BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
With softball season officially underway, the Beulah Bobcats are gearing up for what many expect to be a year to remember. The black and gold are fresh off a final four campaign in 2021, player retention is 100% and head coach Stan Pepper believes his team is poised to make a run at a state title.
The group started the young season 1-1 following a 4-3 loss at the hands of the Athens Eagles.
“We were ahead 3-0,” Pepper said. “Then they scored four runs and we just couldn’t generate anything else out there. We had a bad inning.”
Despite dropping the second game of the opening weekend, the skipper was pleased with his squad’s display.
“It was a good weekend overall,” Pepper said. “We found out a lot about our team. I knew the answers, I just wanted to make sure. I guess Saturday just put it in our heads that we knew for a fact that we have what we have. Now we just have to go to work every day and try to get better and improve.”
While the Bobcats will strive for perfection on a daily basis, the head coach was pleased with the lessons learned on Saturday and acknowledges the reality of undertaking long seasons.
“I was pleased with the weekend,” Pepper said. “It could have been better; you don’t like losing but you’re literally not going to win them all but it was a good start to the season for them.”
As the group pushes forward, Beulah looks to build upon the success from the 2021 campaign on the basis of returning a full roster of starters in 2022.
“We returned all nine starters from last year,” Pepper said. “We didn’t play with but 10 girls last year. This year, we’ve got 15 this year.”
The five-player addition is highlighted by a familiar face to the Beulah community: senior Shelby Eisley.
“We picked up a transfer from Auburn High School this year,” Pepper said. “Shelby Eisley, who was their starting second baseman last year.”
Pepper looks forward to Eisley’s return to the diamond in the black and gold after a two-year stint with the crosstown Tigers.
“She actually played for us three years ago and then transferred to Auburn,” Pepper said. “She played down there the last two years and transferred back here this year and I’m glad because we missed her. She was a big part of our program before she left.”
Despite anticipation for the standout transfer, Pepper’s defense will look for continual production from experience within the pitching circle; senior Katie Morris will be tasked with keeping opponents at bay.
“We have three girls that we can put in the circle,” Pepper said. “But Katie Morris is our starter. She’s our No. 1 pitcher and Katie is one of the best in the state. In my eyes, she’s the best in 3A for sure.”
With a bolstered defense and returning experience across the board, the Bobcats are seemingly poised to achieve their ultimate goal: claiming the 3A state title.
“Our goal every year is to win an area championship, a region championship and then win a state championship,” Pepper said. “That’s everybody’s goal this time of year.”
Although state championship aspirations seem tangible for the black and gold, the squad’s head coach is taking the season one game at a time.
“That’s so far down the line, we just want to get through this week,” Pepper said. “We want to be better at the end of the week than we were at the beginning of the week. Just looking day-by-day.”
The skipper’s message to his group this year is clear: focus on the now.
“I told them that I don’t care what the scoreboard is at the end of the game,” Pepper said. “Let’s just play every pitch and then play the next pitch. That’s going to be our goal the whole year long.”
Beulah will have the opportunity to return to the win column and build momentum going forward with the Bobcats play host to the Hornets of Beauregard on Thursday, Feb. 24. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. CST.