Celeste Wood

Hilldale’s Celeste Wood throws for an out last season. In a skills camp in June, Wood was clocked at 73 mph on a throw, the best-ever at an AthPro Camp held in various places nationally.

What Celeste Wood did in a rocket test in Shawnee, Kan., in June doesn’t surprise anyone.

The rocket happened to be her arm and it fired a radar throw of 73 mph off the hand. The throw is the best of any prospect attending any national AthPro camp since it began doing them in 2014. 

That’s tops among 14,750 entries.

Darren Riddle, who looks toward coaching the fourth-year shortstop at Hilldale, isn’t caught off guard by that kind of arm speed.

“Tie game last year, bottom of seven against Blanchard and they have a runner at first with two outs,” Riddle recalls in an eight-inning win last season. “Their girl hits a for-sure double over our left fielder’s head. They tried to score from first. We were in a big field.

“Celeste is the cut-off in the outfield and took the throw from our outfielder and immediately threw her out at the plate. No hop, ball on a line. Big-time play that I haven’t seen made at the high school level.”

AthPro specializes in backing up the measurements. — speed, strength or distance. Some high school coaches, whatever the sport, have been known to be just a tad off on those recruiting particulars such as height, weight, and a 40-yard dash.

Maybe it’s the scale’s fault, or a quick click on a stop watch. A calibrated radar gun gets everyone off the hook.

“AthPro allows college coaches access to the stats that it measures and helps the coaches to see the potential that you hold for the future,” Wood said. “It ranks you by your stats and they rank you nationally, which helps you see where you stand with other competitive athletes.”

She’s done this every year since she was 12.

“It helps a lot because they know these numbers are accurate,” she said.

But again, Riddle could have just sent the highlight video of that throw against Blanchard. She’s more than just a girl with a missile arm.

“She’s also been a great hitter for us, hitting for high average with lots of doubles,” he said.

Her average was .439 last year with 14 doubles and a .787 slugging percentage, putting her on the All-Phoenix team. Her fielding percentage was .906 in 96 chances.

Wood lays a lot of credit for her development to her father, Matt, and also her grandfather, Darrell Wood, who coached a state fastpitch championship at Oktaha and is a former Muskogee coach in several sports over two periods, most lately as an assistant for former MHS coach Keith Coleman. 

“He’s been a pretty big influence, and my dad coached me along the way starting when I was like 3 o4 4,” she said. “I’ve been working hard on my lateral movement and footwork and getting balls in the hole. My grandpa has had me do these exercises. I’ve gotten faster and it’s helped a lot.”

In December, she committed to the University of Tulsa. Drew Riddle, Hilldale’s third baseman and occasionally pitcher, is also TU bound.

Getting that out of the way is a good thing,considering the black cloud hanging over this season in COVID-19 and the threat of a season being derailed.

“I’m pretty worried,” she said. “But I played over 100 games this summer and no one came up sick. We went to several hot spots and no one was affected. I went to Kansas City three times and nothing happened.

“I want to play since it’s my last year. If the virus shuts it down, I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I know it’s a good thing that I found a already school that’s a fit for me.”

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