Joey Stengell heaped copious amounts of praise on his girls after Saturday’s blue and white showcase, but admitted that he was unsure of how their play would translate to a game against an unfamiliar opponent and accepted that he probably would not know for sure until the first game was in the books.
It just so happened, the Lady Bulldogs’ first game of the season was against Lawton MacArthur, a team that did well overall last season and fell just short of making it to the state tournament.
Stengell believes the Highlanders to be one of the toughest teams in the district and even with that knowledge, he was excited for the game to begin and to get the chance to finally see just how well his girls would stack up against them.
After all, they have to play at some point and Stengell believed this to be a preferable situation as opposed to battling it out against a team without much of a chance to make an impact this season.
MacArthur graduated six seniors this past spring, a hit that would negatively impact any team, but they are resilient and are going into this season with the belief that only they can determine their own path.
Luckily for Stengell, his girls were ready to play.
The Lady Bulldogs’ bats consistently connected with the ball throughout all seven innings, something that Stengell is ecstatic about.
And even though the Highlanders managed to put across 10 runs on 13 hits, it was not enough to overcome a very active night by Stengell’s squad.
“We were great on offense scoring 14 runs,” Stengell said. “We were aggressive with our base running and really seemed to move runners station-to-station very well although we gave away too many free bases and committed some costly errors.”
The thing about Stengell’s group of girls is, even with the costly Lady Bulldog errors and the Highlanders making it competitive late in the game, they knew how to stay composed and fight until the very end to preserve their lead.
The Lady Bulldogs’ ace — Kymbree McKee — had a very strong showing through the first four innings, giving up only one run during that period and because of the way the Lady Bulldogs were swinging the bats, it gave her a chance to get comfortable in their first game.
Every Altus player recorded at least one hit in the game.
Kelcee Baker reached base three times in four tries, plated three runs and one run-batted-in — or RBI.
Sydney Simmons also had a stellar night reaching home three times and finishing the game with one RBI.
Leading 10-1 through four and one-half innings, the Lady Bulldogs seemed destined to coast to their first win of the season, but MacArthur found a little bit of life in the bottom of the fifth, putting across four runs before a fly out by MacArthur standout Kerrigan Thorne.
Not to be outdone, the Lady Bulldogs built upon their lead in the top of the sixth by scoring three. A single by Sydney Simmons lit the fire as it allowed Haley Newman to score and Brooke Hill added to the burst as her hit allowed Simmons to get home and increase the Lady Bulldog lead by eight.
MacArthur scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth and seemed content to give the Lady Bulldogs the win as the offense sputtered and allowed the visiting Bulldogs to feel safe with their lead.
In the top of the seventh and final inning, the Lady Bulldogs added one run to their total, putting them up by a score of 14 – 7.
The Lady Bulldogs felt confident the game was theirs and seemed to relax a bit going into the final frame.
MacArthur had other plans.
MacArthur began rallying for a comeback by hitting the ball well and getting runs across home plate in the final inning.
One after another, the Lady Highlanders began to chip away at the Lady Bulldogs lead, plating three before McKee managed to get the final batter to ground out, ending the Highlanders rally and giving the Lady Bulldogs their first win of the season.
The Lady Bulldogs never played from behind in their first game of the season and lead MacArthur by as many as nine points.
The game was a confidence builder for the Lady Bulldogs. It allowed them to get a good idea of what they can achieve if they do everything right.
Stengell had a pretty good idea early on how valuable his hitters would be. He knew he had a few power hitters in the mix and was confident his girls could provide the hits.
The Lady Bulldogs scored their 14 runs off of an impressive 17 hits.
“I am proud of these girls and this was a great way to open our season,” Stengell said. “We will have to improve some areas as we go forward but our goal is to get better every game and build on this performance.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ junior varsity squad played following the varsity game.
The Highlanders did not have a junior varsity squad and therefore played their varsity group against the Lady Bulldogs, beating the Bulldogs by a score of 9-1.
The Lady Bulldogs will travel to Noble on Thursday and look to add to their win total. The game is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.