HEALDTON — Growing up in Healdton, softball isn’t just a sport, it’s a way of life for young girls.

HEALDTON — Growing up in Healdton, softball isn’t just a sport, it’s a way of life for young girls.

Now, as the 2017-18 fast pitch season moves closer to beginning, a new group of Lady Bulldog seniors are looking to end their journey the way so many others have before them, at the state tournament.

For Maddie Bradberry, Mollie Marshall, Jessie Black, Josey Brooks, Bayli Thompson and Adrie Brown, their senior season represents nearly 18 years of a path which began in T-ball as toddlers.

For most of the class of 2018 seniors, coach Bradberry has been with them since those days on the T-ball diamond, and they have grown up watching their coach help lead other teams to great heights of success. It’s something these seniors want to do themselves as a special going away present for the man who has brought them so much in the game of softball.

“State isn’t expected of us, but it’s a goal for us,” Marshall said. “Coach (Joel) Bradberry has taught us to work hard since we began in this program. In my opinion, us making it to the state tournament is our way of telling him ‘Thank You’ for everything he’s done for us.”

Healdton last made the fast pitch state tournament in 2013, and the slow pitch state tournament in 2014. This past spring, the slow pitch season came to an abrupt end at Lady Bulldog Field as HHS was eliminated in the district round by the Davis Lady Wolves.

Thompson said she feels like as a senior, this season is about leaving something behind for the rest of the girls to follow for years to come and beyond.

“We need to leave a tradition behind for all the young kids,” she said. “Even if we don’t make it though, I’ll still carry with me all the special memories I’ll have. It’s not always easy at Healdton, but these young girls are hungry to carry on this tradition with us. It would be one of the greatest things in my high school career to walk away as a senior and see 2017 under the fast pitch side of the state board in the outfield.” 

Teammate Jessie Black echoed her fellow seniors thoughts as she said she’s ready to share the experience with her teammates of a state tournament.

“I’ve never gotten to go to a state tournament as a player,” she said. “It would make it more special for us this season considering we have 11 players. We’re going to really try and change teams outlook about us when we hit the field. This squad has a lot of maturity amongst us, and that’s a big strength for us.”

There’s been nothing more special than softball for Brooks, as she stated she’s wanting to finish on top in her final season.

“Playing softball at Healdton has probably been my greatest memory of high school,” she said. I love playing here and it would mean the world to get back to the state tournament. We have a solid group here and all get along great. We might have small numbers, but we’re just as good as anyone.”

For Maddie Bradberry, the final season for her carries with it extra emotion as she’s grown up with the program since she was a child. She said it would mean the world to play in a state tournament, instead of just watching it as a fan.

“I’ve grown up here and seen Healdton softball at all the state tournaments, and when they’ve won state titles,” she said. “It would mean so much getting to actually be in the state tournament as a player and not just being a spectator.” 

“We’ve all grown up together and played against each other when we were little. We’re always pushing each other and have gelled really good together.”

“We do have less players than we usually have,” Maddie said. “But that’s good for us. Less is more with us. We have to get along all season, and it’s better when you have less people and it helps we’re all friends here.” 

“Our younger girls push us to do better, and in turn we push them to be better.”

“As a senior this is my last chance to make all the hard work and dedication pay off,” Brown said. “Not only do I want this for all of us as a team, but I want to leave something for this program to build off of in the future.”