MUSTANG — From the moment Mustang pitcher Jayden Chestnut verbally committed to Oklahoma her sophomore year, she’s felt a heavy amount of pressure.
Chestnut primarily put the pressure on herself, wanting to be nearly perfect in the circle each game.
That’s all changed this season.
The senior is more relaxed and off to an incredible start, throwing two perfect games to go along with two no-hitters in seven starts.
“I would put a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s not fair,” Chestnut said. “I’ve learned not to do that. I have everybody else to back me up, so it’s different than it has been.”
Chestnut credits some of her ability to relax to the Broncos’ coaching change.
Bryan Howard took over the program last spring after leading Washington to the Class 3A championship in the fall. He’s implemented a new program and has a new attitude around the Broncos.
“It’s just such a change from the former regime to me, so when I come in it was a bit of a rebuilding going on,” Howard said. “I don’t know anybody from the former, but my rule was we’re not going to talk about it.”
Mustang is 10-2 entering Thursday’s matchup with Moore, the team that eliminated the Broncos in the Class 6A state semifinals last season. After that, they play perennial power Edmond North.
And Chestnut’s performance will be pivotal during that span, but so will her teammates’.
“She’s important, but Kylie Dodson is just as important,” Howard said. “That’s what I’ve explained to Jayden. I think in the past there’s been a lot of pressure — some of it rightfully so because that’s what comes along with being a pitcher, quarterback or whatever it is — but her expectations are no different than our starting third baseman or starting shortstop.”
It’s that belief that has Mustang feeling like this season could be special and result in the school’s first softball title since 1988.
And Chestnut would certainly be a big part of that.
“It was definitely a learning experience (last season) because this year our goal is to win it,” she said. “I think we can; we have a really good team this year.”