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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Prep Softball: Healdton, Turner have tough roads, even as regional hosts

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  • After missing out on last year's slowpitch state tournament, Healdton is knocking on the door again.
    So is Turner, which enters today's regional round with just a handful of losses and daunting set of teams in its way. The Falcons (25-4) get a tough draw against all top 10 teams in its 2A regional, while Healdton could be headed for a matchup with one of the best, or a team it has some history with.
    "We just need to be 27-4 by tomorrow," Turner coach Shane Hill said. "We just need to find two wins somehow."
    Healdton will look to do the same as host of a 3A regional. The Bulldogs draw Apache first, with a shot at top 5 ranked Rattan in the regional final. That's if Rattan takes out Navajo, a team that kept Healdton from a state tournament appearance last season.
    "We've been playing pretty good here lately," Healdton coach David Bingman said. "It's not going to be easy, but I feel like we have a good shot tomorrow."
    Navajo was in Healdton's regional last year, defeating the Bulldogs on a home run in the top of the seventh inning to go to state.
    "Obviously we know them a little," Bingman said. "We play Apache, who we played when we were in 4A. We're gonna have to play some good ball to compete."
    A loaded postseason state is something Hill has seen before, too, but never as such a high seed. Turner enters as the No. 5 team in 2A after a couple of top five teams were upset in the district round.
    Turner leads off with Chattanooga today. After the smattering of district upsets, rankings have bumped Chattanooga to No. 8, Fort Cobb-Broxton to No. 2 and Soper to No. 10.
    All three teams are in Turner's regional.
    "We had never been No. 5 in the state and drawn that," Hill said. "Our district was tougher than nails too. We've played good defense all year long. We're gonna have to have timely hitting and the bottom of the lineup is going to have to hit well."
    In district play, Hill lauded his ever-steady defense, which gave up just eight runs in four games. But after the Falcons lost 2-1 to Indiahoma, they bounced back to score 14 runs in the title game rematch to advance.
    "The got a sense of urgency," Hill said. "The bottom of the order scored in two different innings, which is really good. If you can get the bottom of the order on for your 1-2-3 hitters ... that's what it's all about."
    It starts with that core group of athletes in the 1-2-3 slots for Turner. Southeastern Oklahoma State softball signee Conner Harmon is hitting .720 with 11 home runs and 19 walks in the 2-spot, leadoff hitter Andi McGill has six home runs and Murray State softball signee Taylor Foster is batting .637 in the 3-hole.
    Page 2 of 2 - "We very seldom go 1-2-3 without scoring a run," Hill said. "Taylor Foster has done a good job of hitting behind her (Harmon) and Andi has done a good job of getting on base."
    The trio at the top of the lineup was also pivotal in leading the Falcons to the state tournament two consecutive seasons in basketball. That's a championship-caliber confidence Hill said rubs off in all of Turner's athletics.
    So the task of taking on a handfull of top-ranked teams won't faze the Falcons today.
    "It's everything," Hill said of the state tournament experience in basketball. "It's the same group of girls that have a determination, a refuse to lose, that's carried on from the basketball floor."
    Healdton enters its regional 12-10, a record that Bingman said isn't a clear indication of how good the team really is.
    No. 3 hitter Mikaela Blakemore enters with a team-best .480 average, with Jenna Martin, Ashley Collier, Morgan Fletcher and CeAnne Gossvener all hitting in the .400s.
    All but three players, Gossvener included, return for Healdton next season. But tomorrow is all that matters now to the regional hosts.
    "We could have very easily won about five or six more of those games," Bingman said. "Our talent level is as good as a lot (of teams) that we've had in the past, we've just got to put it all together."

    Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD
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