By BEN JOHNSON
When District 5A-3 finalized its postseason honors, 16 of the 19 spots on the team went to players that participated in this year’s 5A state tournament.
Leading the pack of All-District honors was Tahlequah with seven of the available 19 spots.
“I was really proud we had that many on the team,” Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud said. “They all worked hard, and with a good record individuals will get noticed.”
Headlining the Tahlequah’s honorees was pitcher Britney Johnson who was named the district’s Pitcher of the Year. The senior hurler finished this season with a 17-7 record and a 1.65 earned run average.
“In the past three years, she has improved immensely,” Cloud said of Johnson, who averaged 7.72 strikeouts per game to go along with a 3.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio. “I think that will carry over to college ball.”
Snagging the other two top honors in the district were Grove’s Jessica Walker (Player of the Year) and Coach of Year Jeremy Collins, who coached the Lady Red to the 5A state title.
From there, nearly every position on the All-District roster included a Tahlequah player. Catcher was the only position void of a Lady Tiger.
Around the infield, Kortney Dry (first base), Kirsten Chase (second base), Randee O’Donnell (shortstop) and Whitney Wright (third base) all claimed All-District accolades. Marisa Girdner claimed an All-District outfield spot, and Lindsay Wade was one of two league utility players.
Dry emerged as a solid replacement to Kaitlenn Rippetoe, who was Tahlequah’s first baseman during 2011. Dry, hitting normally in the No. 6 hole, finished the year with a .372 batting average, 25 runs batted in and a .651 slugging percentage.
To Dry’s right, Chase had a .942 fielding percentage while providing a solid clean-up option in the batting order with 16 extra-base hits, four home runs, 45 runs batted in and a .377 batting average.
“Very impressive for her freshman campaign,” Cloud said of Dry. “I knew she would be a good one for us; I didn’t know it would happen her first year.
“As for Kirsten, of all that made the team, I think she could of had a better year. She had a good year but she is a .400 hitter and fell a little short. But she did have a lot on her shoulders being a sophomore hitting in the cleanup spot.”
Perhaps no player was more important in Tahlequah’s lineup than O’Donnell, who stepped in the No. 3 spot in the batting order to fill the void left by both Jenna Reed and Whittney Whittmore. O’Donnell recorded team-highs in home runs (11), runs batted in (61), batting average (.558). slugging percentage (1.029) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.659).
“Randee anchored the infield and had an amazing year, falling a few RBIs short of (Erica) Sampson’s record,” Cloud said of O’Donnell, a junior who verbally committed to Oklahoma State before the 2012 season started. “She will have a big year next season.”
Also making Whittmore’s absence less painful was Keys move-in, Wright. She only endured seven errors at third base while hitting .382 with 32 runs batted in in the No. 5 spot in the lineup.
“Whitney made a big transition from shortstop to third base,” Cloud said. “She’s a talented athlete that will improve for next season.”
In the outfield, Girdner played center field with the second-highest fielding percentage (.973) on the team. She also hit lead-off and racked up 48 runs scored, a team-high 28 walks and an on-base percentage of .544.
“She was the catalyst in a bunch of our wins,” Cloud said of Girdner, who also had a team-high nine stolen bases. “In all but two games, if she got on in the first inning, we would win. She anchored the outfield and did a great job.”
Posting up to Girdner’s left most of the time in right field was Wade, who either pitched or played right field. During her freshman campaign, Wade hit .329 while going 6-1 in the pitching circle with a 1.56 earned run average.
“Lindsay did a great job after learning to play in the outfield,” Cloud said. “She was to athletic to not be in the lineup.”
In 2013, it will be up to Wade and Morgan Tarrance to fill Johnson’s shoes in the pitching circle.
“Morgan and Lindsay have big shoes to fill in the circle,” Cloud said. “Both are capable, but the biggest thing is for them to improve between now and May. I think they will.”
The only player Cloud loses from his club that went 30-8 and made its third straight state-tournament appearance is Johnson. And next season, some newcomers from rural schools could have an impact alongside returning players.
“There are a few girls that are coming in from county schools that will have an opportunity to come in and start right away,” Cloud said. “I think when we start in May, there will be several battles for starting roles.”
2012 All-District 5A-3
Player of the Year: Jessica Walker (Grove).
Pitcher of the Year: Britney Johnson (Tahlequah).
Coach of the Year: Jeremy Collins (Grove).
Pitcher: Skylor McGehee (Skiatook).
Catcher: Ashleigh Tramel (Grove); Sara Villalobos (Skiatook).
First Base: Hailey White (Pryor); Kortney Dry (Tahlequah).
Second Base: Kirsten Chase (Tahlequah); Shelby Ayers (Pryor).
Shortstop: Randee O’Donnell (Tahlequah); Courtney Lincicome (Skiatook).
Third Base: Taylor Dodson (Grove); Whitney Wright (Tahlqeuah).
Outfield: Marisa Girdner (Tahlequah); Paige Westover (Skiatook); Meleya Belden (Pryor); Emilee Iverson (Grove).
Utility: Mason Jeffries (Grove); Lindsay Wade (Tahlequah).