By Chuck Reherman
A young Yukon softball team opens the season with a challenging first week.
The Millerettes open at home Monday, hosting Blanchard, then hits the road to face a tough slate of games in the Broken Arrow Tournament.
YHS, who went 27-4 last year and reached the state tournament, will face an experienced Lady Lion team that is coming off a 34-4 season and was the class 4A state runner-up.
Blanchard lost only three players from last year’s team and brings in a solid pitching staff. YHS returns only three starters, but new head coach Katy Hoke is excited to get the season started.
Monday will also be the first time that most of the Millerette team and possibly the entire team (some have been off at national tournaments with their club team) will be all together.
“I am excited and we are ready to go,” Hoke said. “I am excited to have everyone on the field and back together. There is an excitement and an anticipation that comes with a real game, and it is hard to get through scrimmages.
“Blanchard has a good program, I don’t know what to expect, but it will be a good opener for us,” she said. “The last few years we have opened up with district play and this gives us a week a to together on the field for district games.
“Blanchard will be a good challenge for us. We are not going in at all thinking that we will just blow through it, we will have to work to beat Blanchard.”
The Millerettes will put a young team on the field, but does have experience on the mount with Bri Johnson back. Ashlynn Bruce returns behind the plate. Hannah Hurtz returns to the outfield and Makenna Johnson and Brooke Mathers did log part-time starting duty in the outfield.
YHS also played in the Mustang Festival on Friday and Hoke was looking for those games to help sort out of the starting line-up.
The Millerettes close their week playing in the Broken Arrow Tournament.
YHS will play in Pool A of the 28-team field. Also in the pool is Broken Arrow, Westmoore, Mannford, Collinsville, Coweta, Bixby and Tahlequah Sequoyah.
The Millerettes play Broken Arrow at 10 a.m. Friday and meet Mannford at 11:30 a.m.
YHS comes back to play Collinsville at 5 p.m. in their final game of the day.
On Saturday, the Millerettes play Coweta at 9 a.m. and faces Bixby at 12:30 p.m.
At 4 p.m. the pool A teams will play the pool B teams with the winners of each pool playing for the championship.
The Millerettes played for the title two years ago, but saw the tournament rained out last year.
“The first game with Broken Arrow will be a challenge,” Hoke said. “It is always a good tournament and we will get some good games in.”
The Millerettes saw the scrimmage festival at Shawnee rained out early in the week, but did scrimmage Bethany on Wednesday and played in a scrimmage festival in Mustang.
YHS outscored Bethany 10-2 in eight innings.
“I saw some good things and some things we need to work on,” Hoke said. “It was really hard to get a true idea with so many players absent. I think there is a lot of potential as far as pitchers.
“We had quite a few freshmen pitchers out there today which is good for the future,” she said. “I would like to see a little more at the plate, we will need to work on that. We may need to manufacture more runs this year than what we have had to do in the past.”
The Millerettes did manufacture runs against Bethany and did have some key hits to drive in runs.
“It was our first time as a team to see live pitching,” Hoke said. “Some of the girls don’t play summer ball, so it has been a while since they have seen live pitching. But, we have others that played all summer.
“Not being able to play in the festival at Shawnee, meant we didn’t get to play four games (two varsity and two JV),” Hoke said. “They only got two at-bats today. We let everyone go to the plate at least twice today and few of them got to hit three times. We just didn’t hit the ball to keep scoring to bring more people up. When you go three up and three down, you don’t get many trips to the plate.
“The potential is there to go far with it,” she said. “They have to pull together and work hard at it, but we have a chance to go far with it.”
By Chuck Reherman