Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

November 1, 2012

3 local players get All-State softball nods

Jeff Turtle had a surprise for both Kara Linch and Jessica Bluebird. There was a problem, though.

The pair of Sequoyah softball players already knew what Turtle was about to tell them.

Blame it on social media.

Before Turtle could break the news to them that they were All-State softball selections, Linch and Bluebird found out on Twitter.

“It was really cool,” Bluebird said of when she found out. “I’m happy and I’m glad I made it. Our hard work paid off.”

Bluebird and Linch, key cogs on Sequoyah’s state runner-up club this season, were named to the Middle East team, which consists of players from Class 2A through 4A.

Also picking up an All-State selection was Tahlequah’s Britney Johnson, a senior pitcher for Tahlequah. Johnson, though, made the Large East team as an outfielder, with Owasso’s Whitney Whitehorn, Broken Arrow’s Elena Gambill and Grove’s Jessica Walker snagging the pitching honors.

“In fastpitch, I didn’t play outfield that much,” said Johnson, who tends to play more outfield during the slowpitch season in the spring. “But I’m excited about it.”

Johnson, who hit .492 with 55 runs scored, was also recently named to the All-District 5A-3 team as Pitcher of the Year.

When Johnson found out she had been named to the All-State team, she was “excited because it took a lot of work for it to work out the way it did,” said Johnson, who finished the year with a 17-7 record with a 1.65 earned run average in the pitching circle.

Other notable names joining Johnson on the Large East squad are shortstop Madison Vaughan (Coweta), catcher Ashleigh Tramel (Grove), third baseman Taylor Dodson (Grove) and first baseman Paige Gann (Muskogee).

A date for the All-State games has not released, but in recent years the games have been in mid-June at the University of Oklahoma’s softball complex.

For Sequoyah this season, Bluebird — while splitting time with Kati Phillips in the pitching circle — posted a 29-7 record with a 1.14 earned run average. She also had 180 strikeouts.

“I’m not really a strikeout pitcher,” said Bluebird, who finished with 365 punch-outs in her career. “I just hit my spots and rely on my defense to do the job.”

Linch’s path to making the All-State team was a bit out of the ordinary. The senior infielder shifted from second base to shortstop after Sequoyah found out that Kelsey Leach would be unavailable all season.

“It started out kind of tough with Kelsey not being here, especially with me going from second and moving to short,” Linch said when asked to describe this season. “We didn’t know what was going to happen, so we just stuck together and played well.”

With Linch — who hit .416 with 22 runs batted in this season — and Bluebird leading the charge, Sequoyah nearly won the Class 3A title game. Little Axe, though, ended up with the crown, beating Sequoyah 1-0 in the championship game.

“Jessica and Kara, along with Susie Davis, kept us together this season,” Sequoyah coach Jeff Turtle said. “A lot of things went on and late, but they kept us going because we had to move people around all year.

“Then, we got on a roll in the end and got to where we wanted to be.”

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