SULPHUR — Normally when a team enters a season with zero seniors, questions begin to arise about who is going to lead the team.

SULPHUR — Normally when a team enters a season with zero seniors, questions begin to arise about who is going to lead the team.

But when the team is the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs, those kinds of questions don’t apply.

Sulphur will be fielding a team comprised of 10 juniors along with multiple freshman and sophomore players this season, as the Lady Bulldogs will look to make a return to the state tournament, having missed out last year following a trip to Oklahoma City in 2016.

“We’re expecting to have an outstanding season, and we’re ready to go back to the state tournament,” Sulphur coach Heath Gilbert said. “To be honest, I’m actually more relaxed coming into this season than I’ve ever been. I know I’ll have these girls back for another year and I don’t need to worry about reloading next season. This type of team won’t happen every year in Sulphur. If they stay focused and accept their role on this team, we should have a great season.” 

Last season, the Lady Bulldogs finished 20-12 overall, and earned a bye in the Bi-District round of the playoffs having earned second overall in the tough district 4A-3 field.

Unfortunately, Sulphur was placed in a tougher regional, where the Lady Bulldogs were defeated first by the eventual state champion Tuttle Lady Tigers, before being eliminated by the Harrah Lady Panthers.

This season, the stakes have been raised in district play as the top four teams will make the regional tournament, with the district champion hosting the regional tournament.

Sulphur will once again have to take on the challenge of dealing with Plainview, Pauls Valley, Byng, Ada, Madill and the defending state runner-up Lone Grove, who shut out the Lady Bulldogs twice in district play last season.

“The new format is pretty much how it was the first year we were in district play,” Gilbert said. “We try not to worry or look ahead and see where we could end up. We just need to take things one day at a time and one game at a time.” 

Sulphur has already seen its fair share of competition this summer, where the Lady Bulldogs won the championship in the Southern Oklahoma Summer League Series at Tushka.

The Lady Bulldogs had to defeat district rival Byng, along with Stonewall, Kingston, Atoka, and Latta to win the title.

One of the strengths of this seasons Lady Bulldogs squad will be the pitching as Harley Beesley will be joined by Blaklynn Barber.

Beesley hit .424 at the plate last season with 46 RBI and 50 hits. 

“Those two girls (Harley and Blaklynn) are really going to provide a 1-2 punch for us in the circle,” Gilbert said. 

Among the returning players this season will be Abby Beck, who hit .281 last season with 25 RBI and three home runs.

“We’re really more motivated this season, and we have a lot of natural talent on this team,” Beck said. “It’s definitely a blessing not having any seniors, because this season is only going to make us stronger once we get to our senior year. Our defense is a lot stronger than it was last year and we’re more organized than we have been. We just need to stay like we always do, and not get too excited about anything when it comes to district play or any part of this season.”

Also returning this season will be Kady Lynch who hit .373 last year with 16 RBI and one home run along with Makella Mobly who finished with a .584 average in 2017 to go with 21 RBI and 50 runs scored. Paisley Runyan will also be returning this year after hitting .305 last season with 15 RBI and 19 runs scored.

Sulphur will open the season Tuesday with a district doubleheader at home against Ada beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The Lady Bulldogs will then go to the Cushing Tournament beginning on Thursday Aug. 9 until Saturday Aug. 11. 

Sulphur will then have district games against Plainview and Byng the following week.