By BEN JOHNSON
Marisa Girdner was at church receiving the good word. Yet, the message that excited her the most was one that lit up on her phone.
It was Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud. He broke the news to Girdner that she had just been named the All-State softball team.
“I got a little excited inside just because I wasn’t sure if I had been talked up enough among coaches to get the votes,” Tahlequah’s center fielder said. “But as soon as I got word, I texted my mom and dad who were on their way back from a hunting trip in Kansas, and they were probably more outwardly excited than I was.”
Girdner received one of the state’s top honor by posting a .414 batting average and a .464 on-base percentage as a senior atop Tahlequah’s lineup in 2013. Girdner scored a team-high 46 runs and stole a club-high 16 bases while being caught only one time.
For Girdner, it was all a matter of honing her softball skills over time, Cloud said.
“Marisa came in as a freshman with athletic ability but was real raw as far as softball skills,” Cloud said. “Each year she got better.”
In 42 games this season, Girdner had only two errors while patrolling a spacious center field. She also had two outfield assists and a .935 fielding percentage.
“She is one of the best outfielders to have played for me,” said Cloud, who just completed his fourth fastpitch season at Tahlequah.
That’s high praise, considering Girdner took over for Jenna Reed, who possessed one of the strongest throwing arms in the state during her time at Tahlequah.
Still, though, Girdner always held out hope for All-State.
“I thought making All-State was possible,” she said, “but I knew I’d have to have another solid season like my junior year. And as this season unfolded, I felt my batting average and on-base percentage was going to end up awful compared to last year. And when I found out they were actually better, I got extra hopeful about getting selected.”
During Tahlequah’s 37-5 campaign in 2013, the Lady Tigers plated 308 runs and had 20 games of six runs or more. Credit Girdner with setting the offensive tone.
“She’s a very smart player that creates havoc on the infield when she slaps or bunts,” Cloud said. “Her ball placement is great.”
Tahlequah advanced to the state semifinals this season where it lost to Carl Albert. It was the Lady Tigers’ fourth straight state tournament appearance.
“It is disappointing to go four times to the tournament and come back empty-handed each time. But I’m proud of how this year we overcame the adversity of losing our ace pitcher (Britney Johnson) and unexpectedly losing a couple of incoming freshmen to other schools,” Girdner said. “I think overall Randee (O’Donnell), Whitney (Wright), Lainey (Wallace), Caitlin (Chuculate), and I left an impacting, positive mark on Tahlequah softball.”
Tahlequah center fielder Marisa Girdner said she’s open to playing either basketball or softball in college. She also didn’t rule out an academic scholarship to Arkansas, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma. If she does play sports in college, she said she wants to aim for schools like Northeastern State or Central Oklahoma.