Lady Lions eye building momentum in tournament

Kevin Farr,
The Bryan County News
Durant junior standout Abi Gregory prepares to receive a throw at second base and put the tag down on an attempted stolen base. Gregory has been a workhorse much of the season in the pitching circle with a 6-2 record.

The annual Durant Fastpitch Softball Tournament usually marks the beginning of the stretch run of the fall season, but in the 2020 year of uncertainty, coaches never know when they be actually down to their last game.

Durant head coach Cody Little is like most others, just thankful for each contest his squad gets to play. The Lady Lions know full well after missing almost two weeks of the season early on, when their entire varsity unit was quarantined due to one positive COVID-19 test.

Since that time, however, the Lady Lions have taken on all comers, including a host of perennial state tournament contenders in non-district action that Little was well aware might not be good for the overall record, but would make his youth-laden club better in the long run.

“We want to challenge ourselves and play good people,” Little commented. “That’s the only way we are going to get better. We’ve played some really good ones already this season, and I think it’s made us better even though we’ve had some losses. The girls have competed in most every one of them and gave ourselves a chance to win.

“We’re just happy to be able to continue playing while a lot of people haven’t been able to.”

Durant has notched a 10-5 overall record heading into play this week, and has been keyed by junior Abi Gregory in the pitching circle.

The right-handed workhorse has posted a 6-2 record while allowing 25 hits in 42 innings. She has struck out 48 and walked 14 with a solid 1.83 earned run average.

Despite being a little sporadic offensively, the Lady Lions are still averaging nearly seven runs per contest thus far in 2020.

Gregory has a .361 batting average, but has had help offensively with freshman Bellamy Knight off to a tremendous start with a .452 hitting clip and 10 runs batted in. Jessica Odom is hitting .417 along with another freshman, Riley Kaler, who has scored a team-high 12 runs in the leadoff spot.

Seniors Hannah Kaler and Kalin Beller have added .364 and .357 batting averages, respectively, with Kayce Polson chipping in a team-best 11 RBI and .323 average.

The Lady Lions hope to continue building momentum in their annual tournament, which has been somewhat of a chore for Little to put together this year because of the continue pandemic.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “A lot of schools are not wanting to travel much, so it has been tough. We don’t want to have a bunch of junior varsity teams in the tournament but it’s the only way we can make it work. Even the JV teams though should be competitive.

“We still have a lot of really good teams involved that we have had in the past. There have been five, six or seven teams each year in this tournament that have qualified for the state tournament. Our goal is to have people be able to come compete and get good games. We did what we could and scheduled people accordingly.”

The two-day tournament is slated for Friday and Saturday at the Durant Multi-Sports Complex and will utilize all four fields at the facility.

Action gets started at 10:30 a.m. each day, with the final round of play set for 3:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Durant will be joined in the tournament by powerhouses Lone Grove, Hilldale and Broken Bow as well as Ardmore, Valliant, Madill and fellow Bryan County-mate Caddo.

Lady Lion infielders have a meeting in the circle during recent action. Despite a late start due to a COVID-19 quarantine, the youthful squad has managed to post a 10-5 record with their annual tournament slated for this weekend at the Durant Multi-Sports Complex.