Before the state slow-pitch championship tipped off, the Mustang coaches and players knew their program history didn’t match up with their competitors.
Entering the tournament, Moore (9), Westmoore (11), Southmoore (2), Broken Arrow (1), Jenks (1) had all hoisted the trophy at least once, while the Lady Broncos had only been playing the sport for four years.
Despite the vast gulf in experience, when the weekend was over, Mustang was crowned the 2021 6A Slow-pitch Softball Champions.
“Just surreal. Surreal. I’m so proud of them,” Mustang coach Lacy Darity said. “I mean, beginning of March, we weren’t very good. And we had a lot of questions about how good are we
actually going to be this year. We just persevered and found ways to get better. It seemed like we never peaked. We peaked in the state tournament in the right time, but they just kept believing.”
Originally, the tournament was scheduled to be held over two days. But rain forced the OSSAA to move the entire tourney to one day at the Firelake Fields in Shawnee.
Mustang (21-7) had to come back and beat Jenks in the opening round to set up a clash with top-ranked Southmoore in the semifinals. The SaberCats rolled through the competition during the regular season to the tune of a 20-3 record.
That included beating the Lady Broncos twice before by a combined score of 42-22.
Yet, it was a different Broncos squad that showed up the third time around and they dispatched Southmoore 17-13.
“We just told the girls that Southmoore game, ‘Hey, it’s hard to beat a good team three times.’ We didn’t feel like we played anywhere close to our best games when we played Southmoore the first two times,” Darity said. “We knew they expended a lot of energy in the Deer Creek game. We really wanted to come out and just keep our energy up.”
The win propelled them into the title game against Moore. The Lions had also beaten Mustang High School during the regular season by a score of 16-4.
Early on, it looked like Moore was going to do the same again. In the top of the fifth inning, they trailed Moore 11-7.
But the Broncos stormed back to tie the game at 11-11.
Mustang put the contest away in the top of the sixth when they blasted five straight solo homers and grabbed a 16-12 advantage.
Mustang added one more run in the seventh then shut out the Lions to close out the tourney and secure the school’s first-ever slow-pitch title.
“I think it just took us all believing in ourselves,” senior Payton Henry said. “You know, we had a few skeptics against us, but in the end, we know our potential, we know what we can go do, and we just all believed in ourselves to get it done.”
When the season started, Darity admits Mustang was not very good. The fact they lost three of the first five games was a testament to that.
But Darity says the team trusted the process and just kept on working.
“We kept pushing them every day in practice telling them, ‘You’re going to get better. We’re going to get there. Don’t give up on it now.’ And they did,” Darity said. “It’s just a testament to their belief and their hard work. Our seniors being the backbone of our team and just carrying us all the way to the state championship. I just know how hard they’ve worked. The belief they put in our coaching staff, and the belief they had in one another. We were down a couple of different times today in different games and they never gave up. They just continued to find a way to scratch and claw and get back in the games. And we challenged them, ‘Win the inning. Win the inning.’ And they took it to heart and they did. I’m just proud of them.”