SULPHUR — In the world of high school softball, changes can happen in an instant.

SULPHUR — In the world of high school softball, changes can happen in an instant.

A perfect example would be the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs and their district this season.

Last year, the Lady Bulldogs were in a competitive 4A district, and found themselves eliminated in the regional finals against Newcastle.

However, this season brings with it one big change. Sulphur will be in Class 3A.

While most experts would argue that the classification drop means an easier road in the playoffs, Lady Bulldogs coach Heath Gilbert has a strong counter argument. 

“I truly feel like Class 3A is just as tough as Class 4A,” Gilbert said. “People think we’re supposed to be good, but we haven’t proven anything yet, because right now everyone is 0-0. In this area especially, there are several very good 3A teams this season. We’ve set the bar high for them, but that’s something they’ve always had in their lives and on every team they have competed on here at Sulphur.” 

This season, the Lady Bulldogs won’t have to worry about the likes of Lone Grove, Byng, Madill, Ada, Pauls Valley and Plainview in their district. Although a few of their old district rivals will still be opponents during the regular season.

Sulphur’s new district will be the revamped District 3A-3 which will consist of Riverside, Lexington, Davis, Community Christian, Little Axe and Crooked Oak. 

Out of the teams in their new district, only Davis and Lexington made the regional tournament last year.

Little Axe, Riverside, Community Christian, and Crooked Oak went a combined 3-36 in district play last season in Classes 2A and 3A. 

“Our district is going to have its challenges, despite what people have said it looks like on paper,” Gilbert said. “Obviously the games against Davis are going to be big since they are rivalry games and big draws for both schools. My biggest concern is all the traveling we have to do now in this district, because there are a lot of unknowns for us and teams we’ve never seen before. We’ve never had to travel for district games like we have to this season. If we can overcome that aspect of it, then we’ll be alright.”

Helping lead the charge this season for the Lady Bulldogs will be a core group of seniors consisting of Makella Mobly, Abby Beck, McKenzie Ruth, Haley Keith, Beth Jenkins, Briley Minor, Kady Lynch and Faith Haines. 

Last season Mobly finished with a .486 batting average along with a .507 on base percentage and a .536 slugging percentage which included 67 hits and 59 runs scored. Beck totaled 51 RBI’s  last year with three home runs and 15 doubles. She was named as the 2018-19 All-Ardmoreite Fast Pitch Defensive Player of the Year. 

Ruth was also a strong player last fall as she totaled a .481 average, a .511 on base percentage and a .639 slugging percentage with 64 hits, 51 runs scored, 35 RBI’s and two home runs. 

Meanwhile, Lynch finished with a .313 batting average along with 17 runs scored last season.

“These seniors have already done so much for us this summer in the way they have made the freshmen and underclassmen feel accepted and part of this team,” Gilbert said. “We always say around here that winning breeds, and it’s no different with softball. Our seniors are going to work hard and so is the rest of the team, so we’ll see what happens.” 

Other returning players this season will include Meredith Jones, Paisley Runyan, Kinlee Duck, and Shallen Mershon. 

Last season Mershon finished with three home runs along with 23 RBI’s and a .363 batting average. 

Runyan finished with a .400 average to go with 11 runs scored, while Duck hit .393 with 11 doubles, 37 runs scored and 43 RBI’s for the season. 

Meanwhile, Jones totaled a .424 average last year with 13 doubles, 21 RBI’s and 34 runs scored. 

Sulphur will have the luxury of using three pitchers this season in Harley Beesley, Blakelynn Barber and Owen West. 

West is a transfer who will be looking to make an immediate impact this season, while Beesley and Barker will look to improve on their solid 2018-19 seasons.

Barber was 13-2 overall in the circle, as she finished with a 2.27 ERA with 86 innings pitched in which she totaled 64 strikeouts for the season. 

Beesley had a solid season herself, totaling 128.2 innings for the season in which she finished with a 2.88 ERA with a 17-7 overall record with 114 strikeouts for the year. 

Sulphur will start the season Aug. 12 at home against Kingston, before hitting the road on Aug. 13 for a game against Chandler.

The Lady Bulldogs will then travel to Cushing for the Cushing Fall Classic tournament on Aug. 15-17, before playing their first district game against Davis at home on Aug. 19, before hosting Lexington on Aug. 20.

Sulphur will then co-host the Murray County Bash on Aug. 22-24, and will also host the Lake Country Conference tournament Sept. 26-28.