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Panhandle Athletics Celebrate Momentous Event with Two Teams in SAC Conference Tournament

By Alyssa Fox on 05/02/2018

Goodwell, Okla.— The 2018 athletic season has yielded new and exciting changes for Aggie athletes and coaches, seeing multiple sports progress and succeed with winning seasons, the welcoming of new coaches to the Aggie family, and now Panhandle State University can add two new milestones to their diverse athletics history. The Lady Aggies Softball team has qualified for the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament for the first time in ten years, since their participation in 2008 as part of the Heartland Conference, and the Aggie Baseball team will be playing in the Conference Tournament for the very first time in known school history. This tremendous breakthrough in both sports is the culmination of hard work, dedication and passion invoked by both the student athletes and their coaches.

The softball team, coached by Head Coach Meghan Mulcahy and Assistant Coach Bill Berry, has achieved a 25-30 overall record on the season, going 12-20 in conference. In reflecting on their notable season, Coach Mulcahy expounds, "I am proud of this team for not giving up this season and during games. They have worked hard and have put themselves in a position to compete with every opponent we have faced this year. Their dedication to accomplishing our team goal of reaching post season for the first time in ten years has paid off in a big way."

The softball team amassed a hefty amount of Sooner Athletic Conference rankings for their individual efforts, including four spots in the top twenty in the Batting Average rankings, with freshman outfielder Jewell Lee holding the No. 2 spot with a remarkable .468 percentage, sophomore infielder Jena Konieczka coming in at No. 8 with .417; senior infielder Brooklyne Bolton ranked at No. 13 with .396; and freshman infielder Jaylinn Reyes claiming the No. 18 spot with a .378 percentage. Lee, Bolton, Konieczka and Reyes also made the top twenty list in overall Runs Scored and Hits. The Lady Aggies also boast four athletes in the top twenty in Slugging Percentage with Lee at No. 8 overall, Reyes at No. 14 and Konieczka at No. 19 followed by freshman catcher Haleigh Scott at No. 20. Leading the league in Triples is Lee at No. 1 overall with 6 on the season, with Konieczka, Bolton and Scott also making the list, and Scott landed at No. 2 overall in doubles with an amazing 17 on the season. Lee, Bolton and senior pitcher Julia Ibarra made the top twenty in Fielding Percentage, claiming the No. 5, 12 and 20 spots, respectively. Bolton boasts the No. 2 spot in PutOuts with 311 over 51 games on the season, and Koniezcka claims the No. 6 ranking for Assists with 83 over 49 games.

The Lady Aggies have landed the number six seed of nine teams in the Sooner Athletic Conference and will compete in Chickasha, Oklahoma, at the neutral site of University of Science and Arts Oklahoma in a pool-play style tournament. The NAIA pool-play format divides all the competing teams in a tournament into smaller 'pool' groups. Teams in each pool play against each other, with the results in each pool determining which teams advance to the next round of the competition. The winning teams from each pool are then placed into a bracket and play a double-elimination format to determine a national champion.

For their first round of play, Panhandle State Softball will face off against the Texas Wesleyan Rams on Thursday, May 3, at 11:00 a.m., to be followed by a match-up against the nationally ranked No. 8 USAO Drovers at 5:00 p.m. On Friday, May 4, the Aggies will take on Bacone College at 1:00 p.m. The Aggies recently sealed a sweep victory against the Bacone Warriors over a four-game series April 29-30.

Panhandle Baseball Head Coach Jason LaRocque is in his first year at OPSU, but proved he has wasted no time in titivating his team in both culture and performance. LaRocque and his coaching staff of Assistant Coach Keith Schulz, Pitching Coach Brandon Mercer, and student assistants Brendan O'Flynn, Sam Beattie and Haden Adams, with their athletes at the forefront, have concluded their regular season record at 24-30, going 12-25 in conference. LaRocque is immensely proud of his talented group of athletes achieving the crowned goal of reaching the post season for the first time in school history, known as far back as dateable records show.

As a unit, the baseball team not only qualified for the tournament, but they placed at the sixth seed out of eight teams. Individually, they have been successful across multiple facets within the Sooner Athletic Conference rankings. Leading his team in batting average at .345, junior first baseman Jared Mayeda claims three spots in the Sooner Athletic Conference rankings: at No. 12 in Hits with a total of 60 on the season; and his first base abilities landed him at No. 2 in Putouts with 321 over 51 games and at No. 17 in Fielding Percentage at .986. Senior short stop Nate Kelly also placed three times in the SAC rankings: at No. 1 overall in Assists with 135 over 47 games; at No. 3 in triples with seven over the season, and at No. 19 in Runs Scored with an accumulated 43. Junior infielder Juan Sanchez can also add his name to a triplet of rankings as he comes in at No. 5 overall in Stolen Bases with 17 which yields another No. 5 spot for Stolen Bases/Game for his .356 average. Alongside Mayeda, Sanchez also ranks in PutOuts at No. 9 with 92 over 48 games. Sophomore Outfielder Bradley Ruiz is known to his coaches and his teammates for his stellar performance in the field, especially on windy Panhandle days, and his skillset has earned him the No. 2 spot overall in Fielding Percentage at 1.000 percent with zero errors over a total of 39 games.

LaRocque fervidly explicates, "This has been a season of resiliency; we have battled so much adversity throughout this spring and I believe those trials have brought us closer together. We've been really close to playing some of our best baseball- against some of the nation's best talent- and in some facets we have come up short, but we have never failed. I believe it is that makeup that our program has developed this year that has truly set the bar for greatness going forward. We have a young team and our players have felt the grind of the adversity we've been through this season and although our leadership is few, it is strong. However, it is seeing that all come full circle with our guys from the fall to their transition through the spring, it is a blessing to see that shift in development and culture first hand, but more importantly seeing our guys now have a desire to win and a pride for the 'family' they play for makes this an extraordinary time in Panhandle State Baseball."

The Aggies will play in a double-elimination bracket tournament in Chickasha, Oklahoma, at USAO. Game one will take place on Friday, May 4 at 2:30 p.m., against the Texas Wesleyan Rams, with game two TBA, following the results of the previous bracket matchups.

As Panhandle State University Athletic Director, Meghan Mulcahy is equally excited about the success of her softball team as she is the joint success of both baseball and softball and what their achievements mean for the university and its' athletics department. "This is an exciting time to be a part of the OPSU Athletic Department and to have these two teams qualify for their conference tournaments. We are proud of the success baseball and softball has had on the field this season," said Mulcahy.

Fans are encouraged to check in to the opsuaggies.com and soonerathletic.org websites for updates on the conference games as the Panhandle community continues to support both teams in their tremendous achievements on their journey to the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament.


We Are Panhandle We Are Panhandle!

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