OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee High School Lady Brahmans are district champions for the second time in three years.
The Lady Brahmans took a commanding 6-2 win over the South Fork Lady Bulldogs in their district championship match-up on May 6.
OHS head coach Mary Huff fielded a young team this year and described the Okeechobee softball program as being in something of a rebuilding phase early in the season. Now they’re district champions.
“It’s so nice to get this young team a championship early,” said Huff. “It sets the standard for what we expect as part of OHS softball. Now that the younger kids have a taste of this, they won’t accept anything less in seasons to come. I was very confident in going into the game. My team started the season out a little rough and to be able to see the kind of ball we are playing right now is perfect. We peaked at the right time for sure.”
South Fork took a 1-0 lead early against Okeechobee, but a big Lady Brahman third inning evened the score and then some.
Elle Thomas got things started for Okeechobee with a clutch RBI double to make the score 2-1. Then Madison Hargraves blasted an RBI single straight down the middle of the South Fork defense to increase the Okeechobee lead 3-1.
Finally, Halle McDuffie connected on an RBI single that brought two more Lady Brahman runs in to go up 5-1.
South Fork would add a run in the bottom of the third but Thomas would bring in yet another run for Okeechobee in the top of the fourth to keep the Lady Brahman lead at 4 with the score sitting at 6-2.
Although the Lady Brahmans had a great night at the plate, they also showed some defensive prowess against the Lady Bulldogs. Brooke Santiago made a spectacular diving catch in foul territory in the bottom of the fifth inning to kill any hopes of a South Fork rally.
Not only is it Okeechobee softball’s second district title in three years, it’s also the second time the Lady Brahmans beat the Lady Bulldogs to earn the title.
Now it’s on to the regional tournament, where the stakes are higher and the competition is tougher. But head coach Huff has one message for her team regarding the postseason and she says it’s resonating with her players.
“The kids are pumped and they wanna go all the way,” said Huff of the team’s morale. “They are just ready to take the post season one game at a time. They have really bought into me preaching to them that we could end the regular season 0-20 but if we win 7 games in a row in the post season, we are state champs.”
Okeechobee will either face Dwyer or Olympic Heights in the regional quarterfinal on May 8. Because they’re district champions, Okeechobee will host the game.
“It’s inevitable that pitching is going to be better so we are going to have to continue to be disciplined hitters at the plate and take dominant pitchers deep into counts and get our pitches,” said Huff of the regional and state tournament. “Our defense also has to be sound. The defense has been a little inconsistent but if we don’t give teams more than three outs an inning and do our jobs at the plate like I know we can, it should be smooth sailing deep into post season.”
Okeechobee will kick off the first round of the regional high school softball tournament at 7 p.m. at OHS on May 8.