By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The Organization of Rural Elementary Schools state softball tournament should’ve finished Sept. 28 at the Pittsburg County Softball Complex in McAlester, but when the rains came after the first round, the tournament had to be postponed. The rains returned Saturday, forcing a second postponement of the tournament until Tuesday.
In the longest ORES tournament in coach Kris Mitchell’s career, the Frink-Chambers Lady Falcons went 1-2 overall and finished fifth.
Frink-Chambers lost to Lukfata, 7-3, on Sept. 27. The team stayed alive by beating Zion, 6-4, on Tuesday, then lost to South Rock Creek later that day, 11-1.
“I just don’t think we ever got our composure back,” Frink coach Kris Mitchell said Wednesday.
“We played one game, and we got beat that one, and they were pumped and ready to go for the next one. We had a good week of practice, we worked on our mistakes that we had and they were really set, ready to go. And then whenever I had to send out that group-text telling them that we weren’t even playing that day, you could tell by their test messages back. It was just ‘What are we going to do now?’”
The Lady Falcons had gone 3-0 during pool play on Sept. 20. With much muddier conditions Tuesday at the Complex, Mitchell said, Frink-Chambers couldn’t play the kind of defense that had been its calling card all season.
“We were right on target during pool play,” Mitchell said. “We were hitting the ball, we were seeing the ball, we were making plays. We turned at least two double plays every game all year, and we didn’t turn a double play during the actual tournament.”
Mitchell said the Lady Falcons needed that defense because starting pitcher Carlee Eaton was a contact pitcher good at keeping balls low in the strike zone. An eighth-grade student, Eaton converted from outfield to pitcher this year at Mitchell’s request.
“That’s the type of kid she is,” Mitchell said of Cox. “Whatever you ask her to do, she steps up and puts in the work to get it done.”
Other eighth-grade players on the 2013 Lady Faclons included shortstop and power hitter Taryn Howard, third baseman Sydney Shelton, outfielders Lynnsey Davis and Laurynn Chavarria and utility runner Tyra Irving. With a younger group of pitchers expected next year, Mitchell said she expects seventh-grade catcher Carly Cox and second baseman Erin Kelley to be leaders next year.
“Did an excellent job behind the plate,” Mitchell said of Cox. “I couldn’t ask any more out of that kid.
“Every year, I feel like we have holes. But every year, my girls step up and fill them.”
A former Frink-Chambers and Savanna High School graduate herself, Mitchell has coached at Frink for 26 years. Her softball program has turned out numerous quality high school softball players, including former McAlester and current University of Oklahoma pitcher Taylor Dewbery, current McAlester pitcher Cheyenne Selman, current Savanna pitcher Bryn Houlton and current Stuart catcher Kayla Smith.
“I try to give them the skills they need for the next level,” Mitchell said. “That’s my ultimate goal, and I’ve told them every year I’ll lose every state championship if they’ll go on to high school and win it.”
Mitchell said her team’s continued success wouldn’t be possible without parental support. She said many of the players’ fathers serve as assistant coaches, while mothers regularly provide snacks and help with organization.
“Our community parents there at Frink-Chambers, they raise us,” Mitchell said. “They take us under their wings.”
Mitchell also coaches junior-high girls’ basketball and boys’ and girls’ track, plus some elementary boys’ and girls’ basketball. Also a preschool and early-elementary physical educationt eacher, Mitchell often starts working with her athletes very early in their development and works with them almost year-round, as the same girls playing softball usually go on to play basketball and run track.
“They’re my kids,” Selman said. “When they leave, they’ll call me and I come watch them play. I do whatever I can for them. They go on to college, we do the same. I went and watcher Taylor Dewbery Sunday pitch at OU.
“I love it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
Just a day after Frink’s softball season ended, Mitchell took several basketball teams to a preseason tournament at Stuart on Wednesday.
Her fourth- and sixth-grade girls took first, her fourth-grade boys took second and her fifth-grade girls took third.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.