Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

May 9, 2012

Tahlequah trio, coach pick up All-State honors

She could hardly believe it when the message appeared on her phone. That’s when Jessica Blalock unleashed her emotions.

“When I got the text message, I screamed really loud,” Blalock said, rehashing the moment when she found out she had been named as an All-State slowpitch softball player.

Blalock, Tahlequah’s soft-tossing pitcher during the spring months, was one of three Tahlequah players to receive All-State nods. Third baseman Whittney Whittmore and rover Jenna Reed were also selected to the Large East team, which will take on the Large West in the All-State game on June 16.

“It’s a tribute to the work that they put in and the hours they spent doing it,” said Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud, who was also named as an All-State coach.

“They were just recognized for their hard work and the work that they’ve done.”

Batting in the clean-up spot all year, Reed led Tahlequah in several offensive categories, including doubles (19), runs batted in (74) and slugging percentage (1.085). She also had a perfect mark (1.000) in the outfield on defense.

“At the beginning of the year, I told myself I was going to try my hardest to get All-State,” said Reed, a Connors State signee who also a fastpitch All-Stater in the fall. “So it makes me feel good to know that I accomplished something.”

Like Reed, Whittmore was another offensive catalyst for the Lady Tigers. Whittmore finished with team-highs in hits (79), batting average (.622), on-base percentage (.628) and an impressive 41-game hitting streak — which spanned the entire season.

Being selected as an All-State player, “just lets me know that somebody actually notices that I work hard,” said Whittmore, who tied Reed for the team lead in home runs with nine.

For Whittmore and Blalock, the exhibition game this summer will likely be the last time either slips on a softball uniform. And Whittmore admitted there very well could be some sadness at the conclusion of the All-State contests.

“I was devastated at the state tournament,” said Whittmore, whose second-ranked team lost 12-5 to No. 7 Union in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament last week in Oklahoma City. “So it’s probably going to be way worse at the end of (the All-State games).”

More so than missing each three during games, Cloud said seeing the seniors leave is like watching a family member depart.

“People don’t realize how much time coaches spend with the kids, year after year,” Cloud said. “We go from August until June with fastpitch and slowpitch ... and the players are a big part of the coach’s life. The hardest part of this deal is every year you have someone going out the door that has been a part of your life.”

Departing from Tahlequah with Reed, Whittmore and Blalock will be Shelby Sanders and Kaitlenn Rippetoe — a group that can boast six softball state tournaments (between both softball seasons) during their four years in high school.

“There are not a lot of people in the state that can say they’ve been to more,” Cloud said. “Hopefully, we can get some of our younger kids that opportunity.”

As for his coaching accolade, Cloud deferred all the credit to his players.

“I make the lineup and I’m at practice every day,” he said. “You don’t see many All-State coaches from teams that go 0-38, so a lot of it has to do with the kids. I’m thankful that they bought into what we were trying to do.”

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