By Andrew Glover
RED ROCK, Okla. —
Saying the Frontier Lady Mustangs softball team has experienced success under coach Erron Kauk would be an understatement. This past fall, Kauk led Frontier to its fourth consecutive berth in the state tournament.
“It shows all the hard work and dedication these kids put in,” Kauk said. “It shows it’s paying off. We’ve started to build our own tradition in softball where we have a basketball tradition. They take that same winning attitude. They come out every day and work hard.”
Kauk said the key ingredient to his endured success has been good pitching.
“It’s having a set of parents and kids that are willing to do extra and go above and beyond and spend the extra hours,” Kauk said. “That’s not counting the two to three hours they spend in practice with us, but going on Wednesday and Sunday nights and weekends. Going through pitching lessons and playing extra games. I’ve been fortunate enough to have three stud pitchers in this run.”
For the last four seasons, the Lady Mustangs’ pitching circle has belonged to Jalissa Gum. The senior holds all of Frontier’s pitching and offensive records. Gum said Kauk knows how to bring the best out of his players.
“Not every coach can get everything out of a player,” Gum said. “Whether we want to be there or not, he always has us up and going and gets us to play and play our hardest.”
Gum signed a scholarship to play softball for Arkansas Tech last Friday. The senior pitcher said coach’s motivation helped her reach that level.
“He always told me I could be better,” Gum said. “Even when I thought I did great, he always had little things to point out. There’s always something you could do better and not be satisfied with what I have.”
This season, Gum’s action was limited as she fractured her ulna in her pitching arm, making only 12 starts. Even with missing those starts, Gum said Kauk was helpful in getting her through the injury.
“He kept me from doing anything so I didn’t re-injure it even though I wanted to play,” Gum said. “When I came back, he took it slow and made sure I didn’t tear anything so I couldn’t do anything.”
With Gum’s injury, freshman Michael Ann Nelson had to take over. Nelson said that Kauk pushed her and helped her.
“He helped me with practicing,” Nelson said. “He just pushed me to get better.”
Nelson was able to embrace the role, posting a 16-6 record and didn’t allow a run in the district and regional tournament. Kauk said several people had to step up after Gum’s injury and made the run to state even more satisfying.
“We relied on Jalissa a lot over the last four years,” Kauk said. “To lead this team we would look to her. We kind of relied on her too much. To watch this team after we lost her, we lost the first couple of games and didn’t look very good. I looked at them and knew we were very capable. We knew Michael Ann from junior high and high school could step right in and was going to pitch a lot this year no matter what. ... For the team to get behind her and make the plays defensively and get the runs however it took. ... We came together and had great group of freshmen and sophomores all the way through. This team gelled a little better than any team I ever had in those tough situations.”