Back in August, Lacy Darity wasn’t exactly sure how the season would turn out.
The Mustang Broncos were 3-5 to start the 2023 campaign, having lost all four games at the Broken Arrow tournament, followed by a shutout loss to Westmoore at the Southmoore festival.
Something had to change. Darity’s squad wasn’t playing up to the program’s lofty standards – yet.
“We had a lot of questions about how things would go,” the fourth-year skipper said. “We were losing games we shouldn’t have been losing and were struggling to put it together.
“But then the focus changed.”
The No. 4 Broncos regrouped and went on an incredible run, winning 20 of their final 21 games, including a perfect 14-0 mark in Class 6A District 4.
They won nine straight before a 5-2 loss to Stillwater on Sept. 16 and then went on an 11-game win streak, capped with three victories in the regional tournament.
The Mustang Broncos celebrate a play during a game earlier this season at the Mustang Softball Complex. The Broncos won 20 of their final 21 games, including three blowout wins over Jenks and Edmond Santa Fe in the regional tournament. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)
Mustang beat Jenks and Edmond Santa Fe (twice) by a combined score of 25-3 to punch its ticket to state this week, which begins with a heavyweight, quarterfinals matchup against defending champion Edmond Memorial at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday at Firelake Ball Park in Shawnee.
“There has been a lot of growth with this team,” Darity said. “We knew after the rough start that we still had a shot to finish at the top of our district and host a regional. That became the primary focus.
“We haven’t had that kind of adversity in the last three years so for them to put it behind them and not let it deter them from their goals the rest of the season, that really showed what this team is all about.”
A 7-6 win over Southmoore, who qualified for state and has been seeded seventh, sparked Mustang’s turnaround. The Broncos cranked out wins over Choctaw, the eight-seed at state, and Purcell, who reached state as the five-seed in Class 4A.
They also defeated No. 6 seed Deer Creek prior to the team’s Broken Arrow tournament woes.
Darity, who has now led Mustang to state in all four of her seasons at the school and has also guided the program to a pair of slow pitch state titles, was especially pleased with the team’s play in the regional tournament.
Her squad is starting to peak at the right time.
“We played three complete ballgames,” she said. “We talked to the girls about playing well on all three phases – offense, defense, and base running. They were really focused and intentional with what we wanted to do offensively. And defensively, I think we played really well and have gotten better there throughout the season.”
“We’re finally putting our plan into action.”
Reese Poage (So.) smashes a ball during a game earlier this season at the Mustang Softball Complex. Poage helped lead the Broncos to three wins in the regional tournament, going 6-for-11 with three home runs and one double. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)
Mustang racked up a staggering 38 hits against Jenks and Edmond Santa Fe, including 16 extra-base knocks. The Broncos smashed eight home runs with seven doubles and a triple.
The top and middle of the lineup was tremendous as well as the bottom third.
Seniors Rylee Hannon, Arionna McElroy, and Eden Anderson combined for 12 hits from the top third of the order, including four bombs from Anderson and three doubles from McElroy. Anderson went 3-for-3 with two homers in the championship game against the Wolves.
Reese Poage (So.), Lexi Kierstead (So.), and Kenzie Sessions (Sr.) held down the fort from the middle part of the lineup.
Poage went 6-for-11 in the tournament with three homers and one double while Kierstead collected four hits with a bomb and a triple. Sessions finished with at least one hit in all three games.
Madeline Rush (Jr.), Emerson Pegram (Sr.), and Shaye Rowe (Sr.) were locked in as well from the bottom three spots, combining for 13 hits. Rush went 3-for-10, Pegram went 6-for-8, and Rowe went 4-for-9.
“That might have been the first time this season we put together three games where I was like ‘wow,’” Darity said. “That makes things so much easier.”
Mustang’s coaching staff has been especially impressed with its junior starting pitcher Amelia Mason. She tallied three wins in the regional tournament, including a no-hitter victory in the championship game.
Amelia Mason (Jr.) helped guide the Broncos to three wins in the regional tournament, defeating Jenks and Edmond Santa Fe (twice) with 16 strikeouts. She allowed just eight hits and two earned runs over 20 innings. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)
Mason allowed just two earned runs on eight hits and five walks over 20 innings. She racked up 16 strikeouts.
“Hopefully that gives her a lot of confidence going into the state tournament,” Darity said of the junior hurler. “She is already pretty confident and has gotten better and more consistent late in the season.
“We could tell she was nervous against Jenks. It’s her first varsity start in a regional, but she settled down and pitched really well and guided her team to the state tournament. She has really come a long way this year.”
The Broncos have been knocked out in the quarterfinals twice and the semifinals once over the last three state tournaments. However, this year’s upperclassmen have that experience under their belts, as well as a pair of slow pitch state title rings.
They’re ready for more.
“For the seniors, it’s their fourth trip,” Darity said. “That’s pretty special. Not a lot of groups can say they got to experience the state tournament all four years in school. They know what it takes to win a state title with two in slow pitch.
“Now they’re excited to go and win one in fast pitch and send these seniors out the right way.”