The Minco Lady Bulldogs will take the field for the first game of the fast-pitch softball season on Monday, Aug. 11.
Minco Coach Jason Little said his squad will be much younger than last year after graduating four seniors, but he is optimistic about this season.
"We are going to be very young with only one senior this season," Little said. "We lost Corey Phelps, Sydni Hutchinson, Shelbi Hickey and Taryn Williams and it is going to be very difficult to replace all of that experience. All four of them started."
The Lady Bulldogs finished last season with an overall record of 16-14.
"We didn’t finish even close to where I thought we would. I was expecting us to win over 20 games," Little said.
"Even though we are younger this year, I think those girls have an advantage because those four seniors we had had three different coaches during their career. This team has a different attitude and I feel like we are better prepared because I am not having to tell them everything more than once, they just do it."
Callie McMullen is the only senior on this year’s team.
"Callie has been absolutely wonderful as a leader, which is shocking because two years ago she used to be the kind of player that just showed up and did what she was told," Little said. "She has really grown up and I am proud of her."
Coach Little said he may start as many as three freshman this year. A young player that he is excited about is sophomore Monica Munn.
"Monica played great for us last year as a freshman," he said. "She bats with a lot of power and she will probably be our clean-up hitter this year."
The Lady Bulldogs will have a challenging schedule ahead of them.
"I challenge anyone to find a conference that is better than ours," Little said. "Five of the teams in the conference made it to the state tournament last year. Wayne, Central Marlow and El Reno are going to be very tough teams to face."
Minco will face some non-conference opponents that they have not faced in some time, including teams like Riverside, Gracemont and Community Christian.
Junior Riley Dacus said despite some of the challenges ahead for the Lady Bulldogs, she is expecting several players to fill in for some of the seniors who left from last year’s squad.
"We’re going to miss the seniors we lost last year but this is an opportunity for the younger players to step up to the challenge of building on last year’s accomplishments," Dacus said. "Coach Little sets a good example for our team but he also brings the added dimension of personal experience. He strongly encourages us to exhibit the characteristics of leadership, perseverance and integrity."
Coach Little said the community has come together to support the softball program.
"I have never been told ‘No’ and everyone has been great in making sure the girls have what they need," Little said.
"I love these girls. They have worked extremely hard this summer."
The Lady Bulldogs will host Community Christian on Monday, Aug. 11 at 4:30 p.m. and will also host Ninnekah on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m.