A familiar face will be joining the up and coming Empire Lady Bulldogs softball program as Coach Jeff Pierce was hired as the new head coach.
Pierce, who has been with Empire the last several years, will coach the Lady Bulldogs softball team along with his duties as the head baseball coach in the spring.
Last year, the Lady Bulldogs went 13-16 and made it to the Regional Tournament for the first time in over a decade. Pierce said he is happy to be able to coach the softball team at this time.
“Our girls program has some good athletes coming up and I thought it would be a good opportunity to hop into the softball part of it,” Pierce said. “It relates a lot to baseball too except it is a lot faster and I like it. It fits my style of play too which is small ball and run the bases while being aggressive on the bases. I think we will be able to do that some this year.”
This isn’t the first time that Pierce has coached fast pitch softball however. When he coached at Cache he got to coach softball there and he really enjoyed learning the sport.
The Lady Bulldogs will have to rebuild the main pitching and catching duo of Bailey Sullivan and Kinnedy Porter who graduated, and Pierce said he had a few step up this summer to replace those players.
“I know we have lost Bailey Sullivan and Kinnedy Porter which is a pitcher catcher combo that were seniors, but I can see they (the players) are eager to get after it already and it seems like they are not down because we lost them,” Pierce said. “We have girls wanting to step up to catch and pitch.”
Playing in the Marlow Summer League over the last several weeks has given Pierce a chance to see girls like Jade Millan and Kathline Seward who will be the main pitcher and catcher combo in 2019.
One of the other factors that excites Pierce is his assistant, Dakota Clouse, is an alumni who played softball and he knows she will bring a lot to the team in 2019.
Pierce said that the expectation is to make a repeat trip to regionals and possibly go further in the playoffs.
“I just expect us to build on last year. They went to the regional tournament for the first time in like 13-14 years so I expect us to go there again this year for sure, if not further,” Pierce said. “We want to improve on that record for sure, get us in the win column, get above the .500 mark and see what happens from there.”
Pierce said that the defense will need to be what helps them get championships and he is hoping his team will believe in the system and put in 100 percent effort.
“I want them to believe in us, to believe in the system and to be confident that we can play with anybody out there,” Pierce said. “I want them to go hard and give it 100 percent. The effort comes from within them because I can’t coach effort, they have put the effort in. We want them to be confident and believe in the system, believe in the coaches and believe in the program while understanding the role and goal of the team.”
Empire will continue their preparation for 2019 facing Comanche at 4 p.m. July 15 in Marlow and then facing Sterling at 6:40 p.m. July 15 in Marlow.