SULPHUR — Once upon a time, state was just a dream for the Sulphur High School softball program.

SULPHUR — Once upon a time, state was just a dream for the Sulphur High School softball program.

Oh how times have changed at the home of the Lady Bulldogs.

These days, when one walks into the Lady Bulldog softball complex, there’s no more talk about just wanting to make it to state, it’s a drive expecting to make it to state.

The change in attitude and culture isn’t lost on head coach Heath Gilbert, in fact it’s something he says he and the rest of his girls have learned to embrace.

“It’s one of those things where you have created a monster,” Gilbert said about the change in culture for the Lady Bulldogs. “When we don’t make it to state now, these girls get upset. That’s a good thing to have.”

“You want them having the expectation to make it back to state,” Gilbert added. “Our main deal is we want to make it back and actually win a game there. Once you get on a roll at the state tournament you never know what can happen in those three games. I’m hoping this season we’re able to put ourselves in a position to do some good things.”

In order for Sulphur to put itself in a position to a clear road to the state tournament, the Lady Bulldogs will have to navigate their way through district 3-4A.

Joining SHS will be local rivals Lone Grove, Madill, and Plainview along with Ada, Byng, and Pauls Valley.

“These days its a lot tougher to win a district title with the new format and all,” Gilbert said. “It’s a huge deal getting to host regionals, and it was very special for us last season. So many of the teams in our district have improved this offseason so I’m expecting it to be a tough road for everyone this year.”

Last season Sulphur was able to host the regional tournament by virtue of winning its district title. The Lady Bulldogs would then go on to advance to state in fast pitch, before making program history this past spring by also advancing to the slow pitch state tournament. The double was the first time in Sulphur softball history one group had advanced to two state tournaments in a calendar year. 

Leading the charge this season for the Lady Bulldogs will be its three seniors in Bekkah Turner, Ashley Bivens and Rilee Keith, who will be joining the squad once she has been cleared from a shoulder problem. 

In addition, the Lady Bulldogs will be welcoming back multiple sophomore players along with some new freshmen faces. One of those sophomores will be Abby Beck, who was named as the All-Ardmoreite Newcomer of the Year last season in fast pitch. 

Other players looking to make an impact this season will be Paisley Runyan, Makella Mobly, Harley Beesley, Kady Lynch, Kinlee Duck, Mackenzie Ruth, Faith Haines, Shallen Mershawn, Hailey Keith, and Meredith Jones. 

“Right now we have a lot of young girls in different positions,” Gilbert said. “These girls are only young so long, and we’re going to be depending on them to step up this season and improve very quickly.”

Sulphur will open its season on August 8 against district foe Byng at home. The first tournament of the year for SHS will take place on August 17-19 with the Murray County Bash, which will be co-hosted with Davis.