The Mustang Broncos have all the ingredients for a state title run.
Experience in the outfield, versatility in the infield, speed, power, depth, a prolific coaching staff.
But in softball, the keys to success mostly reside inside the circle and behind the plate. It’s tough to win at any level without a solid pitching staff and stability at catcher. The battery must be charged and ready to go.
The Broncos can check that off the list, too.
Mustang will feature three senior battery mates this year – pitchers Landry Garza and Kiera McGahee and catcher Logan Pickelsimer – as the team not only looks to reach the state playoffs for a third straight year, but to take the next step and play for the Class 6A state championship.
“This year we have a really good chance to make it to that final game,” said McGahee, who started 14 games last season, going 11-2 with 74 strikeouts and a 2.68 earned run average. “With the leadership and everything we have in place; we definitely have a shot.”
McGahee, who is committed to Seminole State College, and classmate Landry Garza, committed to the University of Central Oklahoma, will shoulder the pitching load this season according to Mustang coach Lacy Darity.
Last year, former Bronco Lauryn Cottrell ate up 58 innings over 11 starts. That workload, for the most part, should be split by the senior duo that has built its relationship around trust.
“We’re excited because her (Garza) and I feel we can do a lot of really good things together,” McGahee said. “It’s great to know that I’m not on my own and neither is she. I know that if I’m struggling, she is going to be there to pick me up. If she isn’t at her best, I can come in and help shoulder the load too.”
Garza, who went 6-2 in 2021 with 47 strikeouts and a 2.61 ERA over 56.1 innings, feels the pair’s connection will be strong heading into the new season.
“It’s going to be the best it has ever been,” she said. “As a pitcher, you always want to be the best or pitch more than anyone else. Neither of us can do it on our own. I can rely on her and she can rely and lean on me. We’ve both realized that we need each other.”
Darity watched each pitcher grow in 2021 and has high expectations for the upcoming season, especially due to the experience they bring to the table.
“It’s huge for us,” she said. “They have so much between the two of them that I don’t feel like there is a situation that we can get into that would phase them. They’ve been around the block and have seen it all. Their mentality is that it’s their senior year and as senior pitchers, they have to lead this team.”
Pickelsimer agrees with Darity and has already developed an understanding of how to handle each pitcher.
“Landry and Kiera are pretty similar pitchers as far as the types of pitchers they are,” Pickelsimer said. “Their personalities are a little different though. So, I’ve learned to talk to them a little differently and approach them different. Landry is a little more serious while with Kiera I try to relax and joke with her depending on the situation.
“It’s great to work with two seasoned pitchers. I’m comfortable with them shaking me off and totally fine with what they want to throw. They know how the game works and know what it’s like throwing in the state tournament. That really helps us mentally prepare.”
Darity says Pickelsimer is the perfect receiver for her battery mates.
The Oklahoma State-commit is a student of the game, caught scouting other teams by her coach last week during scrimmages. After playing mostly second base and third base in 2021, the Broncos are excited to have her behind the dish.
“She does her homework,” Darity said. “There was a game in between our scrimmages, and she comes up to me and starts breaking down other teams’ pitchers and hitters. She’s awesome and is a really talented defensive catcher.”
Garza and McGahee realize Pickelsimer’s importance behind the plate and how it affects their performance in the circle. They know their catcher’s job isn’t always throwing out runners or blocking balls in the dirt.
“She’s a great team player,” Garza said. “She adapts well to whoever she catches and she’s not a crazy, headstrong catcher. She is very intentional with what she does and is able to look at us and give that look or gesture to let us know she has our backs.”
McGahee agrees with her pitching partner, adding that Pickelsimer keeps her calm during crucial situations.
“That kind of relationship is inanely important.”
The trio also acknowledge their leadership roles going into their senior season, focusing on a positive culture where all players feel they belong, especially underclassmen. They believe building strong relationships with teammates is critical to winning a state title.
“We have seen so many different things that it has given us a different perspective on how to lead,” Pickelsimer said. “We’re all close and have been through a lot together. We want the underclassmen to feel that bond too and be able to speak out and take on that leadership role after we graduate.”
October is right around the corner. Garza, McGahee, and Pickelsimer have one more chapter to write, as well as classmates Olivia See, Brookelyn Mitchell, and Mackie Vaught.
Mustang’s battery is fully charged.
“We have nothing to lose,” Garza said. “We’ve worked so hard and we have the mentality that this year is really our year to get to the state championship.”