By: Trey Hunter
Mustang’s softball program begins a new era under coach, Bryan Howard on Thursday.
The Lady Broncos open their season at Putnam City West, Howard’s first official game as head coach. But although Howard hasn’t officially christened the coaches box for Mustang, he’s already developed a firm foundation with one goal in mind.
“I feel extremely confident with what we have right now,” he said. “We have as much talent as I’ve been around. We have everything to win it, but the girls have to understand that they also have to become a team and put everyone around them before themselves. That’s what it takes to win a state championship.”
Mustang will enter the season young, but led by experience.
Seniors, Jayden Chestnut and Jaqulyn Kelm make up the team’s battery. Chestnut is committed to the University of Oklahoma and dominates the circle with an assortment of pitches. Kelm has developed into one of the team’s leaders according to Howard and will be expected to carry the load behind the dish for most of the season.
Senior, Caisey Jones, has also shown signs of becoming one of the team’s leaders this season. She heads the infield at short with three freshman surrounding her, Zoe Jones, Karis Clark and Kylie Dodson. Dodson will also be counted on to backup Chestnut as the team’s second starting pitcher. She has shown signs of controlling that role during the summer.
“The first 15 games will be crucial for our young ones,” Howard said. “We will go through some growing pains and make some mistakes. And they’ll be thrown into the fire at the Broken Arrow Tournament. It’s how they recover that will be the biggest part of the maturing process. How they learn from their mistakes and become more consistent as the season goes on.”
Senior, Hailee Milburn leads the outfield along with a pair of freshmen, Katelyn Thomas and Zion Archer. Thomas will also be counted on at the plate. She is expected to lead-off and set the table for the middle of Mustang’s lineup.
Mustang will also feature a pair of utility players, freshman Audrie Morison and junior, Lexi Vargas. Each can play multiple positions and each has shown they can be relied upon at the plate.
“It’s all going to come down to how much we put the team first,” Howard said. “We have all of the individual talent in the world, but individual talent won’t win state championships. We have to become tight as a group and learn to put that person to the left and the right of you before yourself. Once we do that, we have everything you need.”
“I’m extremely excited for the season. It’s going to be a great journey and I can’t wait to get it going. I believe this team can win a state title, be we have a lot of work to do.”