By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A Chisholm team left campus to a ceremonious send-off on Wednesday.
That team was state-tournament-bound, with classmates and fans in tow, earning a berth in the finals bracket for the first time since 2005.
That team wasn’t the Chisholm baseball team — it was the Lady Longhorns slow-pitch softball team — though the Longhorns can play their way to their own state tournament starting at 1 p.m. today in a regional tournament in Chandler.
No. 13 Chisholm (24-5), the Chandler bracket’s second seed, who on Wednesday watched the Lady Longhorns in a 15-5 loss to Washington, opens against unranked No. 3 seed Oklahoma Christian (14-13). Sixth-ranked Sperry, the four-team tournament’s top seed, plays host and bottom-seed Chandler at 11 a.m.
Regional play is new to the Longhorns, none of whom have played past the district round. Even head coach Jake Lenherr, in his second year of his first job at a high school program’s helm, is a regional rookie.
“The main thing I’ve been telling them is you can’t approach situations like this any differently,” he said. “You can’t try to do things you’re not capable of doing. You’ve just got to play your game, and if you just focus on what you need to focus on, win or lose, you’re going to feel good about it.”
Though 10-4 against top-20 teams from any class this season, the Longhorns are just 2-3 against fellow 3A teams listed in the OKRankings.com’s top 20. But it’s not the 2-3 part that vexes Lenherr — it’s that Chisholm has played only five games against top-20 teams in its class.
The Longhorns’ next chance to increase that tally will likely come against Sperry (22-7), which, unlike Chisholm, has plenty of experience in the state tournament, winning titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and making the bracket six of the last seven seasons.
“They’re traditionally really good,” Lenherr said. “Any time I hear ‘traditionally good,’ those are usually teams that are coached really well … They just have a talent pool coming through that other schools don’t. They’re going to be coached well, they’ll be kids who do things right — they’re not going to strike out, they’re not going to throw balls on the mound, they’re going to attack hitters and make contact and force you to make plays to beat them.”
Lenherr plans to start Tabor Charles (6-0) against Oklahoma Christian, followed by Dylan Stegeman (5-3) in the Longhorns’ second game against either Sperry or Chandler.