By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
The Summer Camp experience takes on a special flavor this week for coach Keith Coleman and his Muskogee High fastpitch softball program.
The Lady Roughers leave for Denver today and are scheduled to take part in the 24-team Firecracker Invitational in suburban Arvada, Colo., starting Saturday, competing in the 18-under “A” division.
Last year, the team went to a tournament in St. Louis.
“This is from what we’ve heard a more prestigious event in that there’s a lot of demand to be a part of it,” Coleman said.
Muskogee will play the Loveland, Colo., Stilo at 9 a.m. CDT on Saturday. It’s the first of three pool games. The others are at noon against the North Carolina Steam and at 2 p.m. against the Southern Cal Rage. Bracket play will follow.
Coleman has eight starters returning from a team that went 23-12 but was knocked out in two straight games at regionals a year ago. Second baseman Aubrey Johnson hit .363 and pitcher Shaylee Rowland hit .348 and was 9-2 with a 2.27 ERA. Left fielder Dee Emarthle and right fielder Nia Maxwell hit .317 and .308, respectively.
Others with starting experience are Kaitlin Kaiser behind the plate, Carlee Gann at third base, Brook Hendrickson at shortstop and Bailee Hendrickson in center field.
The trip isn’t all work and no play. They’ll go rafting and attend a Colorado Rockies baseball game en route, Coleman said.
The tournament will wrap up their summer schedule, which at this point has consisted of two leagues, one at Rougherettes Park, and two tournaments. Overall, they’re unbeaten in both leagues and are 25-3 overall.
“We’re better at this point that I thought we would be,” Coleman said. “We feel we have some good incoming freshmen who have adjusted well so far. I think we’ll be more athletic than we have and our pitching is where I’ve been the happiest. We’ve got three who can really pitch and I think that’s going to enable us to do some special things.”