Lone Grove softball eyeing a return trip to 4A State Championship game
It’s safe to say that advancing to the state championship game is one of the best feelings in sports, but it’s rare for a squad to make back-to-back trips, especially when key contributors graduate.
The Lone Grove High School softball team is aware of that, but it doesn't worry first-year head coach Dennis Furr as he knows what’s expected in Lady Horn country.
“This is Lone Grove softball — we’re going to win a state championship,” Furr said. “I hope that’s the goal every year that we’re here. That (a state title) is an expectation and that it’s a possibility. This year, definitely, we feel like we have a team that can go compete to win a state championship. If we can just get a little better every day. That’s kind of what we’re striving for.”
The Lady Horns are in good position to reach their goals, even though they lost five athletes to graduation, highlighted by all-staters Emmy Guthrie and Noa Dodson.
Those two will tough to replace, but Lone Grove has experience and depth on its side with 22 athletes on the roster.
“We still have kids like Chloe Yeatts and Logan Ketchum who are going to hit a lot of home runs,” Furr said. “Mattie Roj is a kid who I feel like has gotten a lot better this summer. She’s going to have a great year for us.”
Furr mentioned Silo transfer NayNay Turner as someone who will help out at a number of positions. The first-year skipper also spoke about Lexi Meadows and Jordan Ramsay, but he expects great things from everyone.
“There a lot of kids who are going to have big years this year,” Furr said. “I know I’m forgetting some. Malea McMurtrey is an incredible athlete. I’m excited to see what she does.”
However, those returning starters aren’t guaranteed to take their same roles as a few positions are up for grabs.
“There are kids who are vying for spots,” Furr said. “There’s some competition at several spots where we’re having to replace people. I don’t think we’re really going to drop off at those places since we have depth. And the competition has really made us better, just having to compete to get on the field.”
One example is pitcher as Emma Wilson and Kaydence Lampkin are competing to be the ace. Wilson, a junior, has experience on her side though, as Lampkin is just a freshman. Nevertheless, the No. 1 pitcher will be asked to share the burden with the rest of the team.
“They have to learn to use those eight kids that are on the field with them,” Furr said. “We’re trying to limit walks because we’re going to score a lot of runs. Our defense — I couldn’t imagine somebody having a better defensive team out there around the pitching position.”
That will be important for the Lady Horns as they gallop through District 4A-3, which features Dickson, Madill, Marlow, Plainview, Sulphur and Pauls Valley.
“We’re going to have to go compete every day to win our district,” Furr said.
That’s not Lone Grove’s only challenge on the schedule though, as there are other games that will put the Lady Horns to the test.
“We’re going to the Southmoore Festival,” Furr said. “I’m not sure of our schedule there yet, but we’re going to play some of the bigger schools, too. That’s generally a 6A event. We were able to add Carl Albert to our schedule toward the end of the season, so there’s some games where we’re going to get challenged a lot. That’s what we need. We need to be pushed, so when you get in that state championship game or get in the state tournament, you’re ready to compete at the level.”