BARNSDALL — For the first time in perhaps a half-century — or longer — the head coach of Barnsdall High School’s fastpitch softball team isn’t named Gilbert.
Joe Gilbert stepped away earlier this summer as the softball skipper — the only one Barnsdall had ever known.
Brooke Curtis — an Owasso High School graduate — is the new coach in charge.
She has an opportunity to stamp her imprint quickly on the squad — almost all of Gilbert’s starters from a year ago are gone.
With the exception of returning regular, Jaydon Mackey — who might be moving to catcher, after having started last year in the outfield — Barnsdall is short on varsity experience.
“It’s pretty much a new team,” said Curtis, who served last spring as Gilbert’s assistant in slowpitch softball. “We’ve had some kids who have moved in, we’ve had some kids who have moved out. We’re really a young team. But, I’ve seen a level of competitiveness in these girls that I didn’t see last year.”
Fastpitch success usually revolves around the pitching circle — Curtis is previewing four possible new hurlers.
They include Ashley Johnson, Aubrey Johnson, Raley Fish and Ashlynn Robbins.
The catching spot is another unknown.
Her main candidates are Jaydon Mackey and Haley Tarwater.
“Those two are the ones I’m working with the most,” Curtis said.
Sharpening the defense was Curtis’ main priority the first couple of weeks of practice.
“We didn’t work on hitting a whole lot,” she said. “They don’t really know a lot of mechanics. We’ve started working on offense a little more.”
Curtis has a thorough knowledge of high-level softball play — she played at the University of South Dakota following her Owasso days.
She arrived in Barnsdall partway through last school year — just in time to be Gilbert’s assistant in girls basketball and in slowpitch softball.
Gilbert, who has worked at Barnsdall High since 1954, will continue to coach the girl’s basketball team.
“I think I was probably most impressed that people at his age usually start to fall off and start to lose it, but he’s still pretty spry when it comes to sports,” Curtis said. “He still knows what he’s talking about. It was nice to talk to him and hear about how things have changed and his experiences.”
As far as the upcoming softball season, Curtis said Barnsdall’s best days with this group might not materialize until the next few years.
“I think we have a lot of potential, but we’re going to be a really young team,” Curtis summarized. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I make a positive impact on the kids and that’s probably my favorite part of it.”
Note: During the 2017 season, Curtis batted .267 for South Dakota while smashing five doubles and three homers. She also drove in 13 runs and fashioned a .430 slugging percentage. At Owasso, she hit a total of 39 homers her junior and senior seasons, and as a senior started at catcher during a 27-9 year.