Guy Ellis

The GHS Lady Red softball club enters into this weekend’s annual Grand Lake Classic tournament on the heels of an impressive seven game winning streak.

“They’re playing great ball right now,” Lady Red Softball Head Coach Charli Duff said. “We’re pitching well, hitting well and our defense is solid.”

The Lady Red (9-11, 5A #13) streak began last week when the squad swept Locust Grove in double header play, 4-2 and 6-4. From there the team traveled to Oklahoma City and the Hall of Fame Festival where they downed Eufaula 11-0, Noble 3-0, and capped the trip with a 5-2 win over 5A #3 El Reno in the main stadium at the Softball Hall of Fame park.

“The girls were really excited to get a chance to play the number three team in 5A,” Duff said. “They were psyched up.

“We came out and had some great execution,” Duff added. “We were hitting the ball well and we beat a really good El Reno team out on the big field.”

This week the team has won two road contests; a 6-1 final at Wagoner and a 10-1 run-ruled game against 3A #12 Adair.

“That was another huge game for us,” Duff said of the Adair match up. “They have an awesome program. We played lights out.”

The impressive mid-season results are the sign of a young team that has matured quickly after some growing pains earlier this year.

“We (coaches) kept telling the girls that those one-point losses were going to go the other way at some point,” Duff said about the early trials. “Playing good teams early in the season has definitely helped us now. The girls stayed positive and they’re really starting to mesh together now.”

With that impressive road trip under their belts the team returns home this weekend for the annual Grand Lake Classic. Play began yesterday and continues into Friday and Saturday evening.

Saturday GHS is slated to tackle 5A #6 Collinsville in a 4:30 p.m. date at Lady Red Field.

“This last week has been a turning point for us and we want to keep building on it,” Duff said. “We’re really focused on the Collinsville game. They have a good pitcher and have been playing well. They hit the ball hard. We’ll have to play our best softball to come out on top.”

Following the Collinsville battle Friday night the Lady Red will turn around and face off against 3A #15 Kansas in a show down of Delaware County schools.

Duff hasn’t announced a starting pitcher for the Collinsville game. Each of the three pitchers currently in the rotation has collected wins during the GHS streak.

“Andrea (Gonzales, sophomore) threw well against Wagoner,” Duff said. “And she’s a very strong hitter as well.

“Gregoreye (Epperson, junior) had an awesome game against Noble,” Duff added.

Freshman Jessie Walker is the third hurler in the mix.

“Jessie had 19 strikeouts out of 21 outs against Locust Grove,” Duff said. “I had to count the stat sheet a couple of times just to make sure.

“She gets more comfortable and confident in every game,” said the head coach. “Against Adair she had a bases loaded, no-out situation early on and pitched her way out of it and only gave up one run. That’s huge, to have that kind of composure as a freshman.”

One key to success for the Lady Red this season was to have their freshman starters get up to speed quickly. As Duff said, “Our freshmen can’t play like freshmen; they have to play like seniors.”

Freshman Taylor Dodson, a starter at third base, has risen to that challenge, according to her head coach.

“She’s hitting near .500 in the three-hole spot as a freshman,” Duff said. “That’s impressive. She’s been gaining in confidence all season. She wants to be at the plate in the pressure situations with the game on the line. That’s a great attitude.”

Besides the youngsters the team also benefits from a duo of senior starters, Rachel Allington, at second base, and centerfielder Megan White.

“When I first came to Grove, Rachel was a sophomore,” Duff recalled. “Her game has grown so much since then. She’s played great this season. Her defensive skills and range are awesome. She’s a very fast and smart player and she’s been hitting the ball with power.

“Megan has been hitting really well all season,” Duff said. “In Oklahoma City and Locust Grove she just smashed the ball.”

White sustained a right knee injury against Wagoner.

“We hope it’s just a sprain,” Duff said. “She’s going to see some specialists and get checked out.”

The senior suffered through a torn ACL in her left knee last season.

“She’s tough and she’s a fighter,” Duff said of the senior.

Playing to either side of White in the outfield this season has been junior Tori Winters, in left, and Epperson, when not pitching, in right.

“They’ve both been solid in the field,” Duff said of the pair.

Rounding out the infield is Gonzales at first base, junior Alex Woods at shortstop, and junior Katie Stout at catcher.

“She’s great behind the plate and has a very strong arm,” Duff said of Stout. “She’s a versatile player; we’ve had her at shortstop this year and at first. She’s solid at catcher.

“It’s the same with Woody,” Duff said of the shortstop. “She can play a lot of positions and she’s been hitting well as our lead off. She’s settled in at shortstop.”

The Grand Lake Classic will feature the Lady Red along with ten other teams.

Heading the list is 3A #1 Purcell. DelCo teams Jay and Kansas are entered along with old Grove rival Miami. Broken Arrow JV, Fairland, Oologah, Locust Grove, Wagoner, and Collinsville fill the field.

Pool play will continue throughout today and Saturday morning. Championship games, for places 1 through 10, begin at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. Games will be split between Lady Red Field on the GHS campus and the City fields at the Sports Complex. A full schedule of games is available at www.grovesun.com/sports.