May 15, 2007

Softball Hillcats Earn Respect in 2007

Few teams have climbed the ladder of prominence as quickly and impressively as the Rogers State softball program. In just a two-year span the Hillcats have gone from non-existent to a household name in the small-college softball community.

2007 was a coming out party for RSU in many ways. The Hillcats unveiled their new softball complex in February, cracked the national rankings in March, swept five doubleheaders in April and earned their first post-season berth in May. When the dust settled, Coach Dawn Reed’s club had compiled a 31-15 record and reached the quarterfinals of the Region VI tournament.

“This team has a lot to be proud of,” Reed said. “I was really pleased with the way we competed at the regional tournament. That was the best competition we faced all year and the girls didn’t back away from the challenge one bit.”

The Hillcats reeled off six straight wins to start the season, including a doubleheader sweep of then-ranked No. 15 University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.  RSU opened March by participating in the prestigious Gulf Coast Invitational in Mobile, Ala. The Hillcats raised a few eyebrows by knocking off Spring Hill College and Reinhardt College. The Hillcats also proved they could play with the likes of perennial contenders St. Gregory’s, Oklahoma City and defending national champion University of Mobile.

The Hillcats entered the NAIA national polls for the first time in school history on Mar. 28, breaking in at No. 22. RSU lived up to its billing by winning six straight and sweeping doubleheaders from Bacone, Northwestern Oklahoma State and Oklahoma Christian in an early April streak. The Hillcats held steady in the Top 25 for the second half of the season. RSU came in at No. 25 in the final regular season poll and earned its first trip to the post-season with an invitation to the Region VI Tournament in Farmers Branch, Texas.

The Hillcats went 2-2 in one of the most competitive regions in the country. RSU blanked Northwood University 2-0 in the opening round before dropping a tight contest to No. 2 Oklahoma City. The Hillcats bounced NWOSU from the tournament with a 4-0 drubbing in an elimination game. No. 6 Houston Baptist ended RSU’s season by knocking the Hillcats from the tournament in the quarterfinals.

Reed’s club boasted a strong mix of young talent and veteran leadership in 2007. Five Hillcats were named to the All-Region VI Team. Freshman pitcher Kelli Dunagan and sophomore left fielder Randi Tyler earned first team all-region honors. Dunagan posted a 19-6 record and a 2.33 ERA in 2007. She racked up 145 strikeouts and just 57 walks over 168 innings. Tyler paced the Hillcats on offense with a .328 batting average, 12 doubles and three home runs.

Senior catcher Somer Dykes, freshman pitcher Stephanie Eggers and junior center fielder Kacy Ward were all named to the all-region second team. Dykes threw out 50-percent (7-of-14) of would-be base stealers and did not commit a single error during the regular season. She finished with a .264 batting average and tied for the team lead with four home runs. Eggers led the Hillcat pitching staff with a 1.87 ERA and picked up 12 victories in 123 innings pitched. Ward was tops on the team in hits with 66 and was 11-of-13 in stolen base attempts.

“To have five players named to the all-region team shows a lot of respect for our program from the other coaches in our region,” Reed said.

Reed also joined some elite company by earning her 200th career win on the final day of the regular season. She has compiled a 203-95 record in six seasons as a head coach and is 60-32 in two seasons at Rogers State.

The Hillcats joined the Sooner Athletic Conference in Sept. 2006 and will play a full conference schedule and be eligible for the SAC tournament in 2008.