A young Lady Lions squad with two sets of twins is looking for a state tournament berth in 2014.
A look into the Chandler dugout can get confusing for those unfamiliar with the team.
The Lady Lions are one of the rare high school squads with their last names printed on the backs of their jerseys, and with the same names appearing multiple times, it can get confusing.
There are head coach Bryan Herring’s own nieces to start with. Sophomore’s Neleigh and Baleigh Herring are just one of two sets of twins on the team. Sophomores Jayden and Blayne Solberg are the other.
Added to that are senior pitcher Taylor Fowble and freshman third baseman Karlee Fowble.
The two pairs of twins are part of a group of sophomores now entering their second season as starters for the Lady Lions. Bryan Herring counts on having at least six and as many as eight sophomores in the starting lineup depending on that day’s starting pitcher.
“We will have some growing pains. They do have some maturity issues.”
That showed in Monday’s set of scrimmages at Firelake, in which the Lady Lions were up, then down, then back up again during their four games. A win over Piedmont was followed by a let down against Muskogee, which was followed by a hard-fought loss to Tulsa Union.
“Against Muskogee, we thought, “Oh, we just beat Piedmont. We’re good’, and we didn’t come to play,” Herring said.
But Herring expects a good and potentially great season from his young squad, which went 26-13 last season.
“We should be really good. We should be really competitive. I’m hoping we’re back here [at Firelake] that second week in October [for state].”
Neleigh Herring is expected to be the team’s number one pitcher.
“She’s the real deal,” Bryan Herring said. Sophomore Katie Lane and Taylor Fowble are also expected to see time in the circle.
“Our number two throws really hard but has control issues,” Herring said. “But she throws 63 miles per hour. We’ve got to get her some more reps so she can work through things and be ready to go.”
Blayne Solberg will be the team’s starting catcher with Jayden Solberg starting in the outfield. Older sister McKenzie Solberg was a three-sport All-State selection at Chandler and currently plays basketball at UCO.
“They come from a good line,” Herring said. “They both have cannons.”
Herring expects his team to be strong offensively after they get used to seeing live pitching. Senior third baseman and Wichita State commit Chastyn Spruill will lead the batting order from the three-spot. The team has spent most of its preseason practices working on fitness and defense.
“We’ve got to get our timing down on our hitting. Our swings look good. We showed evidence of that. We’ve got a lot of explosive bats in our lineup but the timing’s not there yet.”
The Lady Lions will open the season with a busy first week. Chandler will open at Jones on Monday before traveling to Holdenville for a three-way involving Wetumka on Tuesday.
That will be followed by a tournament at Firelake in which they’ll play six games in three days beginning next Thursday.
“My pitchers and catchers need to get their legs in shape,” Herring said. “We need to just tighten the little things up.”