Caleigh Clifton wasn't entirely prepared for the success she had as a freshman.
Clifton was used to playing against girls older than she was, but still wasn't sure what to expect when her first year at Wayne High School began.
“It wasn't a different thing but I still didn't know how it would go with this team,” Clifton said.
Last year as a freshman, Clifton hit .594 and scored 61 runs while playing shortstop for the Lady Bulldogs.
This year, though, has been even better.
Clifton is hitting .615 and, more importantly, has helped the Wayne into the Class 2A fastpitch state tournament that begins Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
No. 9 Wayne opens the tournament at 11 a.m. against No. 2 Dale.
Clifton is confident going in, though the Lady Pirates have more experience.
“Dale's good in everything it seems like,” Clifton said. “But we're pumped up going into this. If we can find a way to take care of them in the first round, I think we've got it.”
Clifton is also happy to be back close to 100 percent.
In the district tournament, she jammed her thumb on a swing and had to adjust her swing, moving the thumb to put less pressure.
The result was a bit less power but no less hits.
“It's good now, though,” she said. “I'm back to swinging the way I did before.”
Wayne has made the last three slowpitch state tournaments, but this is the first fastpitch tournament since Clifton has been with the team.
Clifton has been playing softball since she was 5. A year or two later, she was playing travel ball.
She credits a pair of former OU softball players — Kristin Vesely and Amber Spaulding — who coached her during the summer with nurturing her love of the sport.
“They made it more fun but still taught us what we needed to learn,” Clifton said.
About three weeks ago, the sophomore decided to commit to Oklahoma.
She saw no reason to drag out the process.
“I've grown up a Sooner fan my whole entire life and just watching OU play, even now when I'm 15, I think it's just the coolest thing,” Clifton said. “I went to the camps, I l like Coach (Patty) Gasso. I just love Oklahoma.”
State softball tournament players to watch
Andee Frazier, Little Axe
Frazier struck out 35 over two games on the same day earlier this season.
Kelsey Harmon, Washington
Leads the Warriors with a .425 average.
Sam Barry, Dale
Barry helped power the Pirates to a slowpitch title and is once again Dale's offensive leader.
Katelyn Cook, Tushka
Cook is hitting .495 and has driven in 55 runs.
Taran Britt, Dewar
Britt has struck out 96 batters with a 2.67 ERA.
Taylor Canida, Roff
Canida leads the No. 1 Tigers in the circle (22-3, 0.84 ERA) and at the plate (. 450 with 33 RBIs).
Michael Ann Nelson, Frontier
After the Mustangs top pitcher went down with an injury, Nelson — a freshman — has stepped up to lead Frontier back to the state tournament.
Jill Roye, Red Oak
The senior pitcher is committed to Tulsa.