It might be hard to imagine, but there’s three words the Ardmore Lady Tigers are sick and tired of hearing.
One run short.

It might be hard to imagine, but there’s three words the Ardmore Lady Tigers are sick and tired of hearing.

One run short.

For the last few seasons in the regional tournament, the Lady Tigers have put themselves in a position to make it to Oklahoma City for the state finals. Unfortunately, at the finish line AHS has been denied being able to achieve its ultimate goal.

Should the Lady Tigers accomplish the feat this season, it would be the first time an Ardmore softball squad has made it to the state tournament since 2003.

“All three years I’ve been here we’ve been one run away from state,” senior pitcher Lexi Duff said. “Now I feel like we’re at a point where we can get past that one run. I even wrote it on my wall at one point “Regionals 2016.”” That’s been my motivation when I was lifting, pitching, hitting. It’s been burning all offseason.”

This season though, AHS head coach Charli Crawford and her Lady Tigers aren’t settling for anything less than finishing in Oklahoma City.

“I think that we’re as talented as any team out there,” Crawford said. “My kids are confident and know what they want this season, and what our goal is. Our district is tough, which is going to help us because a lot of other districts are weaker. These girls aren’t going to stop until they have made it to their goal. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and stay at a high level of competition.”

For the Lady Tigers their road to once again hosting the regional tournament will take them through district 2-5A. Joining them will be Piedmont, Santa Fe South, Altus, Lawton MacArthur, Lawton Eisenhower, and last year’s state quarterfinalist the Duncan Lady Demons.

Ironically enough, Piedmont and Duncan have been two of the teams which have ended the Lady Tigers dreams of reaching the state tournament the last three years as El Reno was the culprit last year. Last season the Lady Tigers made program history as they hosted the first regional softball tournament in Ardmore in 11 years.

Making the journey a little easier this year will be the benefit of multiple returning starters for the Lady Tigers.

In addition to Duff, who was named as the All-Ardmoreite Pitcher of the Year last season, AHS will welcome back Chole Pender, Lauren Blankenship, Madisen Moore, Maddie Wiles, and multiple other returning players off a team which went 25-11 in 2016-17.

Duff was the anchor for the Lady Tigers on the mound last season, going 23-11 on the year with a 1.02 ERA. She struck out 276 batters in 173 innings pitched. At the plate the Oklahoma Baptist commit finished with a .406 batting average and a .515 slugging percentage.

Ardmore’s other returning players also had standout seasons in 2016-17, as Pender hit .390 with a .500 slugging percentage, with Blankenship totaling a .372 average at the plate with a .537 slugging percentage. Moore hit .320 on the season with a .418 slugging percentage.

“We view each other as family in the dugout,” Duff said. “Our theme last year was “Hold the Rope” and it was about never letting your family member fall and always holding the rope for them. Besides the talent part, we can see the family part and that helps us stand out just a little more.”

“We know each other so well and know what we need to do together,” Moore added. “Every season we expect to do big things, and this season we’re planning on making it a reality.”

There will also be a few surprises on the field this season for the Lady Tigers, as they have been trying new things during the preseason schedule.

“We’re going to be able to play a little more relaxed this season offensively and defensively,” Crawford said. “This summer we have had six girls competing in club softball getting extra reps, and that’s something we’ve never had before. I feel like in our lineup 1-9 can hit the ball and get on base.”

“We’ve also got some new faces in the outfield with two freshmen in Shakira Smith and Angelina Bruner,” Crawford added. “These girls had a great showing at the FCA Festival earlier this summer going a combined 15-for-16 at the plate, and they are going to make a big impact for us this season. If these girls get on base they are going to be tough to get out. Having speed like that is only going to help us.”