In the world of Oklahoma high school softball, getting to a state tournament is a tough task.

In the world of Oklahoma high school softball, getting to a state tournament is a tough task.

Most coaches would say making it to the big stage in fast pitch is a dream accomplishment for their careers, and their players as well.

However this season, Sulphur and Turner softball flipped the script on the normal trend and made the state tournament in fast pitch and slow pitch softball.

These outstanding accomplishments led to a tie for the slow pitch coach of the year as the Lady Falcons skipper Shane Hill and Lady Bulldogs head coach Heath Gilbert were named as Co-Coaches of the year.

“All this means is that I have great players and assistant coaches that make sure everything is in the right spot for this program,” Gilbert said about the award. “My job is just to make sure we get the bus to our destination on time. My assistant coaches do everything they can to make our program better and they deserve so much credit. It also helps having girls who are so dedicated to every sport they do at Sulphur High School.” 

Coach Hill echoed the same thoughts when giving his feelings about the postseason award.

“This is a direct reflection of the type of girl student athletes we have at Turner High School,” he said. “The special thing about this team was seeing how they grew not only as young ladies but as student-athletes the past few years.”

Following a run to the state finals for the second consecutive year in fast-pitch, the Turner Lady Falcons wasted no time in showing they were hungry to get back to Oklahoma City.

A competitive regular season schedule, and a consistent top-10 ranking in Class 2A showed THS was a legit contender.

Led by seniors Jacey Henry, Rebecca Stevens, Tracy McGill, Brianna Paul, and Shyanne Parker, the Lady Falcons swept their way to a district championship at home.

In the regional tournament, the Lady Falcons shocked the state when they defeated then No. 1 Binger-Oney for the regional championship on the Lady Bobcats home field. 

Despite falling in the state quarterfinals to the Central High Lady Bronchos, the accomplishment of reaching two consecutive state tournaments in one season was not forgotten.

Also making the feat even more impressive was the fact the Lady Falcons did the double for the second straight year in a row.

“If you make the fast pitch state tournament, then you should have good athletes,” Hill said. “Softball is softball. It’s easier to win and get there when you have girls that come in and compete during fast pitch season. When you have the same girls coming in for slow pitch then it just makes everything easier.”

For the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs, making the state tournament was nothing new for the program.

However, doing the double in one calendar year was something SHS had never been able to accomplish, until this year that is.

After enduring a tough schedule during the regular season throughout class 5A, the Lady Bulldogs swept their way to a district title with wins over Dickson and Plainview at home.

Regionals proved to be a tougher task as SHS dropped its opening game 8-7 against Lexington.

However, Sulphur responded and won 22-1 against McLoud, before getting revenge in the regional consolation championship game 12-3 over Lexington.

With standout players Savannah Ashford, Payton Szalaj, Ashlie Hedemann and many others leading the charge, the Lady Bulldogs headed for what was their fifth overall state tournament for the senior class of 2017.

Unfortunately, the magical run ended at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City as the Lady Bulldogs were eliminated 15-7 by Prague. 

Despite the defeat, Coach Gilbert said he wouldn’t trade the ride or the accomplishments his team earned for anything.

“This season was our first time as a program to go to state in fast and slow pitch,” he said. “When you have great athletes who can adjust a few things, it makes everything so much easier. Most of my girls play basketball and some of them run track as well. We want our girls to enjoy being in high school, so there were times where we had to play without some of our track girls, but we adjusted.”

“Having had the same team together all season made slow pitch that much easier to get into,” Gilbert added. “These girls have been dedicated for years and have great parents who have invested so much time and money into tournament softball and they still do to this day. You can’t just play during the season only and get where you want to be at the end. Great players are made at home, on weekends and after hours when everyone else has gone home, and we have a solid group of great players.”