By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There’s something to be said about being the underdog. Expectations are lowered, there’s little to no pressure and any win just might be the highlight of the season.
At least that’s the hope for Stillwater High School softball coach Amber Davis as the Lady Pioneers (7-16) begin regional play at 2 p.m. against Sand Springs in Owasso Wednesday.
“We try not to put any pressure on the kids because we’re kind of going in as underdogs,” Davis said. “We don’t have anything to lose. If we just go out there and play our best, I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
Stillwater may surprise some people, but the Lady Pioneers are going to need to surprise a lot of people if they want to get to state.
Along with host school Owasso, Sand Springs and Booker T. Washington stand in the Lady Pioneers’ path — making it one of the deepest regionals in the state.
“We’ve got to beat everybody we play,” Davis said. “I told our girls that our record is not very good, but if we win three ball games in the next three days, we go to the state tournament. Regardless if we’re 0-12 or 12-0 going into this, we’ve got a chance to put on a big show.”
It’s that attitude — coupled with the fact that they only lost to Sand Springs 4-3 earlier in the year — that has Davis feeling confident heading into regionals.
“It’s not like last time,” Davis said. “We just have to go at the and play our best. We’re just going to let them go play. We’ve moved around the batting lineup and tried some different things, but they all know how to play and it’s the same game it was before.”
Even so, there is one concern for Davis heading into regional play. Apart from the two seniors and junior Halley Randolph, most of the team has never experienced what it’s like to play at a regional.
And while Davis is hoping the lack of knowing just how big the game is could help the Lady Pioneers, she will also be looking to those seniors to guide the team when things get tough.
“A lot of them are still young kids, so this is their first big tournament or big showing for them,” Davis said. “I look for my juniors and seniors to step up and lead them.”
In a double-elimination tournament, it’s all about surviving to the next day, and Davis appears to be taking that same approach to regionals.
A win — just any win — would be a building block not only for next season, but it would give the Lady Pioneers life and hope for the rest of this season.
“I don’t want to lose, but if we do we’ll probably play Booker T. right after that,” Davis said. “We’ll probably beat them and have to come back and face Sand Springs again. We’re just going to go at them and do the best we can.”
Even as most fans have written this season off for the Lady Pioneers, Davis said she feels surprisingly confident heading into what could be Stillwater’s last stand.
“You never know what’s going to happen when you have a bunch of young players,” Davis said. “They can surprise anybody at any moment. I know I’ve been surprised a couple of times. We just have to get it going. Once we do that, we’ll see what happens from there.”