Oklahoma Christian University Softball came into their season with great potential.
“Being picked preseason No. 1 in our conference was a nice compliment,” Head Coach, Mark Hays said. “But it puts a target on your pack. So, you have to go out there and try to prove that you’re good.
So far they have been successful, seeing themselves nationally ranked at No. 12.
Their next home game is against Texas A&M International next Friday, March 12. Hays spoke on his expectations for the game.
“You never know that far in advance,” Hays said. Being healthy and being confident is important. I feel like if we’re playing well, we can compete with anybody in the country.”
This bold claim was put to the test this last weekend in a three-game tournament in Las Vegas against No. 11 in the nation, Concordia University Irvine.
“It was three really good games,” Hays said. “We won one and they won two.”
These were the team’s first losses all season, tallying their record to 10 wins and two losses. The tournament was not a part of their regularly scheduled season.
“Only seven Division II (teams) in the whole state are playing this year in California,” Hays said. “We needed some extra games due to inclement weather, and they were really needing games. So, we just agreed to play.”
Hays remains confident in the team’s potential despite the outcome.
“In our offense and defense, we haven’t really hit our stride,” Hays said. “We haven’t been bad, we just haven’t really come close to reaching our potential.”
Changes regarding the roster have prevented the team from clicking into place. .
“We’ve got a couple of positions that we’re still having competition for and, by this time of year, you kind of like having your lineups,” Hays said.
Some of this may result from the team’s youth.
“We have a lot of new freshmen coming in,” Hays said. “So, it’s a totally new team compared to last year.”
Freshmen make up 13 of the 24 athletes on the team. That is a lot of new faces, but some veterans have returned thanks to COVID-19.
“Because of COVID-19, the NCAA last year allowed student athletes to come back and use their year of eligibility,” Hays said.
One returning senior is second baseman, Brienna Dunckel. Her insight into the Vegas matchup may help the team improve.
“I think that we just need to learn to grow, back each other up,” Dunckel said. “Some days, people are going to be off and other people need to pick them up.”
They faced fierce competition in their tournament.
“It’s probably the fastest team that we’ve faced. They caught us on our heels a little bit,” Dunckel said. “But it was good to see that and for us to overcome it by the third game.”
Their ability to adapt certainly provides optimism for the remainder of their season.
“Because we have a lot of freshmen, it’s really moldable for Coach,” Dunckel said. “I think if we can grow together, we’ll have an amazing team. So, we’re excited.”
Dunckel has particular excitement for this season as she gets to play with her sister, something she has not done before. Dunckel’s sister, Katelyn, who is five years younger and plays shortstop.
“We’ve never played any athletics together until I was able to get an extra year through COVID-19,” Dunckel said. “So, now I get to play with my sister and that’s definitely my favorite thing about OC softball.”
Having played 12 of the 44 games scheduled for this year, there are 32 left. For those wishing to show their support, the next home game is against Texas A&M International next Friday, March 12.