As the Ardmore softball team bandied about its fieldhouse on Wednesday, it certainly didn't resemble a squad with just six wins this season.
The girls were in high spirits — young, oblivious to any pressure or expectations that came along with a regional tournament appearance.
It's an attitude that's reaped benefits for the Tigers this season, not necessarily in the win-loss column, but in the mentality of the program.
"They're excited about coming out and playing and being around each other," first-year Ardmore coach Charlie Crawford said. "I see them becoming a team.
"Their discipline has changed; their work ethic is changing."
The Tigers enter the Class 5A regional tournament at Duncan two wins short of last season's final tally. That's with a team that broke in new starters at as many as seven positions through the year.
Up first in the double-elimination tournament is Guthrie (20-14). Duncan (20-11) and Northwest Classen (3-14) comprise the rest of the field.
"We worked hard yesterday, and we had probably the best practice we've had all season yesterday (Tuesday)," Crawford said. "I think they want to win. Our upperclassmen think that they can go in and make something pretty special happen if they take care of business."
Crawford said that Guthrie leans more to the power hitting side of the game rather than speed on the basepaths, something she thinks plays into the Tigers' favor.
Headed into postseason play, the Tigers have been buoyed by the efforts of senior shortstop Destinee Howell and junior center fielder Autumn Bruner, as well as sophomores Chanena Taylor and Caden Ingram.
"We got a really good draw; I feel really good about it," Crawford said. "We tend to play better against teams that do that rather than run the bases well, slap and do things like that. We tend to play the hard-hitting teams better than the speedy teams."
Despite being swept in three games against Duncan this season, assistant coach Will Trisciani said that Ardmore defeated the Demons in summer league play.
The belief is there. It's evident in the Tigers' rally call this season, a mantra of "I believe, you believe."
That's something Trisciani knows about, having coached a 2011 Ardmore baseball team that reached the state tournament on just more than a handful of wins.
The regional tournament is where belief can take you a long way. Taylor said the Tigers have a chance as long as they stick to the game plan.
"As long as we work as a team and pull through with each other," Taylor said. "We really went through difficulties with our team, but we pulled through and know that we can work harder next year."
Erik K. Horne