When Lacy Darity thinks back on the 2022 season, one word comes to mind.
The Mustang Broncos fell short of a state championship last week, losing to Moore in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
Darity’s squad didn’t go down without a fight though, scoring two runs late and nearly tying the game in the final innings.
Mustang’s third-year coach was more than impressed with the resilience the Broncos showed, especially with their backs against the wall. She says it’s what led to a district championship followed by a regional title and the program’s third straight state tournament appearance.
“They showed it all season,” Darity said. “From the start of the year when we had some question marks and got off to a slow start, they continued to play with a championship mindset and found a way to battle through adversity.”
The Broncos lost two of their first five games at Broken Arrow in August, but it was the team’s first district game following the tournament that Darity feels was a “springboard” for the remainder of the season.
Catcher Logan Pickelsimer (Sr.) and pitcher Landry Garza (Sr.) get set for Mustang’s state quarterfinals matchup against Moore on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. Pickelsimer and Garza are two of five Mustang seniors that helped lead the Broncos to the state tournament three straight years. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)
“That was the win that got us back on the right foot,” Darity said of an 8-4 victory over the Southmoore Sabercats on Aug. 16. “They were the reigning state champs and to transition from not having a great tournament or a great start to the season to beating them was impressive. That got us going.”
Mustang won nine straight district games before losing a 7-3 rematch with Southmoore. The Broncos won their remaining six district matchups to claim their first 6A District 1 crown in Darity’s three years.
“We knew that put us in a good position as far as winning a district championship,” Darity said. “To go through the district with only one loss – that’s by far the most success we’ve had.”
The Broncos won eight of their final nine regular season games and then punched their ticket to the state tournament against rival Yukon, outscoring the Millerettes 18-1 in two games during the regional tournament.
“There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the season, but the last two weeks of the season I felt like the team really came together as a group and were fighting for each other.
“To beat our built-in rival the way they did for the regional championship said a lot about the team’s mentality and fight.”
Darity also contributes much of this season’s success to the team’s five seniors: Landry Garza, Kiera McGahee, Logan Pickelsimer, Olivia See, and Mackie Vaught.
“Those five have been around for a long time and have been on varsity all four years,” Darity said. “They have been great leaders for this group.
“They led with love. …They took ownership early on as soon as offseason workouts started. They took the younger players under their wing and made everyone in the program comfortable and feel like family. We never had to worry about them leading in the wrong way, which was key to our success this year.”
Garza and McGahee were the team’s main starting pitchers, handling the bulk of the innings this year.
Pickelsimer was a defensive and offensive force behind the plate.
See and Vaught both played critical roles as well, making plays defensively, at the plate, and on the base paths.
“Losing Landry, Kiera, and Logan is especially tough not only because of their ability, but those are arguably the most important positions on the field,” Darity said. “They shouldered the load for four years and were the anchors. It’s really tough to look at the success they’ve had and duplicate that. Then you talk about Olivia and Mackie and everything they’ve done in the outfield with the plays they make on top of their ability at the plate and to run the bases. Not to mention their leadership.
“Losing all five of those girls is going to be really difficult. You just can’t replicate the type of production they had on and off the field.”
Juniors Fae Cornish, Shaye Rowe, Rylee Hannon, Mackenzie Sessions, Emerson Pegram, Eden Anderson, and Arionna McElroy will now take the mantle as seniors next season. The group has already played a vital role in the program’s progression.
“It’s nice to know that we have a super talented class coming back to take on those roles left behind by Landry, Kiera, Logan, Olivia, and Mackie,” Darity said. “We just have to continue building where we’re at as a family and continue that championship mindset.”
Underclassmen Lexi Kierstead, Reese Poage, Abigail Keele, Natalia Delgado, and Rylann Beeson also played a vital role for the Broncos in 2022 – a trend Darity sees continuing over the next three seasons.
“This is only the beginning for them,” Darity said. “We anticipated a couple of them playing consistently this season, but it happened a little earlier as far as Reese and Lexi are concerned. They all had the confidence to do their part and made things happen when we needed it.
“That says a lot about their future and the future of Mustang softball.”
The Broncos finished the season at 23-9, including their third straight regional title and first district championship since Darity was named head coach.
“Every team is different,” Darity added. “But as far as chemistry, this team had the most of any over the last three seasons. They built a foundation on family and a championship mindset. We’re excited for what the future holds for the graduating seniors, the players returning, and the program overall.”