Strong expects Lady Cougars to be better hitters this spring

Mar. 18—Ada High softball coach Jeremy Strong hopes there's a whole lotta hittin' going on when his team begins its 2023 slowpitch season.

Hits and runs were hard to come by for the Lady Cougars last spring, especially earlier in the season.

Still, Ada was a hit here or a play there of forcing an if-necessary game with traditional power Sulphur in a Class 5A District Tournament matchup. But the Bulldogs scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to slip past Ada 6-5 for the district crown.

During seven April contests last season, the Cougars notched two of their four victories on the year and had an incredible five games they lost by a single run during that same span.

Great progress was made by a school that revived slowpitch softball after a two-decade hiatus.

"We got better every week we played," Strong told The Ada News during the team's chilly Media Day Friday at the Ada High School Softball Complex. "I'm excited and the girls are excited about playing. They're coming in knowing a little more about slowpitch softball. It's a different game than fast-pitch. They're coming in with confidence."

Strong knows too well that hitting the ball better this spring will be a big key for the Lady Cougars. But he's loved what he's seen so far from his sluggers.

"We started practice this year really swinging the bat well. So that's exciting," he said. "It's night and day different really. We've been hitting the ball well in workouts."

The core of the Ada squad will be its seven juniors, who have spent numerous hours on the field since they were freshmen and now all have one slowpitch softball season under their belts. But another big key is how quickly this year's freshman class can adapt to the high school level and help the Lady Cougars out on a daily basis. The AHS roster lists 10 freshmen on the roster and Strong believes a number of those young players will contribute to his team sooner than later.

"There are several of those kids that have a chance to play and play a lot," he said.

Chardoney Stick is the lone senior on the team.

Ada is scheduled to kick off the 2023 season at 4:30 p.m. Monday with a road trip to Tupelo. The tradition-rich Lady Tigers are 3-3 on the year but have scored 39 runs in their past four outings.

Ada was supposed to host local rival Latta and Meeker at Cougar Field on Tuesday in a home festival, but those games will now be held at The Hill, operated by the City of Ada.

"Latta has several games under its belt already and has been playing well and Meeker is always a club that can swing the bat. It should be a good day of softball," Strong said.

The field at the Ada High Softball Complex is getting a facelift.

"We're doing some work on our infield. We're bringing it up a little bit. We were hoping it would be done in time, but the weather kind of set us back a little bit," Strong explained.

The Lady Cougars are then off to the always-loaded 2023 Beast of the East softball tournament, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday at Stonewall High School. Ada is scheduled to face Tecumseh's JV squad at noon on Thursday.

Another big tournament on the AHS schedule is the 2023 Turnpike Classic hosted by Roff and Sulphur at the end of March.

Ada will be battle-tested before April Fool's Day.

"It's a tough schedule. Every week you have big teams you're playing," Strong said. "You're playing in tournaments like the Beast of the East in Stonewall and the Roff-Sulphur Turnpike Classic. You're going to face some of the best of the best in those tournaments alone. If you get to play on Saturday in either one of those tournaments, you've done something."

Now, Ada's first official home game is scheduled for April 3 when Pontotoc County foe Vanoss visits Cougar Field.