MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

May 28, 2014

ALL PHOENIX SLOWPITCH SOFTBALL TEAM: Sizzlin’ stick leads list of area’s best

On a team that put an all-time high of seven on the Muskogee Phoenix’s all-area squad, it’s hard to keep anyone in the lineup from doing damage.

When they picked Kirsten Chase’s poison, it was particularly potent.

Chase, a Tahlequah High junior, hit .672 over 42 games and 134 at-bats, hitting 19 doubles and an uncanny 29 home runs, an improvement over a solid 17 she hit as a sophomore.

Only two players in the area hit more than 17, each by one.

Chase was selected as the  Most Valuable Player on the All-Phoenix squad, leading a group of Tigers that was a finalist in Class 6A, losing to Southmoore in the championship game. It was her third consecutive time to be selected to the squad.

“She carried a big load offensively,” said her coach, Matt Cloud, who was named All-Phoenix Coach of the Year. “Last year hitting 17 she had an over-stride at the plate, so we cut down on her stride and made her stay behind the ball and it really improved her swing.

“She worked on hitting balls to the opposite field and she was the type kid that no matter which way the wind was blowing she could hit it that way. It was just in her overall approach as to where it blew.”

An elbow injury coming out of basketball may have helped tweak the swing as well.

“I didn’t try to hit it hard early on, and it slowed everything down,” Chase said. “Before that, I think I went out and tried too hard.”

And yet, still hit 17 home runs. That’s one less than Hayleigh Galvan, this year’s All-Phoenix Newcomer of the Year, hit this season.

“She was hot from the get-go and never had a slump,” Cloud said of Chase. “It’s something when you talk about a bad day being a four-RBI day. And just a junior, I think she’ll be better next year.

“Teams will pitch around her though. She had a pretty good supporting cast this year and it was more like pick who you wanted to throw to. Still, 30 to 35 is realistic for her next year.”

Tahlequah had five of the six starting spots in the infield — Erin Dillard, a repeat selection at pitcher, catcher Bub Peters, Chase at second, Oklahoma State fastpitch signee, 2012 All-Phoenix fastpitch MVP and three-time All-Phoenix slowpitch selection Randee O’Donnell, and Kortney Dry at third. Outfielder Caitlin Chuculate also made the squad.

Muskogee, which came within a run of meeting Tahlequah for the 6A title in a one-run loss to eventual champion Southmoore in the semifinals, had four selections including 2013 slowpitch MVP Shaylee Rowland as an extra hitter. Rowland was a close second to Dillard at pitcher and finished her Muskogee High career as the only four-time All-Phoenix selection on this year’s squad. She was a Newcomer of the Year as a freshman in 2011.

Other Roughers included Elexis Watson, the fastpitch newcomer of the year in the fall, at first base, along with outfielder Dee Emarthle. Third baseman Carlee Gann was one of three reserves.

Galvan, who hit .702 as a sophomore, was joined by two Sequoyah teammates, outfielder Marissa Smith and shortstop Kelsey Leach, the latter named as a reserve. They Lady Indians were 5A finalists, losing to Bethel in the title game.

Rounding out the squad was Fort Gibson outfielder Kyla Martin and Oktaha first baseman Kelsey Cantwell, named as a reserve.

The All-Phoenix squad was chosen via a vote of the Phoenix sports staff and correspondents, the Tahlequah Daily Press and area coaches.

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