Aug. 4—Mark Dicus has a resume few can compare with.
Dicus is a member of the Oklahoma Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His teams at Dewey won four state championships and he was the national Coach of the Year in 1994. He then moved to the junior college level where he coached Seminole State to seven conference titles and a third-place national finish in 2003 and then he went to Rogers State. Most recently he coached at Pryor where he had one team win the gold ball in fastpitch and finished runner-up twice.
At 63, he's taken on a major rebuilding project at Muskogee, which hasn't had a winning record in fastpitch or slowpitch since 2016, when Keith Coleman left for Piedmont.
Coleman, who has won one fastpitch title since taking over at Piedmont, is one of the few statewide in Dicus' circle and also had a run of success in slowpitch. Muskogee didn't have the numbers to field a slowpitch squad last spring.
So here goes — first steps up from a 5-23 campaign:
Karsyn York is a senior and catcher who hit .451 with seven doubles. She caught six of 31 attempting to steal. Jaliyah Simmons, a sophomore, will be the other part of the battery. Avery Ragsdale at third is the other returning senior.
Kambri Johnson and Nyia Green figure in the infield picture, and keep an eye on three freshmen. Feather Johnson returns in center field. Three freshmen — Jaye Barnoski, Shay Grisson and Peyton Jackson, are also in the mix — Barnoski and Grisson are infielders and Peyton Jackson in the circle.
Kodi Morrison, who took over as interim head coach last fall, will remain on staff, and Dicus has added Ashlie Fauchier who played for him at Pryor and was a four-time All-American at Rogers State. He had former Pryor pitcher Olivia Rains, a member of Oklahoma's national championship staff this past season, but Rains entered the transfer portal and is enrolling at Texas Tech. She helped some over the summer.
Coming off a third consecutive 4A semifinal trip at 22-9, the Lady Hornets will be challenged in a way they haven't in some years. Just three starters return.
Brooklyn Ellis saw spot action in the circle last season but none more significant than being called for the start against Lone Grove and Oklahoma commit Emmy Guthrie, who she matched in a shutout over five innings in last year's semifinal, allowing one hit over that time. Overall Ellis was 5-4 with a 2.14 ERA. She also hit .329, joining All-Phoenix returnee Riley Barnoskie (.347, 5 triples, 18 RBIs) and Lexi Cramp (.351, 21 RBIs) as returning.300-plus hitters. Cramp will play first and see some pitching time. Barnsokie moves from center field to shortstop and Ellis will play third if not pitching.
Catcher Rylin Clark and third baseman/pitcher Kensley Allen are newcomers with potential. Keep an eye on sophomores Bailey McClain and Emma Hoffman.
Erin Bridges had the Ladycats at one of their highest competitive levels in years in her first season in 2000, going 19-17.
Six seniors are among those returning. Bria Fields was an outfielder who will either pitch or play second. Kaitlyn Searles returns at first. Haile Britt at third, and Khloe Vanmeter, Kohlie Atkins and and Chloe Floyd, all outfielders. Searles made All-Phoenix a year ago, hitting .453.
Natalie Knight returns at catcher. Jessie Roachell moves from the outfield to shortstop. Maci Britt served mostly as an extra hitter. She could figure in at second. Two freshmen, Sidney Hamilton and Hailey Prince, will be factors. Hamilton can play outfield or shorstop and Prince is a hard-throwing pitcher.
The Lady Pirates under Dusty Tidwell graduated five everyday starters off a team that went 23-11. Ralea Brooksher was a catcher and shortstop and hit .611 with 62 RBIs in 2020. She's committed to Arkansas-Rich Mountain for 2022. Third baseman Harly Welch hit .495. Those are the two seniors.
Honey McAlester (86 strikeouts, 3.84 ERA) is an experienced junior pitcher. Cadi Shoemake, a sophomore who hit .414 a year ago, will move from left field to center and could find time at shortstop. Natalie Casteel hit .455 as a freshman and has flexibility between first base and outfield. Khayden Kirkpatrick and Kendra Huckbay are two freshmen who will figure in the lineup.
Coach Kia Holmes has four starters back from a 22-7 2A quarterfinal season, none of which are seniors. Four of which were are now playing college ball somewhere. But 2020 Newcomer of the Year Ava Scott (.391 batting, .963 fielding) is at shortstop, sophomore Peyton Bryan and junior Brynn Surmont will share spots at catcher and third base, and sophomore Ryleigh Bacon will patrol center field.
Newcomers will have to step up, even as Oktaha's expectations are to vie for a state tournament run in 2A.
Coach Ryan Green says this version of the Lady Ironheads will be one of his best defensively with competition at multiple spots, even with nine returning starters. Six of those hit .300 or better — senior Mykah Osborne, junior Liberty Glover, sophomores Jordas McLish, Kambry Williams and Gabby Noreiga. They'll try to improve on an 11-16 mark.
Mickey Duncan takes over the Lady Eagles, 5-20 a year ago and young but developing. Skyler Luck is a junior second baseman and sophomores Harley Chesser, Jensyn Foreman, Peyton Sikes and Kaylen Park can play multiple positions.
All-Phoenix Brooke Wyatt was a dual threat for the Lady Warriors, hitting. 593 with 1t doubles and was 156-8 in the circle, striking out a whopping 177. She returns as a senior on a team that was 18-7 last year.
Alex Bowden is a returning All-Phoenix infielder who hit .523 a year ago as a junior for Haskell (17-5).