A new year brings new beginnings and an aim to improve the actions of 2020. As the Oklahoma University softball team begins their 2020 seasons this weekend, coaches and players look to meet their goals, win games and set a tone of victory in the new year and new conference.
For the first time, the softball team will be competing in the Lone Star Conference. According to head softball Coach Shanon Hays, the Lone Star Conference is the best Division II conference in the country.
In the pre-season polls, Oklahoma Christian tied fourth in the Lone Star Conference. Assistant coach Shalee Cordell said the new conference will be competitive, but she is anxious for the team to prove themselves.
“I am ready to get the season started and see what our girls are capable of,” Cordell said. “I know we will be a competitive team, and if we play well day in and day out, we will be tough to beat. Most every team will be competitive, but Texas A&M-Kingsville finished our year last year in the regional tournament, and they will be tough to beat again this year.”
Last year the softball team had a historic season, winning the Heartland Conference title and advancing to the regional championship game in the NCAA Division II tournament. They lost in the regional championship game to No. 3 Texas A&M Kingsville and finished the season 40-16. Texas A&M-Kingsville, also in the Lone Star Conference, sits at No. 1 in the conference.
Senior Bailey Strecker is among five starters returning for Oklahoma Christian this season. She said the youngness of the team will be one of their strengths, in diversity of position and energy.
“There are so many new faces this year; we are well rounded and have depth in every position,” Strecker said. “Every girl is very athletic and can play at a very high level. The ability to move people around and have a great lineup from start to finish is another strength we have. The sheer diversity we have is another strength. We have all of our bases covered. As long as we stay focused, we will compete in every aspect of the game.”
The youth of the team also brings a firm foundation for success to be built upon.
“We have a very young team this year; it is promising for this year and years to come,” Strecker said. “The talent level we have is amazing. Every player we have is a competitor and knows how to be successful. I am very excited for this season to start to see how we play against someone else other than ourselves.”
To set the expectation of success and teamwork, Coach Cordell said the team focuses on two mottos they have visibly posted in their locker room to set the players’ minds on positive thoughts as they compete.
“The door into the locker room says, ‘Encourage one another daily – Hebrews 3:13,’ and the door leading into our indoor facility says, ‘Trust the Process,’” Cordell said. “We try to base our team around these two mottos because it molds who we are as a team and what we are trying to accomplish. We talk daily about respecting the game. I try to bring full energy daily, sending positive vibes to all the players through all of our practices so hopefully they feel my positive energy and it will carry over to them.”
As the team begins competition, Strecker said she loves softball because it prepares the players for life outside of softball, which as a senior she will face soon.
“As a game of failure, it teaches you how to handle failure and bounce back,” Strecker said. “The team aspect of it has taught me how to lean on my teammates in hard times and be there for them when they need [it]. Softball as a collegiate athlete has taught me so many things in the aspect of time management, accountability and overall team communication. I believe softball prepares athletes to be successful in the world of ‘adulting or life after softball.”
The softball team will play their first two games of the 2020 season this afternoon at Majestic Park in Las Vegas, NV, in the Desert Stinger Tournament. The Eagles will play Central Washington University at 1:30 p.m. and Montana State University-Billings at 4 p.m. They will play two more games on Saturday.