Roff coach Kathy Gregson admitted Thursday there might be a little more of an edge than normal to Saturday’s small-school slowpitch All-State game at the University of Oklahoma.
Gregson, who will coach the Small East in the 11 a.m. contest, will have two players on her team — her own J. J. Stewart and Stonewall’s Bradianne Daniel — who took it on the chin in an ugly 17-0 loss to the West in last week’s small-school fast-pitch All-State game. Two other area players from last week’s Small East squad — Keeli Kessinger and Kaitlin Hisaw — will play for the Middle East squad, along with former Latta teammate Siera Green, in Saturday’s second game, while Konawa’s Ciara Kuestersteffen — a member of the Small East last week — will be a member of the Middle West this time around.
“We always do the East-versus-West thing,” Gregson admitted. “We certainly want to avenge that loss.”
In addition to Stewart and Daniel, the state tournament teams from Roff and Stonewall from this spring will have a combined three other representatives among an eight-player Ada-area delegation to the Small East. Combined with the four in Saturday’s second game, the 12 area stars are the most ever chosen to play on one All-State weekend.
Stewart will be joined by Roff teammates Magan Kile and Monica Miller, and Cheyanne Miller will play a final game with Daniel after they were part of back-to-back slowpitch state tournament teams at Stonewall. Other area standouts on the Small East roster include Tupelo’s Tamara Thompson and the Asher duo of Erin Casey and Alissa Oliphant.
Gregson, whose coached Roff to runner-up finishes in fast-pitch last fall and again in slowpitch this spring, said she is looking forward to coaching Stewart, Kile and Miller one final time.
“It’s always an honor, and to coach this group of girls is going to be special,” she said.
Gregson said being chosen to coach in this year’s All-State game came as a surprise.
“They (the board of directors of the Oklahoma Slowpitch Coaches Association) just asked me if I had ever coached the slowpitch game, and they said they wanted me to do it,” she recalled. “There are quite a few on there that we’ve played against. I’m pretty excited about coaching them.”
Although she is familiar with most of the players on her team, Gregson said she won’t choose a starting lineup until just before game time.
“I won’t know until I get up there and we meet about an hour before (the game) for pictures,” she explained. Slowpitch is a little bit different because we don’t straight-up go by positions when making selections. I’ll have to wait until I get there to find out who can play where.”
Gregson will also have a familiar face beside her on the bench in veteran Roff assistant coach and athletic director Mike Stewart, who was named Small-School Assistant of the Year for 2012.
J. J. Stewart was a four-year starter at Roff where she was part of six state tournament teams (fast-pitch and slowpitch). She hit .585 this spring with four home runs and 39 RBIs, and she capped her season with six hits in the state tournament.
Like Stewart, Kile had a brother who was an All-State baseball player at Roff, and she put together an outstanding spring, hitting .494 with 27 RBIs. Like Stewart, she was at her best when it counted, going 7-for-10 at the Class 2A state tournament.
Miller was part of one of the state’s best small-school outfields this spring, and she earned All-State honors despite hitting in the No. 10 spot in the Roff batting order. She hit .566 this spring and also cracked her first varsity home run during Roff’s run to the championship game at the Stonewall Invitational Tournament.
Daniel and Miller were also members of the Stonewall basketball team that reached the Class A state tournament this spring for the first time since 2006. A versatile infielder who played shortstop, second base and third base during her career, Daniel hit .470 this spring while Miller hit .488.
Casey and Oliphant helped the Asher girls to their first state tournament in six years this spring, and Thompson was part of three straight slowpitch state tournaments at Tupelo before that streak was snapped in 2012.
Hisaw, the Area girls Athlete of the Year for the 2011-2012 school year, was the tablesetter from the leadoff spot for one of Latta’s strongest lineups ever this spring, and she was one of the state’s top outfielders in any class. She hit .481 this spring with six doubles, five triples and two home runs and scored a team-high 69 runs for the 30-10 Lady Panthers.
Kessinger, who missed the 2011 slowpitch season with a knee injury, hit 21 home runs in the spring of 2010 and 20 more this spring, despite being walked 50 times (43 intentionally). She finished with an area-best 79 RBIs while hitting .750, and she posted equally mind-boggling figures in on-base percentage (.841) and slugging percentage (1.560).
In addition to earning 28 wins in 37 decisions in the pitching circle, Green also hit 10 home runs while batting behind Kessinger in the Latta lineup.
Kuestersteffen graduated as one of the area’s most decorated players ever. She was a member of two state championship teams (slowpitch) and carried on a family tradition by earning All-State honors this season, following sisters Laura (2004) and Hilary (2007). She hit .500 in her final slowpitch season with one home run, four triples and 14 doubles.