CHICKASHA – With both Drover baseball and softball seasons ending the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament, our final In the Saddle of the season is a special two-part show, featuring Assistant Softball Coach Ken Richardson and Assistant Baseball Coach Sam Hayden.
The Drover softball team (37-24) is ending a strong season that led to the most wins for the program since 2006.
A mix of freshmen talent and veteran Drovers gelled together quickly to produce the strong ball club that saw nine athletes earn All-Sooner Athletic Conference honors.
“They really just kind of meshed together right away,” Richardson said. “It was good bunch of freshmen who came in and knew how to play the softball game, and the seniors kind of took them under their wings and helped them out a lot.”
Among the nine Drovers named All-SAC was freshman Kaylin Taylor, who was named SAC Newcomer of the Year.
“She has the speed. She played outfield for us in every game. She’s a good kid all around, and she deserved what she got,” Richardson said.
The Drovers are losing four seniors, including important positions in the infield and at pitcher, but Richardson said he and Head Coach Jadyn Wallis already have signed some players to help build on this year’s success.
“We will miss those seniors. I’ve been with those seniors four years, and they did a good job for us,” he said. “We’ve already signed five or six girls coming in … I think we won’t drop off much. I think they will come in and do a good job.”
After a slow start to the season, the Drovers (27-22) finished the season strong, sweeping their last three conference opponents and putting in a great run at the conference tournament.
“It was the toughest start in the conference,” Hayden said. “We kind of battled our way through that, and then everybody started to come together, and it ended up pretty good toward the end of the season.”
The coaches brought in new 23 players this season after graduating 16 players from the 2013 team that made school history by playing in the NAIA Baseball National Championship tournament.
“It was a bunch of new faces that were trying to get acclimated with everybody,” Hayden said. “But overall, they pretty much came together well; well enough to give us a winning record and a chance to go to the national tournament. We just fell one game short.”
After replacing nearly an entire team last off season, Hayden and Head Coach Mike Ross have a much easier time recruiting this season. The Drovers are losing five seniors from the lineup, including two All-Conference athletes.
“Recruiting is going OK. We’ve already signed five guys so far,” Hayden said. “We will see if we can get lucky and sign a couple guys we’ve been on for a quite a while … It should make, at least on paper, for a good year next year.”
This is the final In the Saddle of the 2013-14 season.