BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
From the first time the Beulah Bobcats’ softball program stepped onto the diamond in February, expectations were high; fresh off a state runner-up campaign in 2021 and returning the entirety of the roster from the previous season, fans of the black and gold expected this year’s team to be special. Head coach Stan Pepper’s group has not only lived up to expectations, they’ve shattered them.
Pitching has continued to dominate, the bats came to life down the stretch and the Bobcats won their 30th game with five contests remaining for the regular season. After a senior-night victory over Handley on Tuesday, Pepper’s squad sits at 32-6 and is poised to be a serious factor in the AHSAA state tournament.
Although senior night is always a game to remember, Pepper expressed that the 2022 campaign has been a special opportunity to send off what has been a remarkably dedicated group.
“It’s a special group,” Pepper said. “You hear coaches say that all the time but this group truly is special. I think back to the pandemic a couple of years ago, we had just started playing well. They were sophomores and we thought the team could possibly go to the state playoffs three years in a row.”
According to their head coach, Beulah’s trio of seniors — Kassidy Kirby, Katie Morris and Shelby Owsley — have been textbook examples of hard work and dedication.
“Kassidy Kirby and Katie Morris have been with me since junior high,” Pepper said. “Shelby Owsley, she left for a year or two and came back. I’m really pleased that they’re having the success that they deserve to have because they work so hard at this sport. They work at it year round. To see the success they’re having now, it’s really pleasing to me.”
With the senior celebrations behind them, the Bobcats must now turn their attention to closing out what has been a remarkable season and preparing to compete in the state playoffs.
“It’s a big deal,” Pepper said. “But the only ones that matter are the ones that are coming up here in the future. All that other stuff we’ve been doing really doesn’t matter. How we play the next three weeks determines what type of season we truly had this year.”
The skipper is keenly aware of the nature of the state playoffs, making sure to note that no team has the luxury of taking any opponent for granted.
“Once you get to that point, anybody can beat anybody,” Pepper said. “You’ve got to be healthy, play your best and be focused at the same time. There’s a lot of things that have to go on for you to be successful.”
While fans of the black and gold are surely wishful that their team is able to maintain health and focus, Pepper pointed out that an often-overlooked aspect of playoff softball is embracing the moment.
“Everybody wants to win,” Pepper said. “It’s a tough situation, but you’ve got to embrace it. You’ve got to look forward to it, and I think our girls are. I’m really pleased with where we are right now.”
Per the head coach, the Bobcat clubhouse has had no problems generating buy-in for the ‘embrace the moment’ mentality; the squad is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
“I told them this morning: we’ve got a lot of little things we’ve got to focus on and get better if we want to accomplish the type of goal that we set at the beginning of the year,” Pepper said. “At the same time, I’m encouraged. This group of girls, they’ll get out and give it all they’ve got.”
Beulah will close out its season with a pair of non-area road games, first against Horseshoe Bend then the Tigers of Eufaula. The Observer will continue to follow the Bobcats as they continue their chase for a championship.