SB Jenson

Enid softball coach Chris Jensen gives encouragement to Kyra Criss during a game against Sapulpa Sept. 29, 2022.

ENID, Okla. — When Chris Jensen took over the Enid Pacers softball program prior to the 2020 season, the Pacers were in a slump.

In the four seasons prior, the program had won just 21 games combined after winning 20 or more games each season from 2000-2008.

Prior to that, the Pacers won 20 games four out of five seasons to close out the 1990s.

The last time Enid had four losing seasons in a row was from 1985-1988 when the Pacers also won a total of 21 games.

But, once Jensen got on the job, things began to change for Enid.

After another losing season in 2020, going 9-25, the program got back to double-digit wins in 2021 with a 12-22 record.

“My first year here we were really young,” Jensen said. “We walked quite a few batters. Every year I’ve been here we have cut back on that and it’s helped us out.”

That got Enid back to a mark the Pacers hit each season from 1991-2015.

Jensen and his staff improved on that again with a 21-win season this year.

“20 wins is a milestone that we set coming into the season,” Jensen said after securing the 21st win last week against Sapulpa in the Pacers’ regular season finale. “It says a lot about the hard work and dedication these players have put in. You are only going to go as far as your players will take you.”

“It’s amazing,” said senior Saherena Williams. “It’s beyond amazing. More is to come though.”

Williams has been with the program since the 5-28 season in 2019, Williams’ freshman year at Enid.

“It was a change when he came in. We really needed it for the team,” she said. “My freshman season the chemistry on the team wasn’t fully there, but it got there. The team’s effort has changed, it changed a lot from my freshman year, it’s been big.”

Not only did the Pacers get to that mark, they have been doing it in style. Over the last two weeks of the regular season, Jensen’s group has gone 10-2.

“I’ve seen a lot of girls out here working hard,” Jensen said. “It starts in the circle. We have three girls that have really been beneficial to the team.”

The Pacers haven’t had a losing streak since Sept. 12, when they lost three straight to Piedmont, Alva and Stillwater.

All of the success has to do with one big, yet invisible to many, change — the culture around the team, said Enid Athletic Director Billy Tipps.

“Our team is playing awesome,” Jensen said. “The last two weeks have been exceptional from the girls. I think when Tipps talks about a culture change, that starts with winning games and gaining confidence, being able to step on the field and expecting to win.”

“Coach Jensen has done tremendous things for the EHS softball program,” said Mary Withey, mother of senior Mady Withey. “He has dedicated countless hours in coaching and has brought so much positive attention to the program. I know we as parents are thankful for coach Jensen.”

Jennifer Patterson, mother of junior Camryn Patterson, has known Jensen since the two coached at EHS with the baseball team, prior to Jensen getting the job as the head coach of the softball program.

“I’ve been able to witness the fun things and his personality he pours into the girls,” Patterson said. “I think there is a great culture and a lot of team bonding that has gone on. Sometimes it takes time for a team to jell and I think this year you can see it happening.”

Jensen is the only coach Camryn has known, says her mother.

“Our wins and losses have obviously improved, but I’ve also seen the work ethic improve,” Camryn said. “The first year was a little rough not doing as well as I expected, but it got better, and we can only go up from here.”

Kate Bezdicek has been one of the core pieces over Jensen’s tenure. The junior has been present since Jensen took over as head coach.

“I feel like his (Jensen’s) confidence in us has grown,” she said. “I feel like he has grown with us and the program. We have a great culture and everyone gets along really well.”

The Pacers look to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2005, starting with the Class 6A Region 6 tournament beginning Wednesday at Stillwater. The Pacers take on Owasso at 2 p.m. and will face either Stillwater or Tulsa Union after.

“My expectation now isn’t 20 wins, it was the beginning of the season,” Jensen said. “I want 25 wins now, if we get that 25th win, it means we are going to the state tournament.”

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Becker is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle.

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