By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The McAlester Lady Buffaloes have already played 16 games this season, winning 10 of them. Five of those wins have come against district teams, but the Lady Buffs still have seven district games left before Regionals begin on Oct. 10.
The Lady Buffs picked up two huge district wins Tuesday, sweeping a home doubleheader against Guthrie, 9-8 and 7-6.
“Last night was a big test of character for us,” Lady Buffs coach Justin Bond said Wednesday. “We showed we can still get it done when things are at their toughest.”
“Our goals for our team is to be district champs, regional champs, state champs. ... All our team goals are still available.”
As Bond predicted before the season, pitching has been the team’s biggest strength. Cheyenne Selman has started every game so far, averaging more than 8 strikeouts per game and posting a solid 1.58 earned run average.
Behind Selman, the Lady Buffs have gotten 11.1 solid outings from freshman Adisyn Webster, who’s 2-0 in four appearances with a 1.24 ERA. Webster pitched 7 1/3 innings of relief Tuesday, giving up five hits and just one earned run.
“She’s a very athletic player, and she’s still learning the game,” Bond said of Webster. “I think seeing the next level has kind of made her hungry to compete. And as for the other freshmen that’s been out there, Brynn (Vaughan), it makes it a little more real, a little more serious. They’re a little more locked-in than the typical freshman.”
Though the Lady Buffs’ pitching has been solid, Bond said he’s still looking for more consistency on defense and at the plane. Selman leads the team with a .510 batting average, two home runs and 22 RBIs, but the Lady Buffs have also gotten solid numbers from Vhitney Garner, who’s batting .469, and Stacey Washington, who’s batting .358.
“Baylee Dawkins has had some big, big situational hits,” Bond said. “In the Durant ballgame (on Aug. 26), I know she had two hits late in the game. One was to tie it, and then one was to win it. So offensively, we are putting pressure on people.
“We have proven to other teams in the state that we are a team that needs to be reckoned with.”
The Lady Buffs have played just five home games so far this season, and they’ll play just four more. But while all the travel has made it hard to get into a routine, Bond said the team has bonded together because of so much time spent on the road.
“We’ve been traveling with about 22 girls, and we could probably take more if it was possible,” Bond said. “The girls are really coming together as a team. We had an overnight stay during the Shawnee Tournament (on Aug. 29-31), and it gave us an opportunity to be around each other and find out what we’re about when we’re not about softball.”
Looking ahead, Bond said the Lady Buffs must stay healthy to continue playing well. The team lost Jaleed Serhan before the season, Bri Talbot has yet to return from rolled ankle suffered against Wilburton on Aug. 19, and Sami Davenport can only act as a courtesy runner as she battles shoulder issues.
Losing Talbot forced Bond to move Courtney Taylor to left field and put freshman Brynn Vaughan in right. A true shortstop still has yet to emerge among the Lady Buffs, though Bond said Taylor Jones has done a “serviceable” job.
“We pick each other up,” Bond said. “If there are mistakes made, we have to just be better in other situations, be a little more mentally tough. We can’t let it bother us or get us down.”
Bond said he’s definitely enjoyed his first few weeks as a head varsity softball coach, getting great effort and attitude from his players. He said there’s been no trace of the “players vs. coaches” attitude that can sometimes form.
“Your students or your athletes don’t care what you know until you show that you care about them, and that we’re all in it together, pulling for each other,” Bond said.
McAlester’s softball season continues with a district game at Tulsa Memorial on Saturday at 12 p.m. McAlester plays back-to-back district home games against Tulsa Edison and Durant on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.