played first base, so when I was little, that’s what I always wanted to do, just because she did,” Dawkins. “It was just nice being able to finally do it, and I still play second base some for my travel team.”
In basketball, Dawkins said she began as a 3-guard/small forward. But with the transition to high school she’s moved up to post, battling with some of the tallest players on opposing teams.
“It was hard at first, because you’re just not quite used to it, getting physical and stuff,” Dawkins said. “I still struggle with that.”
Dawkins said going from Frink-Chambers to McAlester High School wasn’t easy, her class size suddenly jumping from 40 kids to approximately 200. But as a Lady Buff she’s made varsity in both sports every year since freshman year and a been starter every year since sophomore year.
That means Dawkins has been a key part of some very successful Lady Buffs teams, including the 2011-12 softball and basketball squads that both reached their respective state tournaments — experiences Dawkins still rank among her all-time favorites.
The 2013 McAlester softball team came within a few outs of returning to the state tournament, and Dawkins had a strong fall season for the Lady Buffs, playing in all 38 games and batting .286 with eight doubles, 23 runs scored and 15 runs batted in. Six games into her basketball season, Dawkins is averaging 7.0 points per game.
“End of February, March, is when the playoffs and everything start,” Dawkins said. She added that she hopes that “when we get there, we’re prepared and playing our best.”
Ashley Banks, Dawkins’ older sister, also played softball and basketball for Savanna and McAlester, and Dawkins said the two have a very close relationship. But while Dawkins said she used to regularly attend Banks’ games, Banks, now a 28-year-old dentist in Coweta, graduated long before Dawkins could don her black and gold uniform.
Basketball, however, has allowed Dawkins to share her passion with a sibling playing the same sport at the same time. Baylee’s younger brother Todd, a sophomore, emerged as one of the Buffs’ starting guards late last season, and this season he’s been one of the boys’ best offensive weapons.
“Me and Todd are really close, and I really, really enjoy watching him play, because he enjoys it so much,” Dawkins said. “That’s just all he wants to do. We can’t keep him out of the gym.”
Though Dawkins clearly enjoys basketball enough to return to it year after year, she said softball remains her first love. Basketball season might eat up her winters, but the end of past years’ basketball seasons have always come with an immediate return to the Knockouts for the spring and summer.
Dawkins has in the past balanced travel softball commitments with serving as a baseball manager for McAlester — a position Banks once held as well. A Texas Rangers fan, Dawkins said she’s especially enjoyed watching Michael Young.
Her favorite softball player: Lauren Chamberlain, the junior infielder for the Oklahoma Sooners who last year hit a walk-off home run in the first game of the Women’s College World Series championship against Tennessee.
Softball has been Dawkins’ biggest sport through her first 18 years, and that’s unlikely to change after she leaves MHS. Dawkins said she’s already been offered a softball scholarship to Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, but she might instead end up playing for Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond.
“I really liked the campus,” Dawkins said of OCU.
“Coach (April) Burns went Oklahoma Christian, and she’s always told me good things about it.”
Dawkins said she plans to go to pre-med wherever she winds up. After that, she said she’s leaning towards becoming a pediatrician or an ultrasound technician.
In her spare time — what little of it she has — Dawkins said she’s part of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America group at MHS and also does editing for Buff TV.
Whether she’s guarding first base or boxing out for rebounds, Dawkins has always been a key contributor to her team.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.