Leading his team to the state 3A Final Four in both of the previous two years, Beulah High School softball head coach Stan Pepper said he hopes 2023 can be the Bobcats’ year.

“We have got everything we need to return [to the semifinals],” Pepper said. “We just have to execute every week. We are actually probably better offensively and defensively overall, but it’s just a matter of depth in the circle. I’m confident that if we keep doing what we are doing and just cut the errors out, we will be where we need to be when it’s time to be there.”

Having lost four seniors from the 2022 team — two of whom are playing at the collegiate level now — the 2023 version of the Beulah Bobcats varsity softball team features three players in their last year of high school. To reach the lofty goals Pepper has set for his squad, the skipper will lean on those seniors —  Savannah Clements, Brandy Phillips and Amiya Dunn — to help the standard for the season.

“We lost some good talent and leadership but we have got good leadership from the seniors we have now,” Pepper, who is in his fifth year at Beulah, said. “All three do a great job in leading the girls in the right direction, and I couldn’t be prouder of their leadership ability.”

Pepper expanded how much Clements and Phillips, who last month was announced as the school’s first recipient of the Bryant Jordan Award (given by AHSAA to a student-athlete who is outstanding in both her academic and athletic career), mean to the team.

“[Brandy] is the heart and soul of this year’s team — she and Savannah Clements both are,” he said. “When I think of one I think of the other. The way those two girls play and the way they lead us, we are going to follow them … whatever we do this year is going to be because of their leadership ability. Extremely proud of [Brandy]. Honored to be coaching her. And she deserves all the accolades she has gotten — she has earned them.”

Overall, Pepper said he is happy with how the Bobcats have performed to this point in the season. And although there is still well over a month before area postseason play begins, the team has picked up some invaluable experience playing teams from higher classifcations in the early part of the season. Pepper said he knows the importance each game holds in order to progress throughout the year.

“Seeing those teams and seeing the pitching, we aren’t going to see any better throughout the year,” Pepper said. “We feel like we are battle tested. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but we will play anybody in the state. We are not going to back down from anybody.”

Pepper explained that the team’s identity is tied to its togetherness and ability to put bad plays — or games — behind them.

“We just battle through,” he said. “We don’t panic. That’s why we have been successful. The girls just keep playing. They are always looking forward. We don’t get down; we don’t get too excited. We just play ball. That’s our identity.”

Coming up, the Bobcats have a number of games that Pepper said he expects will test his team’s metal. Buoyed by previous years’ success, however, the Bobcats are setting their sights on a state championship in 2023.

“We’ve got great young ladies who are great athletically, but more importantly they are going to be great citizens,” Pepper said. “If we keep improving like we are, we will have another chance to hopefully be in Oxford when all is said and done. We want to give all the praise to God. He gives us the ability and we want to make sure we are playing to glorify him in everything we do.”