By Chuck Reherman
A pair of teams with experience returning from the state semifinals in 2018 will square off in the softball season opener Monday.
Yukon hosts class 5A and Canadian County foe Piedmont in a 5:30 p.m. game at the Millerette Softball Complex.
The Millerettes return seven starters from the class 6A state semifinalist team, while the Lady Wildcats have the majority of their team back that reached the 5A state semifinals.
YHS opens the season Monday, hosting Piedmont in a 5:30 p.m. game. The game is also Alumni Night, where former YHS players will be introduced as well as current players.
The night will also include a hit-a-thon that anyone can participate in as well as retired sets of jerseys for sale as well as new softball apparel.
The Lady Wildcats return a team that features speed on the basepaths and does have some power hitters. PHS was one of the top run scoring teams in class 5A last year.
“This opening game will be a challenge for us, Piedmont is a very goodteam,” Millerette head coach Katy Hoke said. “I feel we are ready to play. We did have one more scrimmage (at Mustang) and we will know more after that.
“We have the speed this year and we have the option of playing small ball, but we also have a lot of power,” she said. “We want to have that option and that will keep teams on their toes.
“The players have it in them to make it as far as they want to go and if they get the confidence in themselves that will be the key.”
YHS returns catcher Ashlynn Bruce, who was second on the team in home runs last season. Makenna Johnson returns at shortstop, A.J. Rayburn at second base, Jordan Schlarb at first. In the outfield, Hannah Hurtz returns in left and Brooke Mathers in centerfield.
“We have an idea of who we will start in the opening game, but whether it we will stay way or not, I’m not sure,” Hoke said. “But, we are getting closer to what we want to do. With the talent and depth, it has made it challenging, but that is what we like.
“We will have some situations where who is on the mound, will depend on who is playing second base, in right field, and if we have to make that change, there will be some others.”
The Millerettes faced their third pre-season opponent on Wednesday in the Yukon Scrimmage Festival. The Millerettes beat Elk City 7-1 after holding an intrasquad scrimmage earlier.
“We saw some really good things today,” Hoke said. “Pitching was better. Kaylee (Bradley) looked really good in the first game throwing against the varsity team. We have some good hitters and she threw really good against them.
“Our pitching overall looked good,” she said. “A.J. (Rayburn) threw a good game against Elk City and we hit the ball well in that second game.
“Again the line-up is not true to what it will be for that first game and when you don’t play a ton of innings, I want to try and see everyone, so we were swapping out batters left and right.”
Hoke took a look at several players and did move players to different positions.
Elk City did reach the Millerettes for one run in the top of the first inning, but it was all Yukon after that.
Rayburn, who have up that run, set the Elkettes down in order over the next three innings.
The Millerettes used the long ball to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. Rayburn drilled a solo home run on a 1-1 pitch with one out in the inning and Bruce tripled home the go ahead run, 2-1. Johnson had singled before Bruce’s triple.
Bruce scored the third run of the inning after Kayla Witte hit up pop up to shallow centerfield. Bruce tagged up and raced home, beating the throw.
The Millerettes added two runs in the second on a passed ball after a Hurtz single. Rayburn’s sacrifice fly made it a 5-1 lead.
The Millerettes added two more runs in the fifth inning on a fielders choice by Bradley and a single to left field from Kyia Cortez.
“I had all three of our catchers catch in the two games, we had a couple different looks at first and third base,” Hoke said. “We let everyone play in the outfield, so hopefully, we can get another good look at them before our first game. And, our line-up could shift and chance during the early part of the season to see who is going to fit together and give us the best chance to win.”
“The players are settling in” she said. “We had some nerves that first scrimmage, but we have settled down and came out ready to play today.”
The Millerettes open district 6A-1 play on Thursday at Midwest City.