OAK GROVE, Mo. — One metro softball team just wrapped up a dream season.
The girls at Oak Grove High School (23-6) enjoyed one of their best years ever, despite being eliminated from the MSHSAA Softball Tournament on Thursday, losing to Chillicothe in the Class 3 state quarterfinals.
Spend 10 minutes in one of Oak Grove’s practices, and you might be overwhelmed by the energy the team’s players present.
A Tuesday afternoon practice included dancing circles, jokes and singing — in addition to the hard work on the diamond. It’s a breath of fresh air to avid sports fans.
The Panthers’ year, which statistically, was the school’s best since 2018, includes a seven-game winning streak, and 11 occasions where the team’s hot bats banged out 10 runs or more.
“I would say the greatest thing is the way they’ve all bought in,” Micky Wheeler, Oak Grove’s first-year coach, said.
Wheeler, who’d been a teacher and, as a student, successful baseball player at the school, had never coached softball, but he knew winners when he saw them.
“I knew I had a good set of girls. I liked the character of the team, and I liked how they work together. I liked that they’re unselfish, but I didn’t know they’d be as good as they are,” Wheeler said.
The Panthers’ future looks solid, and perhaps, just as energetic. Of the school’s 20 players in uniform, only five are graduating as seniors, meaning this postseason setback may turn out to be a positive.
“To other people, it’s just softball, but to us it’s like bonding and having this new type of feeling and expanding the way we feel,” Morgan Clubb, Oak Grove pitcher/first base, said.
“We have an amazing group of girls,” Alanah Wilson, Oak Grove second base, said. “That’s what makes us go.”
The Missouri State Softball Tournament continues this week.
Metro schools who are still in the running for their respective state titles include Liberty, Blue Springs South, Kearney, Chillicothe, and, in smaller classes, Sherwood, which hails from southern Cass County and Polo, a Class One team from Caldwell County.